9 On Your Side Crime Watch
Mystery of Kay Read's disappearance deepens over time
Her family still consumed by what-ifs and whys, haunted by their imagination
Who abducted Read? What was inside the burning van? And where is she now? Video by kgun9.comvideo
Kay Read vanished from her east Tucson home Valentine's Day 2008.
Read's van was found blocks away from her home, burning in broad daylight.
Police say this man tried to use Read's debit card at a gas station. Investigators are calling him a "person of interest."
TPD spokesperson Sgt. Matt Ronstadt says the investigation is ongoing, but there are not viable leads right now.
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV): It’s been more than four years since Kay Frances Read went missing Valentine’s Day – an unsolved mystery for police and utter misery for her family. Still, they said they’re not giving up on their search for the kindhearted Sunday schoolteacher.
This story has been told before, but never finished – a puzzle more confounding over time. One piece lies on the streets of east Tucson, where 62-year-old Kay Read lived for decades. But in the middle of a frosty February night in 2008, something happened and Read’s mother could not get a hold of her. Shortly after sunrise, Read’s sister Mary Seagle went to check on her.
“I got there. I pulled into the driveway. Of course I noticed her van was gone right away and that’s not like Kay. If she did go anywhere, she would call me,” Seagle said.
Seagle opened the front, which wasn’t locked. She saw what she feared inside: Read’s crutches. Her leg brace and walking stick were in the bedroom. But Read, who was handicapped because of a young bout with polio, was nowhere to be found. So started a made search against time.
“My heart was pounding. My mind was racing. I bet between my house and her house I must’ve made 50 stops,” Seagle said.
Police and SWAT flooded the area, preparing for the worst as they checked alleyways, backyards and even a nearby landfill. Possibly the most crucial evidence, though, was a few blocks away burning in broad daylight. Read’s van was abandoned and set on fire, with much of Read’s belongings scorched.
“It’s just that we’ve been at this a long time – and I don’t mean today. Most of us have been doing this for a lot of years and right now things just don’t add up,” Captain Bill Richards of the Tucson Police’s Violent Crime Division said in the 2008 interview.
A few blocks away, a man tried to Read’s debit card at what was then the Conoco gas station near Kolb and Golf Links and a security camera there captured images of perhaps the last person to see Reid alive.
Police are calling him a “person of interest.” He is Hispanic or Caucasian, in his late 20s or early 30s, 5’7” at 180 pounds. At the time, witnesses said he had short dark hair with a receding hairline, sores on his face and decaying teeth.
But family members believe the person who abducted Read was not alone. “It was like a woman of distress or a child acting the way they needed help because I know my sister would have never opened the door to a man,” Seagle said. The door on Read’s house showed no signs of forced entry.
So Read’s family set up billboards and passed out fliers, as homicide detectives worked the clues. However, few tips followed the release of the grainy surveillance video. The trail turned cold.
“Right now, the reality is that we don’t have any significant viable leads that we’re working.
However, the case is still an open case. It is an active investigation,” said Sgt. Matt Ronstadt, a spokesperson for Tucson Police.
Read’s mother died not knowing what happened to her daughter. The rest of the family, consumed by what-ifs, whys and haunted by their imagination. And as time passed, it started to sink in: maybe Read would never return.
“When I think back now, she was probably gone before she left the house. I don’t know why I feel that way but I just do,” said John Seagle, Read’s brother-in-law.
“I’m sure it was … I’m trying to figure out how to word this … She went down fighting, just knowing her,” her sister said.
The Seagles hold bimonthly blood drives, a cause that’s near to Read’s heart. They’ve helped 900 people so far – and all they’re asking is for just one person to help them.
“We’re looking for that little piece that someone thinks is insignificant, has dismissed as not being important and that in fact maybe that helps build this puzzle and helps solve the case,” Ronstadt said.
But what is the last piece of the puzzle? And who has it? One thing’s for sure: Solving the mystery would bring Read’s family justice and some much-needed closure.
“At this point, I don’t care who did it. I just want her back. I want her to come home and be where she needs to be,” Mary said.
Read’s family and the Tucson Medical Center are offering a $20,000 reward for information. Please call 911 or 88-crime if you know anything. You can remain anonymous.