Family still feels pain of long-missing woman

She was 23 when relatives last saw her 20 years ago

September 27, 2006|By Nick Shields | Nick Shields,SUN REPORTER

When word reached Bernadette Caruso's family that human remains had been found this month in a field in Harford County, one of the woman's sisters called police.

Carrying the unresolved pain of having a loved one missing for two decades, Caruso's relatives sometimes pick up the phone when remains are found - hoping, so far in vain, for answers.

They last saw Bernadette Caruso, then 23 and living in Chase, 20 years ago today. . The family members plan to hold a tribute Sunday in remembrance of Caruso and other missing Marylanders.

No one charged

At Darlene Huntsman's home in Millersville, a handful of newspaper articles about her sister, some laminated, others yellowed, sat scattered on a wooden coffee table in her living room. No one has ever been charged in Bernadette Caruso's disappearance.

Huntsman and Susan Bowerman, another sister of Caruso, said they hired a private investigator about a year and a half ago to help unearth new clues in their sister's disappearance. They said that in a couple of weeks the family plans to ask prosecutors to seek a grand jury investigation into her sister's disappearance.

"How could someone not have seen something?" Bowerman said.

Bernadette Caruso left her job at a jewelry store in Eastpoint Mall about 5 p.m. Sept. 27, 1986, expecting to have the night free to spend with a high school friend.

Caruso's then 3-year-old daughter was with the girl's father, Paul Michael Caruso. The couple had filed for divorce.

When her husband attempted to return their daughter, Bernadette Caruso never answered the door. Bernadette Caruso and her mother's jade-colored 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier have not been seen since.

"Nicole really got cheated," Huntsman said. "Bernadette would have been a wonderful mother when she really needed it the most during her teenage years."

Nicole Caruso, now 23, is the same age as her mother was when she disappeared.

"It's pretty difficult growing up and not having a mother," she said.

Attempts this week to obtain comment from Paul Michael Caruso were unsuccessful.

Nicole Caruso said she now lives with her boyfriend of seven years in Parkville. She says his mother helps to fill the void created when her mother disappeared.

The impact

But she said she sees the impact not only on herself but her relatives.

"They have been absolutely miserable," she said of her mother's family.

She said she hopes that someone comes forth soon with information on the case that will allow the family to have a sense of peace.

"Everyone would like some kind of answer and put all of it to rest," she said.

On Sunday, the family, and other relatives of missing Marylanders, will gather at Baldwin Hall in Millersville to remember the state's missing persons.

"I really don't think we have a lot of hope as far as Bernadette being found alive," Huntsman said. "We do hope we find Bernadette's body, and that will give us closure - and I'd like to get some closure by finding those people responsible for it."

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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