Sunday, September 5, 2010

Family Continues Search For Answers

Went Missing On May 30, 1974

On May 30, 1974, Annita Marie Price left her Benwood home, headed for work. She never made it.
Her abandoned car found along W.Va. 2 between Wheeling and Moundsville yielded no clues as to what happened. The case went cold - but it never left the minds of family members who continue to seek closure.
Madonna Layne is Price's daughter. She has spent much of her life trying to unravel the mystery of her mother's fate.
"It's been 35 years since my mother went missing," Layne said. "She has lost some siblings, but she still has grandchildren and a great-grandchild she has never seen. We just want to put her to rest properly and give our family some closure."
Layne, 40, of Richmond, Va., has one brother, Leonard Price Jr., 38, of Oak Hill, W.Va.
Price has four siblings still living, including a sister, Lola Cook of Elyria, Ohio, and three half-siblings - Mike Elkins and Judy Hall of Madison, W.Va., and Bobby Elkins of North Reidsville, Ohio.
"My mother was only 27 years old when she disappeared," Layne said. "Our family is desperate for anyone to come forward with information about what may have happened to her."
Layne said her family has enlisted the help of Monica Caison, who has gained national attention as founder and director of the Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons in Wilmington, N.C. The center is a non-profit organization designed to help families involved in dated missing persons cases.
"We just got this case in March," Caison said. "We plan to set up and start executing a goal plan. I think all cold cases deserve to get public awareness. We need to remind people that Annita Price is still missing and target the community for anyone who may not have been willing to talk years ago."
Sgt. Danny Swiger, a cold case investigator for the West Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, believes Price met with foul play.
"Right now-given the fact that she has had no contact with family members and there is no record of her existence-it is reasonable to believe she is most likely deceased," Swiger said. "We have found no evidence that she has had any type of earnings, Social Security benefits or credit records."
Swiger said he became aware of the case in April 2002 but nothing developed until nearly two years later when an anonymous tip gave a possible location where Price's remains may have been buried.
"We excavated in an area south of Moundsville," he said. "The tip indicated the body was buried under power lines running parallel to W.Va. 2 - but we found nothing."
Layne plans to revisit the excavation site to further her investigation.
"I understand there has been some construction at the dig site, and I don't know if we can get access," Layne said. "We want to see if they (investigators) missed something."
Swiger also intends to keep the investigation active.
He said "the missing puzzle piece would be to find her remains. It could reveal a cause of death and possible evidence that could link it to a perpetrator."
Born Annita Maria Musto on March 20, 1947 in New Jersey, Price moved to West Virginia at age four after her father died and her mother remarried.
She is described as a white female with brown hair and brown eyes and "well proportioned" at six feet tall and 155 pounds.
Price was last seen at 8:45 p.m. on May 30, 1974 wearing yellow shorts and a blue top as she departed from home en route to her job at the former Flamingo Club in Benwood. She never arrived at work.
Investigators found the green, early-1970s, AMC Gremlin she was driving the next morning along W.Va. 2.
Swiger said Price had severe burns to her left arm and torso from a childhood accident that may be apparent in her bone structure since the accident occurred when she was about 9 years old.
"Annita had been going through a messy divorce, and there was a custody battle for her two children," Swiger said. "DNA from the victim's children have been entered into the relatives section of the National Missing Persons Database, which is also associated with CODIS, a national database designed to search DNA profiles.
We encourage anyone who may have information about this case to contact us at