Disabled woman, 18, is still missing Foster parent hasn't seen her charge since Dec. 4

December 24, 1997|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

Tabitha Lynn Bruce has presents waiting under the tree and a foster parent who wants her to come home for Christmas -- but the 18-year-old mentally disabled woman has been missing for nearly three weeks, police said yesterday.

Bruce lives in Dundalk with a foster parent, Vernell Chapman, who reported her missing Dec. 4. Chapman said yesterday that Bruce had left the home she shares with Chapman on other occasions, but only for a day or two.

This time is different -- and Chapman is afraid her charge might be lost, in danger or even gravely ill because of missed daily medications.

"She has the mental capability of a third-grader. She may not even know where she is," Chapman said yesterday. "She has five different medications for emotional disturbance. The medications she is on -- stopping suddenly like this could cause seizures or a nervous breakdown."

Chapman said Bruce had been living with her since she was 14.

Bruce's biological mother lives in Baltimore but is unable to care for her, and she went to the Chapman home through a state agency. She graduated last year from Dundalk Senior High School but cannot work because her medications make her shaky, Chapman said.

Chapman said that on the evening of Dec. 4, Bruce had an appointment at a nearby beauty salon, and Chapman gave her money to have her eyebrows done.

But Bruce did not return that evening, and Chapman had no word from her for almost two weeks. Then on Dec. 16, Chapman said, Bruce left a message on Chapman's answering machine.

"She sounded upset at first, then she calmed down," said Chapman, who has kept the message on her machine. "The message said, 'Hey, Ma. I'm OK. I'm coming home but I don't know when. Bye.' "

Police have determined the call was made from a pay phone at North Avenue and Harford Road in Baltimore, said police spokesman Bill Toohey. But detectives have not been able to locate the missing woman.

rTC Bruce is described as about 5 feet 2 inches tall and about 116 pounds. She has medium-length brown hair and unusual eyes: one is blue and one is brown, according to Chapman. When last seen, she was wearing a red sweater, black jeans and a beige coat trimmed in brown fake fur.

"She's got a lot of presents here ," Chapman said yesterday. "I'd like to see her come home for Christmas."

Anyone who might have seen Bruce is asked to call Baltimore County Police Department at 410-887-2198.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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