Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Tom Roche with Barbara Rondeau

Real Name: Thomas Richard Roche
Nicknames: Tom
Location: Burbank, California
Date: September 13, 1991


Occupation: Manager
Date of Birth: November 17, 1954
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 210 pounds
Marital Status: Dating
Characteristics: Caucasian male. Has tattoos of a viking and a wizard.


Details: Thirty-seven-year-old Tom Roche and thirty-two-year-old Barbara Rondeau had dated for over sixteen years. He was originally from Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They met in Rhode Island but moved to Burbank, California in 1988. They both shared a love for motorcycle riding and were well-liked by their motorcycling friends. Barbara worked at a blueprint company, while Tom was an expert in metal plating. In the fall of 1991, he accepted a management position with a company that plated aircraft parts. He was supposed to start there on Monday, September 16.
Three days before that, on Friday, September 13, he dropped Barbara off at work. They made plans for lunch; however, he never came back to pick her up. She was concerned when he did not call her. When she returned home at 5:30pm, she still had not heard from him. She was surprised to find the front door unlocked. She searched the house but found no sign of him. She noticed that the newspaper was unopened, a motorcycle battery he planned to install was still on the counter, and the answering machine was off, which suggested that he planned to stay home most of the day.
Barbara decided to wait, hoping that Tom would come home or at least call. The next day, she reported him missing and the police began an investigation. They questioned neighbors, but no significant information was uncovered. They could not determine if Tom left voluntarily or was the victim of foul play. Barbara circulated several missing person's fliers, hoping to find out what happened to him.

Actual letter sent by the killer

On September 19, several days after Tom vanished, she got a letter from his alleged killer (shown to the right), which included some of his personal belongings. Barbara had no idea who would have wanted to kill him.
Police tried to re-trace Tom's steps on the day of his disappearance. Bank records showed that he had made two deposits at approximately 8:20am. He did not withdraw any money, indicating that he did not have any plans to leave town. At 9:30am, a neighbor saw him leaving his home with an unidentified man. It is believed that this man may have been Tom's killer.
However, another witness came forward, claiming to have seen Tom after he vanished. The witness, Andy Marsala, was the owner of a motorcycle parts store in nearby Glendale. He claimed to have seen Tom come into his store on Saturday, September 14. He and Tom were acquaintances; he noticed that Tom was acting strangely that day. Some, however, believe that Andy was mistaken about the day.
The sighting led some to suggest that Tom may have written the confession letter himself and intentionally disappeared. Then, on January 11, 1992, four months after he vanished, weathered bone fragments and personal effects were found in a remote location in Placer County, five hundred miles north of Burbank. Motorcycle emblems on some of the clothing led police to believe that the effects and bones belong to Tom.
The scattered possessions included a duffel bag, flashlight, hunting knife, bottled water, two pairs of prescription eyeglasses, an empty prescription medicine bottle, and several shirts. This suggested that Tom was packed and ready to go on the road. Barbara confirmed that the shirts and one of the pairs of eyeglasses belonged to Tom. Testing then began to determine whether or not the bones belonged to him.
Interestingly, the letter writer claimed that Tom had been buried in Los Angeles, several hundred miles away from Placer County. It is possible that the writer purposefully mislead authorities.
Suspects: Several days after Tom's disappearance, an unknown individual sent a letter addressed "to the family of Tom Roche", claiming to be his killer. Mailed with the letter were one of Tom's earrings and his driver's license. The writer starts by saying:
I am suffering a great deal of guilt right now about what I have done and I feel it is necessary to write about it for my sake and yours. You don't know me, and hopefully you never will, but I am the one who killed Tom Roche. I sent along some personal belongings of his just so that you won't think that this is some kind of sick joke or anything.
He later states in the letter:
I am very sorry for what I have done. I know that in time the guilt will leave me, so will your pain.
The writer also claimed that he had met Tom at a strip club and that the two had a planned meeting on the day of his disappearance. The letter contained no fingerprints and bore no return address. Investigators were uncertain whether the letter was written by Tom's killer or Tom himself. Barbara could not understand who would have wanted to hurt him.
Tom was seen talking to an unidentified white male at 9:30am the morning he vanished. The two were seen talking to each other while looking into the bed of a brown pickup truck. If the letter is not a hoax, police believe that this man was Tom's killer.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 7, 1993 episode.
Results: Unresolved. In January 1994, DNA testing confirmed that the bones found in Placer County were Tom's. The testing was delayed because investigators had to get DNA samples from his siblings on the East Coast to compare to the remains. The cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound. The remains were released to his family on January 11 and a memorial service was held in February. The identity of his killer remains unknown.
Sadly, Barbara passed away on January 4, 2010; she was forty-nine.