’48 Hours’ Asks “What Ever Happened to Mary Day?” December 23 2023

“48 Hours” presents an investigative report titled “What Ever Happened to Mary Day?” revealing the perplexing case of Mary Day, a 13-year-old girl who disappeared in 1981 from Seaside, California. Remarkably, her parents never reported her missing. The episode, airing on December 23, delves into the initial belief that Mary was murdered and the startling emergence of a woman in Arizona years later claiming to be the missing girl, raising the question: Was she an imposter?


Mary Day was born in Little Falls, New York, on February 19, 1968. Her early life was turbulent, marked by periods in foster care due to her mother’s inability to provide care. Her family, including two younger sisters, Kathy and Sherrie, frequently relocated following her stepfather William Houle’s military postings. The family’s history was marred by abuse allegations, culminating in Mary’s protective custody in 1980.

Disappearance & Investigation

Mary’s disappearance in July 1981 from her California home remained shrouded in mystery, primarily because her parents never reported her missing. The family narrative claimed she ran away, leading to a lack of immediate police investigation. It wasn’t until 1992 that her sister Sherrie, suspecting foul play, reported Mary missing, initiating a formal inquiry a decade later.

The investigation revealed disturbing elements. Mary’s stepfather, William Houle, displayed violent tendencies, and there were allegations of physical abuse. A supposed confession from Houle, where he alluded to being possessed by a demon, further complicated the case. The discovery of a child’s shoe in the family’s backyard, where cadaver dogs signaled the presence of human remains, intensified suspicions. However, a body was never found, and the case remained open.

The Arizona Claimant

In a twist, a woman in Arizona, equipped with a new ID and claiming to be Mary, surfaced in 2003. DNA tests confirmed her as Charlotte’s daughter, but discrepancies, such as a distinct southern accent and gaps in childhood memories, raised doubts about her identity. Theories suggested she could be another secret daughter of Charlotte.

Despite the DNA evidence, skepticism persisted among law enforcement and family members. The woman’s story was inconsistent, and her behavior erratic. However, Sherrie eventually accepted her as Mary, despite lingering doubts. The woman’s death in 2017 marked a somber end to the saga, with questions about her true identity remaining unresolved.

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Ryan Gill

Ryan is a passionate follower of true crime television programs, reporting on and providing in-depth investigations on mysteries in the criminal world.

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