I watched it the other night. This was yet another episode of Disappeared in which one of my fellow Pennsylvanians has gone missing.
Here's a capsule summary of the events leading up to this disappearance, taken from the website dedicated to recovering this missing and possibly endangered woman:
Four years ago, in the early morning of July 12, 2007,
authorities responded to a fire at Joey Lynn Offutt's Sykesville, PA
home. After the fire was extinguished, the remains of Offutt's
six-week-old son were discovered, but Offutt and her car, a red Saturn
with Virginia license plates, were missing. Police found Offutt's car
four days later in State College, PA, parked at the Nittany Gardens
apartment complex, where Offutt had previously lived.
Offutt's other two children, who were not in the home at the time of the fire, have been living with family members.
In the four years since Offutt has been missing, there have been no
substantial leads in the case. Offutt's family believes Joey would not
willingly leave her children, and they fear someone killed her and then
tried to destroy evidence by burning the house down.
Offutt's family has increased the reward being offered for information on the whereabouts of Joey to $25,000.
At the time she went missing, Joey Lynn Offutt was 33 years old and
is described as a petite woman, approximately 5' 3" with a thin build.
She has brown eyes and brown/red brown hair. She may or may not have
been wearing glasses.
Offutt's family has established a toll-free number to field tips
from the public. Anyone with information is urged to call 1-877-440-JOEY
(1-877-440-5639) or to contact the Pennsylvania State Police at 814
The family also runs this website to help bring public attention to
the case. Visit FindJoey.org for additional information or to contact
Offutt's family with information.
Interesting to see the substantial reward offered for information here and compare it to the mere thousand dollars offered by the McStay family for information leading to the recovery of their loved ones, even though they have almost certainly made a substantial amount of money from that case by now. And if you think I'm being cynical by writing that, I refer you to the McStay family website where Michael McStay solicits television interest in the disappearance of his relations with the line, "Any serious offer will be entertained." If that, coupled with the low reward money, isn't enough to make you suspicious that the whole McStay disappearance is a hoax (or that someone knows they are alive and well) you must be pretty gullible. I wouldn't want to give a hundred thousand away either, if I knew there was a great chance those who willingly disappeared could slip up and be caught. Better to pay out a pittance. That fact alone would have made me seriously suspicious about that case. But I believe that family is all alive for numerous other reasons.
With the disappearance of Joey Lynn Offutt, I'm not so sure.
I do think there is a very great chance this woman is alive, even though her mother's thoughts seem to be going in the opposite direction, that of despair-- after all this time. Her mother's pain is very apparent on this show. I tend to think she was coached by the FBI or someone in law enforcement on the words she used at the end of the episode where she spoke directly to a theoretical abductor. They seemed calculated to be exculpatory and forgiving, which is probably a smart tactic. Well, it's a smart tactic if the hypothesized abductor and/or murderer has some semblance of a conscience.
I tend to believe that Joey Lynn Offutt solicited the assistance of a man with whom she had prior familiarity to assist her in abandoning her life and "starting over."
The show states that the way this woman's car was parked in an apartment complex (where Offutt had formerly resided) was not typical of her driving skills. And the seat was set not for the petite Offutt but for a driver who was probably a larger man.
The show doesn't draw any conclusions from the fact that Offutt's car was found there, but I find it hard to believe any rational viewer would not immediately draw a number of inferences from that highly significant fact.
The odds that this car randomly ended up back at a place where Offutt once lived are about zero.
The distance is considerable, so it's almost certainly not random.
Offutt had had a bitter fight with her current love interest. She stopped speaking to him and went into one of her typical withdrawals. She was known to have attacks of rage. Offutt might have been suffering from postpartum depression. Young children under the care of a mother suffering from postpartum depression may be in mortal danger. The last fight with her on/off romantic partner had been over the bathing of the baby (in a dirty sink). That is when Offutt stormed off and stopped speaking with this man.
This baby was later found dead in a bathtub after the fire. The fire marshal said the baby had most likely died prior to the fire (so probably drowned).
Offutt's loved ones repeatedly said things that indicated this young woman had some cognitive difficulties and possibly mental health issues. They didn't explicitly state whether it was a mental health or mental retardation (hate that word, is there a newer medical term?) issue. But it was clear that people had to do a little extra "looking out" for Joey. And I was really impressed with the love with which her family did this for her. I was really moved by her mother buying her that house to give her security. Joey seemed to love that house. But she clearly was unstable, and I think this latest birth might have sent her over the edge.
