Over 40 years ago today, Amy Billig, 17, was last seen hitchhiking on Main Highway in Coconut Grove, Florida. She was thumbing a ride to her father's office to get money from him, and she had plans to meet her friends later that day. Neither her father, her friends or as matter of fact anybody ever saw Amy after this moment in time.
The idea of a teenage girl jumping into a vehicle with a complete stranger seems totally alien, if not downright dangerous in today's world. However on March 5, 1974, it was a very popular way for girls in the hippy era to get around.
By the late 1960s the dangers of hitchhiking were becoming evident when many young women disappeared or turned up dead. At the very least many were sexually assaulted since this was an expectation that this was how they were paying for their ride. The folly of this age group of course, is that nothing bad is going to happen to you
Amy Billig lived in Coconut Grove a bohemian enclave in Miami, and her father owned an art gallery there as well. Prior to her disappearance she was often seen hitchhiking throughout her neighborhood.
Within a few days of her disappearance the first false clue to locating her came in the form of a call from Charles and Larry Glasser. They were 16-year-old twin brothers who told Amy's parents that they had kidnapped her and would release her after getting a $30,000 ransom paid. It turned out they were lying. They didn't have Amy, they didn't know where she was, and all they got for their trouble was being charged with extortion.
Susan Billig, Amy's mother, immediately started working with police to circulate Amy's picture and what was known regarding where she was last seen. Tips started to come in, some of them which described that Amy had been abducted by a motorcycle gang, either the Outlaws or the Pagan who were in Coconut Grove during the time of Amy's disappearance.
Throughout the years tips came in to say that Amy was alive and using the aliases of "Mute", "Sunshine", "Little Bits" and/or "Mellow Cheryl" among the bikers she traveled with.
Other tips were more ominous like the one Susan Billig got from Paul Branch in the late 1970s. He was a member of the Pagans motorcycle gang and he told her that Amy was alive and being held by the gang. According to a story his widow told the BBC in 1996, he recanted on his deathbed, telling her that Amy had died on day of her disappearance. She had been attending a biker party and after being gang-raped she was dismembered. Her body had been disposed of in the Everglades. Without anyone to challenge her story, authorities believe that Branch's widow was lying in an effort to make money off the notoriety of Amy's disappearance.
A solid clue came in two weeks after her disappearance when a hitchhiking student found her camera in the grass off the Wildwood exit, which is where the Florida's Turnpike ends. This would have been on the route bikers take when traveling north. The film in the camera only with a few exceptions had overexposed photos. Her hairbrush was found at a convenience store in Kissimmee
Five months after Amy went missing her mother started to endure a 21-year persecution of the worse kind a parent could imagine. Henry Johnson Blair, not identified until 1995, would call Susan Billig and torment her by telling her that her daughter was part of a captive of a sex ring organization. He would then change his story and claim that he had Amy. The calls stopped when FBI agents were able to trace the calls to his cellular phone. Originally they had been unsuccessful because he would use a payphone. He had worked for the U.S. Customs Department for over twenty years.
When apprehended Blair told the authorities he was an alcoholic and that he suffered from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He claimed that he had never met Amy or knew anything about what had happened to her, even though Amy referenced a "Hank" in her diary which was Blair's nickname. She said she was running away with "Hank" to South America. One of the few photos developed from Amy's recovered camera showed a vehicle similar to one owned by Blair in 1974. Blair's job with U.S. Customs entailed visits to the Caribbean and South America.
In 1996 Blair was sentenced to a two-year prison term and Susan Billig settled a lawsuit against him for five million dollars.
Despite all her mother's efforts to find her, Amy was never found, either dead or alive. Her father, Ned Billig died in 1993 from lung cancer, his wife Susan died from the same illness and heart attacks in 2005. In 2001, she co-authored a book about her daughter's disappearance titled Without A Trace: A Mother's Search for Justice. Amy's story has been featured on Unsolved Mysteries and America's Most Wanted. Amy's brother, Josh built a remembrance bench for her in Coconut Grove's Peacock Park.
Many believe that Amy was the victim of a sole serial killer.
Source - MiamiHerald
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