How could three young girls vanish from a mall 2 days before Christmas?
Nearly 50 years later, the case of Rachel Trlica, Lisa Renee Wilson, and Julie Moseley continue to be one of Fort Worth’s most enduring mysteries. It has all the components for a made-for-TV drama: a suspicious letter, strange phone calls, dredged swamps, bones, teeth, cars pulled from a lake, psychics, and Hawaiian Dowsers. Sadly, after all this time, there are few clues about what happened to the girls that fateful day in December 1974, and there are even fewer suspects. Instead, there are three families still haunted by what may have happened to their precious girls.
Rachel was the oldest of the trio. At 19, she was married and living with her husband and her sister, who were previously a couple. Her formal name is Mary Rachel Trlica but she often went by Rachel. Debra, Rachel’s sister was living with the couple at the time because she was having difficulty with her then-boyfriend. Some maintain that Debra knows more about the disappearance than she is telling others. Rachel's family members are now divided due to differing opinions concerning the circumstances of the disappearances.
Around noon on December 23, 1974 Rachel, Renee, and Julie headed out to do some last-minute Christmas shopping at the Seminary South Mall. Before reaching the mall, the trio stopped at an Army/Navy surplus store to pick up an item that Rachel had on layaway. When they arrived at the mall, Rachel parked her car, a 1972 Oldsmobile, near the Sears store. When the girls did not arrive back as planned, their parents went to the mall to investigate. There they found Rachel’s car. It remained locked, though they could see the girls’ purchases on the rear floorboard.
The missing girls were reported to police, but they were treated as runaways. The parents were certain this was not the case so they continued to search through the night. The police theory seemed to gain support, however, when a letter arrived at Rachel’s home the next day. The letter though had many strange elements and left many to wonder if Rachel had actually written it. In the upper-left corner of the letter’s envelope, the name “Rachel” was scrawled in pencil. But the envelope was addressed rather formally: to “Thomas A. Trlica.” Rachel called her husband “Tommy.” The stamp on the envelope had been canceled that morning. The cancellation did not include a city, and the ZIP code of the cancellation was blurred. Investigators interpreted the five-digit number to indicate that the letter had been mailed either from Throckmorton, Texas, from Eliasville, which is near Throckmorton, or from Weatherford. Inside the envelope was a sheet of paper with this message written in ballpoint ink: “I know I’m going to catch it, but we just had to get away. We’re going to Houston. See you in about a week. The car is in Sear’s upper lot. Love Rachel.” The original l of Rachel’s signature on the letter had been a short loop that looked more like an e. The writer had gone back over it, making it a taller loop. A few days later, a reward fund is established for information about the girls’ disappearance.
The months and years to follow were frustrating for the families and the police. Clothing and bones would be discovered, though none would be able to be tied to the girls. Psychics flocked to the families. Six weeks after their disappearance, Julie’s mom receives a mysterious phone call around 11:00 pm. The person on the other end said “mama” and moaned and said she was Julie Moseley when asked. Individuals working at the mall that day would come forward to say they had seen the girls but none of that information led anywhere. Several tips that the girls were under a Texas Highway bridge near Port Lavaca led police and family to search the area. Again, no signs of the girls were found. Investigators also searched in rural Eastland County and Brazoria County to no avail.
Time continued to move on. Two years after their disappearance, Rachel’s husband, Tommy Trlica, divorces his wife and moves away. On the fourth anniversary of their disappearance, police confess they have little evidence as to what happened to the girls. In fact, the investigator admitted, “We’ve never even gotten them off the parking lot of the shopping center.”
In 1981, more bones were found though they turned out to be unrelated to the Fort Worth Trio. A Houston man also came forward to say he saw a man force 3 girls into a van, but nothing ever came of that lead either.
Rachel's case, and that of Julie and Lisa, remains unsolved. Rachel is caucasian with brown hair and blue/green eyes. Her upper front tooth is chipped. She has a small scar on her chin. Her maiden name is Arnold. She is left-handed. If you have any information about the disappearance of these three girls, please contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at (800) THE-LOST | 1-800-843-5678.