OTTAWA — On July 16, 1980, Dale Nancy Wyman left her Ottawa-area home with a suitcase full of her belongings, took a taxi to a Greyhound bus station and vanished. She didn't say where she was going and her family had no idea where to look.
More than four decades later, a woman from Ohio contacted Wyman's siblings, who had never stopped looking for her. She had seen a video of Wyman's younger sister, Brenda Larche, asking for information to help the family find peace and closure, and realized the woman Larche was looking for was her mother.
Wyman built a life in Ohio, had a family, and had died only a couple of months earlier.
"When they sent me the pictures, I almost fell over. There was no doubt in my mind it was Dale Wyman," said private investigator Linda Davidson.
Ottawa police published a news release on Wednesday saying Wyman's case had been resolved after someone came forward to report she had been living outside Canada and recently died. Police declined to comment further.
Davidson got involved in the missing persons case around three years ago. The retired RCMP officer is now the director of MUCCI, which stands for Murdered Unidentified Cold Case Investigations. It's a group of mostly retired police officers and investigators who dedicate their time to trying to solve cold cases.
"When I work a case like this and I talk with the families, I make it a point to say, 'This may not be an upbeat, successful ending to this story,'" she said.
Davidson started by following up on a tip that someone in Wyman's family got a call in the late 1980s from a hospital in Saskatoon, searching for relatives of a person in their care.
She contacted the coroner's office, funeral homes and hospitals in the area but months of searching failed to turn up any unclaimed bodies or anonymous graves that fit.
"I remember saying to my team, 'This is just too crazy. Where did she go? She didn't just disappear. Somebody knows something, some way, somehow,'" she said.
Davidson also got in touch with Ottawa police investigators, and said she talked to them about ways to advance the case: making a public plea, releasing updated sketches of what Wyman may look like.
Police released age-progressed sketches in May 2021, and Larche released a video asking for information.
On Dec. 16, 2021, Larche joined a live chat on Facebook with Davidson's investigators, who use social media and online genealogy tools to try and spread the word of their searches. They also began looking in the United States, particularly in New Hampshire.
"To see if anybody with her descriptors had passed away with the name Dale, Nancy, or Gail or Wyman — we were looking for anything," Davidson said.
And then the call came from Ohio.
Through her interviews with the family Davidson said she learned Wyman's father was abusive and she wanted to leave home.
"Back 25, 30 years ago for Dale Wyman, there was no place to go. There was nobody to talk to," she said.
"It broke my heart, you know. But they're a good family, they now have closure, plus they have her children and her family, which is amazing."
Wyman was an extremely private person, Davidson said, and her family is asking for privacy.
"They're struggling as it is to accept what happened and missing seeing her within two months."
As for MUCCI, Davidson estimates her group is working on around 100 cold cases. They don't always get the co-operation of local police, "And I don't understand why," she said. "Let people work with it, let us bring closure to the families."
But the investigators are keen to share their training and expertise.
"It's a real gift to share with people," she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.
Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press