30 years later, questions remain, women still missing

By Ed Breen

Thirty years now. Thirty years, one piled upon another over those 10,950 days and nights, since that spring evening in 1993 when Tricia Reitler left her dorm on the Indiana Wesleyan University campus in south Marion, strolled over to the Marsh Supermarket  on Adams street, bought a magazine and a root beer, left the store and was never seen or heard from again.

Her parents now understand that she is most likely dead,  but closure eludes them. Police officers consider it an open case and a couple of them are still trying to find a way to get to the person they believe abducted and killed the 19-year-old all those years ago. 
And in an awful irony, another Grant County girl who vanished in those same years also remains absent without explanation. She is Wendy Felton, a Gas city resident who disappeared six year earlier, on June 4, 1987, from her Gas City home. 
She was 16 at the time. Her sister had taken her parents, Russell and June Felton, to the Indianapolis airport. When the teenager left her home she took nothing – not even her purse – with her.    
Both girls – Tricia Reitler and Wendy Felton – remain unaccounted for and in the cold analytics of the modern world are reduced to National Crime Information Center  -- NCIC -- file numbers at the FBI.
Tricia Lynn Reiter is NCIC case M633946073. 
Wendy Louise Felton is NCIC case M250436110.
Both, however, remain very much a part of the lives of their families – the Feltons in Gas City and Garry and Donna Reitler, who still live in the suburban Cleveland, Ohio, home in Olmstead Township from which their daughter moved to come to Marion to study psychology at IWU.
And both remain in the minds and workflow of police officers, active and retired, in Marion and Grant County. Tricia Reitler’s file is now in the custody of the third generation of investigators since that 1993 morning when she was reported missing.
At least a dozen officers, city and county, have sought answers to the questions: Where did Tricia Retiler go? And where did Wendy Felton go? And who took them?  And were they killed? And how? And where are they buried?
Jay Kay, Mark Stefanatos , Darrell Himelick, Jason Ewer, Josh Zigler, Stephen  Dorsey , Kyle Beal  . . . the list of police officers grows longer.  And most have suspects in mind, especially in the case of Tricia Reitler, of people they believe responsible. But suspicion and evidence are two different things. The files include 7,000 pages of notes, tips, interviews, speculations and conclusions.
The only thing most all agree on is that Larry Hall, who was from Wabash and is now serving a life term in federal prison for another killing, had nothing to do with the disappearance and deaths of either Reiter or Felton.
Hall gained much attention about 20 years ago when he offered confessions to lots of kidnappings and killings. He is jailed in North Carolina for having abducted and killed another teenager, Illinois resident Jessica Roach, in western Indiana.
For the Reitler family, everything changed on the night of March 29, 1993.
“The phone call came a little bit after midnight,” Garry Reitler recalled. “I wasn't feeling well that night, just kind of lying on the couch," he said several years later.
"Do you know where your daughter is?"  It was a Marion police officer calling. Tricia may have been headstrong, but she was responsible. Her parents knew instantly something was very  wrong.
"Tricia was a fighter; she was strong. She was a small girl, but she was very determined. We knew that she was not gone by her own doing,"  her father said.
The Reitlers drove to Marion in early morning, the first of many such drives over those years. Their daughter’s clothing, bloody but folded, had been found near the campus.
"I think at that point  I knew. I knew that she was no longer alive,"  her father has since said. But,  of course, he did not – and does not – know. Not with certainty.
The wounds have become scars, but the pain persists.
“Something people don’t realize is that, until we get answers, this is still our everyday reality – or nightmare,” Donna Reitler said.
“Nightmare” is the same word June Felton uses when remembering those early weeks after her daughter vanished.
So we will conclude this story just as we have so many others over 30 years:
Anyone with information on the disappearance of Wendy Felton or Tricia Reitler is asked to contact the Grant County Sheriff’s Department at  765-668-8168, the Marion Police Department  765-662-9981 or submit an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers at (317) 262-8477.   

Posted on 2023 Mar 28