Overview of Margaret Fox
Margaret Ellen Fox had just graduated from eighth grade at St. Paul's School in her hometown of Burlington, New Jersey, and was looking forward to starting high school in the fall of 1974. Margaret, who was 14 years old at the time, was the only girl among the six children in her family, which likely came with its own challenges. By all accounts, Margaret's family life overall was not only stable but full of happiness and love, despite Margaret often making subtle complaints about how her parents could be strict at times. Margaret's parents explain in several interviews that Margaret loved to ride horses, even though it was often an activity that fell out of their budget. They described their daughter as being a nice, humble young girl who was usually a homebody and was very helpful at home, in addition to being a wonderful, intelligent person overall. Margaret's father explained in past interviews that his daughter was starting her second year of piano lessons and that she had found a love for the instrument through her lessons. He adds that Margaret's favorite TV shows were 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'Maude', which nowadays give a wonderfully nostalgic glimpse of what the world was like in 1974. At 14 years old, even nowadays, one of the most common ways for children to make money is by babysitting, which is exactly what Margaret and her 11 year old cousin, Lynne, were planning to do. On June 18, 1974, Margaret and her cousin placed an ad in the local newspaper to offer their babysitting services, which read "BABYSITTERS - Experienced. Teen girls. Love Kids. Work at your house. Call…" before listing two phone numbers, one for Margaret, and the other for Lynne. The following day, a man called the first number, reaching Lynne, and requested the babysitting service for his 5 year old son. Lynne's parents disagreed with the plan and declined to allow their daughter to take the job because they were not comfortable with the distance. Later that day, Margaret received a phone call from the same man, who identified himself as John Marshall, and requested that Margaret babysit his 5 year old son starting that Friday, offering $40 a week for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. After multiple phone calls in the following days, John Marshall requested that they reschedule Margaret to start her babysitting gig the following Monday, June 24. The rest of the planning included instructions for Margaret to take the bus from Burlington to Mount Holly, and to exit at the stop closest to the intersection of Mill and High streets, where his wife would pick her up in a red Volkswagen. When June 24, 1974, arrives, Margaret wakes up excited to start her new job and finally be independent and earn some money for herself. Margaret and her younger brother, Joseph, leave their home in Burlington, NJ, and start the short trip to the bus stop that was only blocks away. Once they arrive, there's a short wait before the bus to Mount Holly, NJ finally arrives around 8:45 am. Joseph waves goodbye to his sister as she boards the bus, not knowing this would be the last time he'd ever see his sister. A few witnesses who were passengers on the bus would later come forward to tell police that they had seen Margaret board the bus, reporting that they had seen the young girl with many freckles, who was all smiles that morning, but none could remember which bus stop she got off at. One witness claimed to have seen Margaret speaking to a man, believed to be in his 20s, who was in a red sports car, though this man would later be eliminated as a suspect. Yet, this would be the last time anyone has seen Margaret. After Margaret fails to return home that afternoon, Mary, Margaret's mother, calls a phone number that was left by John Marshall, only to find that the number belonged to a payphone outside of a grocery store in Lumberton, NJ. Her parents' worries only grew as they started their own search without success. When they are unable to find her, they call the Burlington City Police Department at around 12:30 am to report Margaret as a missing person. Four days after Margaret was last seen, the Fox home receives a short, but eerie ransom phone call. The caller states "$10,000 might be a lot of bread, but your daughter's life is the buttered topping", to which her mother responds "who is this?" before the call drops. Luckily, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation were able to record the call as it was received. The following day, June 29, 1974, the Fox home receives the first of two letters, stating "$10,000 is a lot of bread, but your daughter's life is the buttered topping", the same statement as was in the ransom phone call only a day earlier. Two days later, another letter was received, which stated a similar phrase, with slight differences: "$10,000 was a lot of bread and your daughter's life was the buttered topping". This letter was signed "So Long Again" with the letters 'S', 'L', and 'A' slightly offset. Although most of the wording in the second letter is identical to the first, the use of the word 'was' led investigators to believe that the author meant to indicate that the ransom exchange deal was off. In August of 1974, the FBI released a sketch of a man who is wanted for questioning. Authorities describe the man as a white male between the ages of 35 and 40 years old. Authorities add that the individual has very blue eyes, light blonde or reddish hair which is graying and is worn in a crew cut, along with having noticeably even white teeth. Additionally, this man is believed to have been driving a red-orange Volkswagen and has reportedly tried to pick up young girls in Mount Holly, NJ prior to Margaret's disappearance, according to investigators. News from the investigation into Margaret's disappearance is quiet until November 23, 1975, when a 53 year old man in a Philadelphia prison confesses to kidnapping, murdering, and throwing Margaret's body off of a cliff in the Catskill Mountains in nearby New York. Within months, the man recants his confession, and tells police that it was all a "gigantic hoax". Police were later able to completely clear him as a suspect. The case gained additional media attention in 1988, when remains were found in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, followed by a composite sketch being released in 1992, and a clay facial reconstruction being created in 1992. After considering Margaret as the identity of the Jane Doe, officials were able to rule her out in 1998. On June 24, 2019, the 45th anniversary of Margaret's disappearance, authorities released several new items of information at a press conference. After 45 years, the FBI releases an enhanced version of the ransom phone call to the public, along with a second age-progression image, showing what Margaret may look like at 56 years old. Authorities also announced that a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) involved in Margaret's disappearance. At the time of her disappearance in 1974, Margaret was 14 years old with brown hair and blue eyes. She stood around 5'2" tall and weighed around 105 lbs. Margaret has freckles and was missing two of her top front right teeth at the time of her disappearance. She wears eyeglasses with hexagonal lenses with gold wireframes and broken-off temple and nose pieces. Margaret was last seen wearing maroon-colored jeans with a yellow patch on one knee, a light blue long-sleeved blouse with a floral pattern, a white and black checkered waist-length jacket, a size 34B brassiere, and brown sandals with a heel strap. At the time of her disappearance, Margaret was carrying a brown bag and a glasses case with a 'Huckleberry Hound' design. If you have any information, please contact the Burlington City Police Department at (609) 386-0262 ext. 211 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation Newark Field Office at (973) 792-3000.