Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Doreen Marfeo

Real Name: Doreen Ann Marfeo
Nicknames: Doreen Dobson (maiden name)
Location: Johnston, Rhode Island
Date: March 29, 1990


Occupation: Purchasing Editor, Rhode Island School of Design
Date of Birth: July 7, 1955
Height: 5' 7"
Weight: 115 lbs.
Marital Status: Married
Characteristics: Doreen had brown hair with green eyes, a chicken pock mark on the front of one calf, capped front tooth and noticeable Massachusetts accent.


Details: On the afternoon of March 29, 1990, Stephen Marfeo of Johnston, Rhode Island, came home from work to find his house oddly silent and empty. A small suitcase was missing, and his wife of twelve years, Doreen, was nowhere to be found. While looking through their clothes, he noticed that some of her jeans, shirts, and blouses were missing. He checked a small safe and noticed that $600 was missing. However, her car, a 1984 Ford Tempo, was still in the driveway. She also left behind her curlers, toothbrush, and pet cats. Furthermore, there were no notes, letters, or anything else to indicate what had happened to her.
Doreen was thirty-four when she disappeared. Since then, there have been several unconfirmed sightings of her. Beyond that, there has been nothing - no phone calls, no paper trail, and no body. Following her disappearance, Stephen spent thousands of dollars searching for her. He believes that she is still alive. He has publicized the case on television and newspapers, and is offering a $5,000 reward. The police, however, have become convinced that she was murdered. Stephen has discovered that when someone disappears for no apparent reason, the most obvious suspect is the person who knew them best.
Doreen and Stephen met in 1976, and quickly found they both enjoyed active lifestyles. Two years later, they were married. He worked in the jewelry business and enjoyed weightlifting and driving fast cars. She was a successful career woman, the purchase manager at the Rhode Island School of Design. She was also a tidy, punctual person who visited her mother Laura often. With their similar outgoing personalities, the couple seemed to be the perfect match. But in October 1989, a crack appeared in their perfect world: she abruptly quit her job and said she needed a change. This was a surprise to Stephen, her boss, her friends, and her family. He did not feel that she was the type of person to leave a job without reason and not have another one lined up.
According to Stephen, Doreen's behavior grew increasingly erratic - to the point that she seemed on the verge of a nervous breakdown. According to him, within a matter of weeks, she went from being a strong and independent woman to being very weak, unassured of herself, and acting like a "nervous wreck". When he tried to question her about her problems, she would get more hysterical. She told him that she felt like she was having a breakdown. She would cry and shake, and all he could do was hold her. Beforehand, he remembered that they were always comfortable talking about anything. But regarding the breakdowns, she would not tell him what was happening. She said that she would tell him at another time. However, she never did.
Stephen claims that Doreen's bizarre behavior continued until the day she disappeared. He admits that he did nothing for two days after she vanished, assuming she needed some time alone to sort things out. Finally, he called Laura, but she had not seen or talked to Doreen in over a week. Laura recalled that when he called her, she noticed that he sounded strange. When he told her about Doreen, she knew that something was wrong and urged him to call the police. After Doreen was reported missing, police questioned her family and friends. However, no one knew what might have prompted her to just pick up and walk away.
Then, a phone call took the investigation in a new direction. Police learned that Stephen had two private investigators follow Doreen around for eleven months. He claims that he only did that because he felt that something was wrong with her and wanted to find out what it was. He claims that they only followed her around for a few hours per month for about a year. He also claims that they never found out anything. Police, however, were suspicious of his conflicting actions: being so concerned about Doreen for a year that he had her followed around, but not being concerned enough for the two days that she was missing to call the police or even look for her.
Authorities had nothing but suspicions. On the one hand, there was nothing to indicate that Doreen was still alive. On the other hand, there was no evidence that she had met with foul play. Then, on June 13, 1990, two-and-a-half months after she disappeared, police got their first break in the case when they received two anonymous letters. In the first one opened by them, the author attacked her character and accused her of cheating on Stephen, saying, among other things: Although on the outside, she personifys (sic) class beauty and professionalism in reality she is nothing more than a cheap Harlot...Her promotions were achieved by her sexual prowess rather then management or leadership abilities.
The first letter mentioned names of people Doreen was involved with; investigators spoke to them and they were surprised that they were even mentioned. One of them was an elderly gentleman and others had not worked with her in years. This seemed to indicate the letter may have been written to defame her. Police also spoke to her coworkers; there was no indication that she was having an affair with anyone. Her coworkers said that it would be totally out of her character. She had also mentioned in normal conversations with them that marital affairs were something that she would never have been involved in or tolerated.
However, according to Doreen's sister, Lorna, Doreen had once considered leaving Stephen for another man. This occurred ten years before she vanished. According to Lorna, Doreen was having an affair and the man had wanted her to leave Stephen and go with him somewhere. Apparently, she was weary and upset about what she should do. She came to Lorna and Lorna's husband to talk about it. They all decided that the best thing for her to do was to stay with Stephen.
The second letter was even more disturbing than the first. It gave a chilling account of how Stephen had allegedly murdered Doreen: Stephen got hot under the collar. He made for couch and strangled Doreen...on a narrow dirt road he stopped and deposited wife's body in reeds in a pond.
When police received the letters, they felt that Stephen may have been the author based on some of the information that was contained within them. They believe that he was the only one to know some of this information. They had the letters sent to an expert in psycholinguistics, Dr. Murray Miron of Syracuse University. They wanted his opinion on who the author might have been. He believes that the author was someone that knew Doreen quite well, someone close to the Marfeo family. He also believes that the letters were designed to deceive the authorities. In his report, he pointed a finger directly at Stephen. He concluded that Stephen probably wrote both letters and was "a logical suspect in the murder of his wife".
Stephen denies typing the letters. He believes that the police are making up evidence against him. The police later seized several typewriters to which he had access. A comparison of type styles revealed that the first letter had indeed been written on a typewriter belonging to one of his close relatives. Investigators noted that the match established a link between the document, the instrument, and a suspect. They felt it was similar to a fingerprint in terms of identification. He believes that he has been targeted by police merely because he is Doreen's husband.
Interestingly, Lorna also believes that Stephen is innocent, claiming that there is no evidence to suggest he is guilty. Laura believes that it is possible that he killed her. However, she believes that, based on certain reactions from him, he believes that Doreen is still alive. Stephen still lives in the same house that he and Doreen shared for twelve years. The police still believe that he is the only person responsible for her disappearance, although they lack enough evidence to charge him at this time. He continues to maintain his innocence and hopes that she is still alive.

