By: Dana Poll, MLIS and Andrea Cipriano, MAPF

 

How could three young girls vanish two days before Christmas?

The Charley Project Map and Meaghan Good
The bizarre disappearances of Rachel Trlica, Lisa Renee Wilson, and Julie Moseley continues to be one of Fort Worth’s most troubling 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, three families are still haunted by what may have happened to their precious girls. 

Meet the ‘Trio’

December 23, 1974

On the morning of December 23, 1974, Rachel Trlica asked her friend Renee Wilson, if she wanted to go to the mall for some last-minute Christmas shopping.

Renee agreed to go but said she wanted to be back by 4:00 pm because she was excited about attending a Christmas party with her boyfriend, Terry Moseley. Terry lived across the street from Renee’s grandmother. Terry’s little sister, Julie Moseley, overheard Renee talking about going to the mall and asked if she could join her. and Rachel.

Renee said yes — but told Julie to get permission from her mother first, so Julie called her mom at work to ask if she could go. The Moseley and the Wilson families had known each other for years, but Mary Trlica was a new name and new face for Mrs. Moseley. Although Mrs. Moseley wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of her young daughter going to the mall with a teenager she didn’t know …she trusted Renee, so she gave Julie permission to join the girls. 

This decision would haunt Mrs. Moseley for the rest of her life.

Before noon, Rachel picked up Renee and Julie in her Oldsmobile 98 and headed toward the Seminary South Shopping Center. Renee brought a small gift-wrapped present for Rachel’s stepson, Shawn.

Along the way, the girls stopped at the Army Navy surplus store to retrieve jeans Renee had placed on layaway. At some point in the early afternoon, the three girls made it to the mall and parked on the upper level of the Sears parking lot. 

This is the last piece of evidence investigators have that the girls made it to the shopping center.

The families grew worried when the girls did not return home by 4:00 pm. Soon after, Rachel’s mother and Rachel’s 11 year-old brother went to the mall and found the locked Oldsmobile. Then, the pair went to every store in the mall looking for the girls. She asked each store manager to page her daughter over their intercom system — but the girls did not respond.

By this time in the evening, the other girls’ families arrived too, and panic started to set in. The police are called, and they quickly arrive at the mall.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has reported that the girl’s fathers arrived at the mall armed with shotguns and the intention to guard the car. The reason…. they did not want anything to happen to it.

The investigation kicks off.

Several witnesses told the police they saw the girls shopping at the mall that day. A few particularly mentioned seeing Renee as she was wearing a “Sweet Honesty” t-shirt. 

After the initial investigation, the police stated that they believed the girls returned to the car that afternoon. However, no receipts or packages were found in the car except for the jeans that Renee had picked up from the Army Navy Surplus store and the gift for Shawn. The police also believed the girls all ran away, which the family vehemently denied. 

Even though they didn’t agree with the initial impression, the police took their findings to the local press.

The following day, Christmas Eve, 1974, the early morning edition of the Star-Telegram covered the story of the missing girls and indicated that the police had no reason to suspect foul play — but added that none of the girls had ever been reported as a runaway and that the parents of all three said disappearing was unlike any of them.

While the whole town was learning about the case with their morning coffee in the paper, Rachel’s husband received a strange note in the mail. 

Canceled Postmark

That same day, Rachel’s husband Tommy found a postmarked letter in his mailbox. The letter had many strange elements and continues to baffle many about whether or not Rachel actually wrote 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, Eliasville, or Weatherford, Texas.

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.



The Christmas Day evening edition of the Star-Telegram printed an article with a headline that read, Missing Girl’s Letter Discounted by Police. Rachel’s parents and Tommy questioned the letter saying they did not believe it was Rachel’s handwriting.

Over the past 44 years, the family has been inundated with leads, prank calls, rumors and theories — but they never stopped looking.

Within the first few weeks of the girls vanishing, the families plastered posters and handed out fliers, pleading for help from the public.

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. This is most likely a horrible prank, investigators believe.

Time continued to move on. 

Two years after their disappearance, Rachel’s husband, Tommy Trlica, dissolves the marriage 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.”

One witness eventually came forward and claimed that they saw the girls with a mall security guard, while another claimed to have seen the girls being forced into a truck by an unknown man.

At least 7 Private Detectives have been hired to investigate the girl’s mysterious disappearance. Exhaustive searches have been conducted and more recently, cars have been removed from a nearby lake, but none of these efforts have led to the discovery of Fort Worth Trio.


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.

Dana Poll, MLIS is the Head of Growth at Uncovered and the creator and host of True Crime P.I., an investigative podcast that explores missing and unidentified persons cases from the 70s, 80s, & 90s. Dana’s goal is to help families who have been “forced to carry the unbearable burden of not knowing.”

 

Andrea Cipriano is a Case Researcher and Content Specialist at Uncovered, where she writes for the twice-weekly true crime newsletter, The Citizen Detective. Andrea graduated with a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice where she focused on researching and peeling back the criminal mind. Andrea believes that it’s never too late for justice.

 


 

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