Many parents with young children think the hardest parts about being a parent are the sleepless nights and seemingly endless tantrums. But as time goes by, parents quickly learn that the hardest part of parenting is really letting go.
In 1980, one Florida couple was coming to terms with the fact that their baby girl was getting older. Since she was becoming more independent, the couple was thankful they lived in a small town where nothing bad ever happened. But then something bad did happen and their worst fears became reality…
Small Town Life
In 1980, the town of Montverde, Florida had a population of about 400 people. The town, which is just 36 miles west of Orlando, was so small that everyone knew each other by name and hardly anyone ever felt the need to lock their door at night.
A Living Nightmare
The lakeside town had always been a safe place for families to raise their children. But in the late afternoon of April 8, 1980, the tight-knit community was rocked to their core when every parent’s worst nightmare became a reality for one couple…
Family Fishing Trip
On April 8th, Linda and Mike Crews, a commercial fisherman, decided to go fishing for catfish on Lake Florence, which was just minutes away from their home on Highlands Avenue. Charles, their 15-year-old son, joined them that afternoon and they left their 2 other kids at home.
Going fishing on the lake was a regular pastime for the family, but that afternoon, 16-year-old Tony and 12-year-old Georgia decided to stay home with the family’s bulldog, Tigger. At the time, Georgia was in the 5th grade at Minneola Elementary School…
“Everybody thought the world of her,” Linda said about Georgia, who like to sew her own clothes by hand and had a particularly close bond with Tigger. Georgia had plans to go to her friend’s house that evening but decided to go buy some snacks to bring with her.
The Trip To Stop & Go
Sometime between 5:30 and 6 p.m., Georgia took Tigger to go to the convenience store, Stop & Go, where her mother worked. The shop was about a mile away from the family’s home and Tony wasn’t sure if he should let his little sister go alone…
1 Hour Later…
Ultimately, Tony let Georgia go since she had gone to the convenience store on her own before. Georgia also promised she wouldn’t be long since it was nearly sunset and she was terrified of the dark. So when Georgia didn’t return within an hour, Tony knew something was wrong.
A Bad Sign
Thinking Georgia might have gone straight to her friend’s house, Tony called the family but they hadn’t seen Georgia either. Tony ran outside and started looking for Georgia. A few street away, Tony found something he knew was a bad sign…
The Family Dog
Tigger was sitting alone at an intersection a few street away from their home and he refused to move. When Linda, Mike, and Charles returned home from their afternoon on the lake, they found Tony frantically screaming out Georgia’s name around the neighborhood.
The Search Begins
The family reported Georgia missing to the police, who determined that the 12-year-old with blonde hair and brown eyes had never even made it to the Stop & Go. That night, the community rallied together and formed a search party around midnight…
Disappeared Without A Trace
The community searched through nearby orange groves and the woods. The only thing they found was Georgia’s footprints on the dusty road near her home. Police later searched Lake Florence, sent a helicopter out, and got a bloodhound to search for Georgia’s scent in the nearby swampland.
Clinging To Hope
There was no sign of Georgia anywhere but her family wouldn’t stop looking. “Me and them two boys, we searched places that hadn’t been seen by man in probably 100 years. There were places we had to carry ladders in and just walk across swamps,” Mike said. The family was devastated, but Tony felt responsible for everything and didn’t sleep for 3 days after his baby sister went missing…
Never Giving Up
Just 2 days after Georgia went missing, her parents, her grandmother, and the town police marshal’s wife received a chilling phone call. “You know that 12-year-old girl you’re looking for? She’s dead,” the man said before hanging up. Unfortunately, police couldn’t trace any of the calls.
A Body Is Found
On April 16, 1980, Mike and Linda Crews found out the man on the phone had not been lying. Georgia’s body was found in a slightly wooded area in Seminole County, which was about 25 miles from where she was abducted. The body was so decayed that police could only identify her using medical and dental records…
An autopsy revealed Georgia was killed by a single stabbing in her back. Her body was still clothed when she was found and the autopsy also determined that she had not been sexually assaulted. The news was devastating for the Crews family, and terrifying for the rest of the town who were convinced the murderer was in their midst since no one had seen a stranger around town. The theory was also supported by the fact that there were no signs of a struggle at the place where Georgia’s footprints ended.
The Investigation Continues
While everyone was jumping to conclusions about what had happened to Georgia, her mother was having a hard time accepting that the body that was found belonged to her daughter. Meanwhile, the police were hard at work investigating every possible suspect, from neighbors, family friends, colleagues, and other people passing through town at the time. Throughout the entire investigation, there was only ever one suspect that stuck out to police…
The Prime Suspect
In September 1980, Albert Lara confessed to murdering Georgia. Lara was in prison for the murder of a 15-year-old Iowa girl. But Lara had confessed to a number of other crimes around the country and investigators began to suspect he was confessing to crimes in order to be transferred to a better prison. “In reviewing the transcribed confession of Albert Lara, there were numerous facts given that were in direct conflict with what the investigators discovered at the crime scene and subsequent autopsies,” said Gordon Oldham, the state attorney at the time.
After that, there were no new leads and the case went cold. For over 2 decades, Linda held onto a sliver of hope that her daughter was still alive somewhere. But in early 200s, Seminole County Investigator Robert Jaynes opened the case again to test a small sample of bones that had not been cremated. The DNA matched Linda’s, who finally had definitive proof. “Now we know, we can put that part of our lives to rest, that it was her,” Linda said. “The next step is to figure out who done it…”
In 2013, 32 years after Georgia’s murder, investigators were reviewing the case again and discovered a new piece of evidence. When Georgia’s body was discovered she had been wearing a silver cross around her neck. Originally, a family friend told investigators that the necklace belonged to Georgia, but when the Crews family was shown a photo of the necklace, they were adamant that it wasn’t hers. The chunky silver cross appeared to be made from motorcycle parts. The necklace Georgia normally wore was dainty and gold.
Clinging To Hope
Unfortunately, the new piece of evidence never lead to a breakthrough in the case. It’s been almost 38 years since the tragic day, but the Crews family still hopes they’ll find out what happened to Georgia even though there is such little evidence. “Someone saw something about this little girl. Somebody knows what happened to this little girl,” said Detective Jaymes.