The car returns and vanishes from Offutt's Sykesville home several times during the week of unsure whereabouts. Offutt may or may not be the one driving the vehicle during this time. The car was seen there roughly an hour prior to the time the house fire was called in, which was at approximately four a.m.
I honestly believe she solicited the help of a man she knew from before. Someone who lived in or near that apartment complex. I believe this was a romantic involvement. Men don't put themselves in situations like this without there being a romantic involvement usually. Probably this guy is not that bright. Because there seem to be a number of bad decisions.
I don't believe she happened to reach out to someone from her past and he just happened to kill her baby and then come back and burn down her house and then park the car at an apartment complex where she once lived.
Here's the problem though. The car parked at that location could be a red herring meant to throw us off the trail. But a random person she met on the internet (Offutt had a tendency to do this) would almost certainly not know she had lived in that apartment complex, how to find it, etc.
Her partner Alexis, however, would have known that. Watching the show, I got the impression that he was genuine and that his grief over what happened was genuine. But you can't go by intuition. He did fail the first lie detector test, but those are notoriously unreliable. People have spent half their lives in jail because of the faith juries have put in the results of these tests and, in some instances, the results have later been completely and unequivocally invalidated.
Let's just entertain a scenario. Offutt storms off because her partner tells her she is not taking care of the baby in a suitable manner. Let's say (unlikely possibility) she drowns the baby in a fit of postpartum depression. Her partner discovers this and kills her in retaliation. He disposes of her body and later returns to burn down the house to dispose of evidence. He parks the car in the apartment complex where she once lived to send police down the bunny trail.
It could have happened that way. I'm not sure how likely that is.
I tend to think the death of the baby, accidental or otherwise, was at Offutt's hands. The fact that it was a bathtub where the baby was found. When you consider that the last fight had been about bathing the baby, this is a disturbing "coincidence." And there's also the possibility that she was suffering from postpartum depression. Was it only Alexis who alleged this, or was there an actual medical diagnosis somewhere in there?
The police didn't mention finding Offutt's partner's fingerprints in that vehicle, but it looks like the seat was last set by a man of about his size (yeah, I know, "and the size of about half the population of America").
But it's one of only two possibilities, really.
Either he did this. Or she knew another man from her past and returned to that place she once lived because she wanted his assistance.
If this other hypothetical man from her past murdered her, why would he leave the car parked where he lived? Or even in the part of the state where he lived?
If Offutt decided to go on the run with this man, then it didn't really matter where they left her car. It might almost be a signal to her mother stating "I am still alive." Because it speaks of a deliberate flight.
My guess is that if she did flee after the accidental or postpartum-related death of her child, you'd want to look for tenants in that complex (or even nearby apartment complexes) who vacated or even broke lease in that period or immediately thereafter. Because they probably moved on from there. They knew her vehicle had to be left behind.
The arson would make sense with either theory: the partner murdering her and leaving the vehicle there as a red herring OR with her trying to hide the baby's death at her own hands--or an accidental death. In either cases the arson makes a type of "sense." Evidence is being destroyed.
What I do NOT believe happened is that she was murdered by a random man who then came back (DAYS later) to burn down the house.
A random murderer (say if this were your typical sex crime) would probably not have murdered the baby and we would probably have just found Offutt's body as well in that house. Plus, days would not have elapsed. Murderers who do this tend to start the blaze immediately after the commission of the crime.
Offutt was seen in a distracted state sometime in the week of non-communication pushing a stroller with no baby in it and did not respond to a greeting from an individual she usually greeted. This points to her deliberately hiding and really draws a picture of postpartum depression for me.
I think it is more likely she fled than that she was murdered.
My intuition (and my intuition has been wrong before) is that her partner Alexis is exactly what he seems.
The only thing that really made me suspicious was his meekness in not trying to get inside that house for such an extended period of time. The police said the notes he left were found and they have even stated he is not a suspect or "person of interest" in this case.
So I tend to think this is a case of a tragic death from postpartum depression (and these women are really not fully responsible when this happens) or an accidental death which sent Offutt into a total panic.
I think Offutt fled with another individual. Possibly they did not even flee. I know they posted fliers all over that apartment complex, but she could still even be living there, only coming out under cover of darkness. It wouldn't really surprise me. Stranger things have happened.
I think there is a much greater than 90% chance that this woman is still alive.
My intuition tells me she is alive as well. If that counts for anything.