Reward offered in missing person case

Woman, 45, last seen Sept. 11 at restaurant

October 02, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Every day for the past three weeks, an elderly Severn couple has circled the Denny's restaurant on Route 175 in Odenton looking for their missing daughter.

Light posts in the parking lot are wrapped with faded white fliers seeking information about Valerie Ann Littleton, 45, who was last seen leaving the restaurant shortly after midnight Sept. 11.

Her parents, Kingsley and Mildred Gorman, who announced yesterday that they are offering a $2,500 reward for information about their daughter's whereabouts, describe her as severely emotionally disturbed.

They wonder whether she hitched a ride from the wrong person or was forced into a car. They wonder whether she wanted to disappear without a trace or became confused and doesn't know where she is.

They wonder if they'll ever see her again.

The couple returns again and again to the last place their daughter was seen as if one day she'll be outside waiting for them, having just finished a tall glass of the Denny's iced tea that she loves.

"I don't know why, but that place is like a magnet for me," said Kingsley Gorman, 70.

Added his 69-year-old wife: "Whatever happened to Valerie is centered around that Denny's restaurant."

The night she disappeared, Littleton walked to the Denny's, about a mile from where she lives with her parents, after a squabble with her mother late Sept. 10, her family said.

Video surveillance tape from the restaurant shows the woman sitting at a booth for about 40 minutes. Four minutes after Littleton is last seen on the tape, Mildred Gorman walks in looking for her daughter.

"I can't understand how this girl faded into thin air within four minutes," her mother said.

The Anne Arundel County police investigation has come to a standstill, the Gormans said, and no one has seen Littleton since she pulled a handful of change out of her pocketbook to pay her bill.

The detectives assigned to the Littleton case have reported "no additional information" in recent days, said Lt. Joseph E. Jordan, a county police spokesman.

About 1,500 people are reported missing to the county Police Department each year, but there are no open cases quite like Littleton's disappearance, Jordan said. "We find that a large percentage of them are gone because they want to be," he said.

The Gormans decided to offer the reward after weeks of frustration over the lack of information.

"It's a modest amount, but we're not wealthy people," Kingsley Gorman said. "If I were a millionaire, it would be $1 million."

The most recent photo of their daughter - a snapshot of several frames from the surveillance tape - shows her standing at the Denny's cash register.

Police say an employee found the contents of Littleton's purse - an empty change purse, photos, identification - in a restroom trashcan.

In the Gormans' one-story home on Cuire Drive, a small, oval coffee table is strewn with photos of Littleton, newspaper articles, "endangered missing" fliers and slips of paper with tidbits of information about missing-persons cases.

Down the hall, Mildred Gorman keeps the door to her daughter's small bedroom open. It's a girlish room filled with floral decorations and lots of pink.

Mildred Gorman tears up when she walks into that room.

"See - she just bought sheets for her bed," she said, pointing to still-packaged pink sheets.

Littleton has been clinically depressed for more than a decade and takes a monthly shot to help control her emotions, her family said. Shortly after her divorce in the early 1990s, she moved back in with her parents, who have lived in The Provinces neighborhood since 1975.

Her ex-husband and their two children, Alisha, 13, and Nicole, 18, live in Kansas City, Mo.

A few weeks before she disappeared, Littleton was fired from Loew's Annapolis Hotel, a job she had held for about three months, her father said. She had resolved to reapply for disability benefits, which she had been denied several years ago, Mildred Gorman said.

Then she disappeared. The paperwork for disability benefits is still in a pile on her bed.

After papering Route 175, nearby shopping centers and homeless shelters and even their three vehicles with fliers, the Gormans decided to offer a reward.

They've also contacted organizations ranging from the Maryland Center for Missing Children to the television show Unsolved Mysteries.

"We just don't know what else to do," Kingsley Gorman said.

Anyone with information about Littleton's disappearance is asked to call Arundel police at 410-222-8610.

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