Real Name: Therese Rose Vanderheiden-Walsh
Nicknames: Therese is also referred as Therese Rose Vanderheiden, Therese Rose Walsh, Therese Walsh
Location: Kailua, Hawaii
Date: June 22, 1990
Date of Birth: July 4, 1984
Weight: 45 pounds
Marital Status: Single
Characteristics: Caucasian female with blonde hair and green/hazel eyes. Therese's ears are pierced and she has moles on her back and shoulders.
Details: Therese Walsh is the daughter of Francis Walsh and Merle Marie Vanderheiden. The couple met in Maryland in 1979 when they were both in the army in Intelligence Units. They married in 1980 and Therese was born four years later; however, by then, their marriage was failing. Their problems apparently stemmed from Merle's rigged rules.
By 1987, the family had moved to Hawaii. However, the couple's relationship did not improve. In May, Francis moved out and filed for divorce. Merle claimed that Therese was being sexually abused by Francis, although there was no evidence whatsoever to support the allegations. An investigation by a social worker and a psychologist determined that Therese was being brainwashed by Merle into believing she had been abused by her father. They also felt that if Merle had custody, she would most likely take Therese away from Francis and never bring her back.
After the divorce, Francis began dating Janice Anderson; during their first date, Merle appeared and began screaming at the couple. She and Francis talked for a few minutes while Janice stayed in Francis's car. Suddenly, Merle got into their car, shouted obscenities at her, and tried to attack her with a stun gun. Fortunately, the stun gun's battery was low so Janice was not injured. However, Merle did rip out the car's distributor wire, disabling it completely.
In 1988, Francis was given custody over Therese and Merle was not permitted any unsupervised visits until she took a mental evaluation. Eventually, Merle left Hawaii and went back to the mainland United States; Francis and Janice married and made a happy living environment for Therese in Hawaii. Although she was shy and quiet at first, she soon blossomed in her new home.
Merle made regular phone calls to Therese but stayed in the mainland United States. Francis believed that Merle would finally be out of their lives, but everything changed on June 22, 1990. That day, Therese went to her day care center in Honolulu; in the morning, they went out for recess, and at 12PM, the group was to head back inside. However, as they walked back, Therese was abducted by a woman wearing sunglasses and a hat. When the owner of the day care center called Francis, he was certain that he woman was Merle; a warrant was soon issued for her arrest.
Francis soon learned that Merle was probably aided in her flight by the Children of the Underground, headed by Faye Yager. Authorities believe that this group may have given Merle false identification papers for her and Therese. Francis is still hoping to find his daughter even though years have passed. Neither Merle nor Therese have ever been located.
Suspects: Merle Marie Vanderheiden is wanted for kidnapping her daughter Therese; she is considered armed and dangerous. Investigators believe that she used her military training to help escape and create false identities for herself and Therese.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the March 14, 1997 episode. This case was excluded from the Amazon Prime episode.
Results: Unsolved. Sadly, Therese's father Francis passed away in 1998 without ever finding his daughter. Her stepmother, Janice Walsh, passed away in 2014. Therese would now be thirty-six years old. It is unclear if Merle is still considered a wanted fugitive, as a profile of Therese that appears on the official website for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children neither mentions Merle by name nor contains a photo of her.
- Therese Walsh on the Charley Project
- Therese Walsh on the NCMEC
- Therese Walsh on Unsolved Archive
- Therese Walsh on For the Lost
- On the hunt for a stolen life
- Discussion Thread on Therese's case
- TapTalk Discussion Forum
- Janice Walsh Obituary