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Coughlin case gets new spark from Calif.

Published: Thu, March 25, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.




It has been more than 35 years since Joanne Coughlin vanished from friends and family, but photos found in the possession of a convicted California killer may shed some light on what happened to the North Side woman.

Coughlin went to the European Health Spa on Boardman-Canfield Road on Dec. 27, 1974, wearing a pair of blue jeans, black top and a green leather jacket. The 21-year-old aspiring actress also had plans to meet her boyfriend later that night, but has not been seen since the health spa visit.

Funds were left untouched in Coughlin’s bank account, and no clothes were taken from her Ohio Avenue home, leading family members to suspect foul play.

Youngstown police began a search for the woman that would span decades, but a call from police in California has given a new spark to the case.

Police in Huntington Beach, Calif., recently released more than 100 photos of unidentified women found in the storage locker of a man convicted of killing four women and a 12-year-old girl. The photos can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/scpr/sets/72157623600695928/. Officers in Huntington Beach have called YPD saying they have reason to believe a photo of Coughlin is among them.

Prosecutors, according to an Associated Press story, say Rodney Alcala used his camera to lure in victims. They fear some of those in the photos may have fallen victim to Alcala.

Police department personnel spent Wednesday compiling information to be sent to California officials concerning the Coughlin case. A call to detectives working on the case in California was not returned.

Local authorities have been fielding calls about Coughlin, virtually since the Youngstown Playhouse actress disappeared.

In one account from January 1975, a person reported seeing Coughlin leaving a Kmart store in Austintown. The informant told police the woman she believed to be Coughlin seemed to be in a hurry and drove away in a gold-colored car with Ohio plates.

Multiple rewards for information leading to Coughlin’s whereabouts have been offered over the years. The initial reward was $500, then $4,000.

Local police have had several theories about what might have happened to Coughlin, but none was concrete.

In 1985, a judge declared the Youngstown woman dead.

Members of Coughlin’s family, in a 1995 interview, said they will not give up on finding answers as to what happened to her.

Then-Boardman Police Chief Glenn Bowers told The Vindicator in 1995, “...I believe she was murdered.”


11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

"Local police have had several theories about what might have happened to Coughlin, but none was concrete."

Care to share any of those with the readers?

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2VTLady79(1 comment)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

I was intrigued by this short article, and so tried to find Joanne Coughlin's listing on NCMEC and there was nothing. Also tried OH state cold case website, and national websites for missing adults, and found nothing. The ONLY article related to this woman's disappearance that I was able to find, was an article written last year by her niece-----requesting that her HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER run an article!!
I realize she was legally declared dead in 1985, but this family never got any closure, and it's very sad that her case isn't listed on any state or national sites.
Maybe this site could at least post the missing woman's photo?

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3dburkey(19 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Being Joanne's niece, I would like to clarify that the letter I wrote, was *not* to MY High School newspaper.
The letter appeared in the METRO MONTHLY. They devoted an entire issue to the demolition WOODROW WILSON HIGH SCHOOL. Joanne attended and graduated from there.
I wrote to the METRO editior in hopes of bringing attention to Joanne's very old case.

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4mcgill319(9 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Having know Joanne personally,not one of these photos found in a storage locker belonging to man in CA, comes remotely close to looking like her.
Unless there is other information that the CA
police have other than these photos, it's a terrible thing to do to Joanne's family.

It is good that this case is still in the news
and hopefully will be solved for her family and friends.

There was a lot of interest in a local big wig
that was rumored to be involved, but people
were being told to back off, including news
reporter Andrea Woods..

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5dburkey(19 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

"Funds were left untouched in Coughlin’s bank account"

The writer fails to mention, a woman posed as Joanne and tried to withdraw funds from Joanne's bank account. The woman named 2 men, Robert Shugart and Howard Rodriguez. The woman, Theresa not sure of the spelling; Batistie,Batisti or Battisti, claimed 2 men put her up to the attempted bank fraud and were waiting for her across the street with a gun!
Joanne's mother wanted to bring charges against this woman and called the detective working on Joanne's case. Detective Campbell told her, he was too busy to talk to her that day. But, when she told him she wanted this woman charged....Campbell was at the house within a half hour. Campbell pleaded with Joanne's mom not to press charges. He said that the woman was a police informant and it would put *her* life in danger!

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6dburkey(19 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

In one account from January 1975, a person reported seeing Coughlin leaving a Kmart store in Austintown.

This was likely a sorry attempt to throw off the investigation. Joanne's mother worked at this K-mart for 30 years.

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