Stephen marfeo.jpg

Suspects: The police have long suspected Stephen of killing Doreen. He seemed to be controlling over her; whenever she would visit Laura, he would call her house to make sure she was actually there. He would also call her at work to see what she was doing and who she was with. During the police investigation, he changed his story about the last time he saw her several times. They discovered he took a seventy-minute lunch on the day she vanished; normally, he took a twenty or thirty-minute lunch. Authorities felt it was suspicious that he had hired two separate private investigators to follow her around prior to her disappearance, but when she actually vanished, he seemed unconcerned with locating her. He not only waited two days to report her missing, but he also did not have his investigators look into her disappearance.
Investigators suspected that Stephen may have written the anonymous letters that were sent to them. A psycho-linguistics expert examined the letters; he believed that the letter writer was close to Doreen and knew her well. He felt that the letters were written to throw off the investigation. Overall, he concluded that Stephen most likely wrote the letters, and that he was most likely responsible for her disappearance. A type style comparison later confirmed that the first letter was written on Stephen's mother's typewriter.
Extra Notes: This case originally ran on the November 17, 1993 episode.
Results: Unresolved. On July 30, 1999, Stephen shot and killed his thirty-eight-year-old ex-girlfriend, Laura Vincent, and seriously wounded her new boyfriend, Salvatore Puleo. He then drove to the secluded Barkhamsted Reservoir in Connecticut and committed suicide when a state trooper approached him. His suicide note mentioned that he was alive "nine years too long" and that he had "felt guilty" for Doreen's disappearance, but he did not claim direct responsibility. However, his actions seem to imply that he had something to do with it.
Investigators believe that Stephen killed Doreen, but also feel that the case cannot be closed until her remains are found. A search of the area near the reservoir where Stephen committed suicide turned up no traces of her. Her family now believes that he was responsible for her disappearance, but still hope to find her remains.