Woman searches for clues to sister 23 years
By Emily Stone
Free Press Staff Writer
Juliana Woodworth traveled to Vermont this week to find her sister.
She was looking for a grave.
Grace Reapp disappeared with her 5-year-old daughter, Gracie, from their Jericho home 23 years ago today. They left no trace -- Reapp never contacted her family, never touched her bank account, never used her Social Security number. Police are treating the case as a homicide.
Reapp's husband, Michael, though never accused of wrongdoing, has acted suspiciously since the disappearance. In 1996, shortly after learning the police were investigating the case as a homicide, Michael Reapp disappeared. Police list him as missing.
Woodworth is convinced her sister and niece are dead. She still wants answers. Mostly, she wants to find their bodies.
"I want to know where they are so I can give them a Christian burial and I can put flowers in front of them," Woodworth, 58, said Tuesday from her home in Connecticut. She travels to Vermont about twice a year, she said, though she's in contact with the Vermont State Police almost every week.
Woodworth just returned home from a two-day visit to Vermont. She didn't find her sister, but she continues to believe they are likely buried somewhere on the 10-acre lot where Reapp and her husband lived.
Police have searched the property on a quiet dirt road at least four times, using excavators, ground-penetrating radar and cadaver-sniffing dogs. They've found nothing. For this week's visit, Woodworth brought a psychic she's been working with. The woman stood across the road from the property and concentrated on Reapp.
Woodworth, who says she's "on the fence" about psychics' abilities, said she has had good luck with this woman.
"She feels that the bodies are still on the property," Woodworth said. She hopes the police decide to search the property again.
"I never give up," she said.
Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Gerald Charboneau, who has worked on the case since 1994, would not comment on specifics because it is an ongoing investigation. He said he gets "sporadic" calls about it.
A police Web site on the case says, "the consensus of opinion is that their disappearance is the result of foul play, and that Grace and Gracie Reapp are dead."
Reapp was 32 on June 6, 1978, the day she and Gracie disappeared. Her two sons, 11-year-old Brian and 8-year-old Patrick, were at Jericho Elementary School. Michael Reapp said he discovered them missing when he came home from work as an air traffic controller at the Burlington International Airport. He said she left a note on the medicine chest, but police never found it.
Five days later, Michael Reapp reported his wife and daughter missing. Five days after that, he filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion and intolerable severity. He remarried about a year later. He told his sons their mother and sister were living with family, a story they believed until Woodworth was able to contact them as adults, she said.
Michael Reapp and his family moved to Florida in 1983. In 1996, Vermont State Police detectives interviewed Reapp and told him the case was being treated as a homicide. He admitted he and Reapp had marital problems and that he had had affairs, but said he always thought his wife was living with family.
About a month later, Michael Reapp was contacted by a television reporter who told him police were digging on his former property. Four days later, he disappeared. His pickup was found abandoned at the New Orleans airport a couple of months later. There's been no sign of him since.
"He's suspicious as hell," Woodworth said. Michael Reapp is listed as a missing person. Woodworth said she believes he's still alive.
Woodworth last spoke to her only sister about a week before she disappeared. A couple of weeks later, Woodworth called Reapp to thank her for an antique sled Reapp had given her as a gift. Michael Reapp answered the phone and told Woodworth her sister had left.
Woodworth immediately started looking for Reapp. She placed a classified ad in the paper, and distributed fliers in Vermont and surrounding states. She has interviewed Reapp's friends, neighbors, even her mailman, looking for clues. Brian Reapp was hypnotized to see if he remembered anything. Woodworth has consulted other psychics. She has an extensive Web site, with a timeline on the case and pictures of Grace and Gracie.
"There wasn't much that I didn't do," Woodworth said, explaining that she still hopes something jogs a memory and a vital clue is discovered. "Somebody out there has got to know something."
For Woodworth, searching for her sister is a daily activity. Between working part time as a computer consultant, she talks with police, checks her Web site daily for e-mails and organizes the reams of papers, letters and court documents she keeps in boxes and binders.
One of those papers is a hand-drawn map Reapp made so her sister could find her way to the Jericho home for a visit. Woodworth never used the map while her sister was at home, but it's how she found the house after Reapp disappeared.
She has a picture of her and her sister as teen-agers, one in her bedroom and one in the kitchen, in a frame that says "sisters" on it. She looks at it every day.
"I look at her picture and say where the hell are you?" Woodworth said. "That's what I did yesterday (in Vermont). I said, 'Where are you? Talk to me.'"
Contact Emily Stone at 660-1898 or firstname.lastname@example.org
12:48 PM 06/06/2001
P.S. Good luck Julie, It's been a long road and you still go full speed. You are amazing! I'm with you all the way...