A woman who went missing more than four decades ago in upstate New York has been found in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, authorities said.
Florence “Flora” Stevens was 36 when she disappeared on Aug. 3, 1975, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office said.
“She had been dropped off by her husband for a doctor’s appointment at Community General Hospital, which was located in Monticello at the time,” police said in a statement. “When her husband returned to pick her up, she had vanished.”
Detectives periodically reviewed the case to find the missing woman, who was an employee at the Concord Hotel, but were never able to develop leads.
On Sept. 15, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a New York State Police investigator who said a set of unidentified skeletal remains was found in southern Orange County.
The woman whose body had been dumped roughly matched Stevens’ general characteristics, and the investigator was hoping that any living relatives could provide DNA for identification.
Instead, investigators discovered someone was using Steven’s social security number in Massachusetts, police said.
“Detectives tracked down the social security number to an assisted living residence in Lowell,” the sheriff’s office said. “Staff at the facility confirmed that the number belonged to a Flora Harris, who had been at the facility since 2001.”
Now 78, Stevens — or Harris — suffers from dementia and is unable to speak more than one or two words at a time.
But she recognized her ID from the Concord Hotel as her own, police said.
Officials were able to trace Stevens’ medical records back about 30 years and learned she spent time in a nursing home in New Hampshire and at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.
“Because of her illness, it is still a mystery how and why she disappeared from Monticello in 1975 and where she went,” the sheriff’s office said.
To date, authorities have been unable to locate any living relatives.
“The main thing is that we know that Flora is safe,” Sheriff Mike Schiff said.
“It is not too often that you get to solve a 42-year-old missing person case.”