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Clues Emerge In Cold Case After Car Belonging To Teen Who Vanished In 1982 Is Pulled From River

Judith Chartier, a teenager from western Massachusetts, was last seen leaving a party in the town of Billerica in 1982 after an alleged argument with her fiance.

By Kevin Dolak
Judith Chartier Pd

A new set of clues has emerged in a decades-old cold case after portions of a vehicle pulled from a Massachusetts river were matched to the car that belonged to a teenage girl who went missing from the same area in 1982, authorities announced this week. 

On Tuesday, the district attorney of Middlesex County and police chiefs from two adjacent eastern Massachusetts towns announced that as part of an ongoing cold case investigation, significant portions of a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger were pulled out of the Concord River by the state police’s dive team. The Vehicle Identification Number on one of the pieces matched that of the Dodge driven by Judith Chartier when she vanished on June 5, 1982.

Chartier, a 17-year-old Chelmsford resident, was last seen leaving a party in the neighboring town of Billerica, according to police. Her friends had told authorities that she left the party around 2 a.m. that night. 

“This is a very significant development in this case and we are still processing the car for any additional evidence. Sadly, this discovery comes after nearly 40 heartbreaking years of Judith’s friends and family missing her and wondering about what happened that day. We are committed to continuing the search for those answers,” Middlesex District Attorney Ryan said in a press release on Tuesday. 

The pieces of the vehicle were recovered by the Massachusetts State Police Dive Team along with civilian divers. Civilian experts Bruce Stebbins and Hans Hug of Sonar Search and Recovery were thanked by authorities for their help in the search that led to the discovery of Chartier’s car. According to the press release, they used Edgetech Sonar System to locate the vehicle; the DA’s office called their assistance “critical to the investigation.”

In Tuesday’s media release, Chelmsford Police Chief James Spinney thanked the DA’s office, along with investigators from his department and in Billerica, for their efforts on the case over several decades. Billerica Acting Police Chief Troy Opland also acknowledged the efforts of all whose work led to the discovery. 

“We are grateful to all of the people working hard on behalf of Judy Chartier. We look forward to working with all parties to bring justice in this case,” he said. 

It is unclear if foul play is suspected in Chartier’s disappearance. On that late spring night in 1982, she had gotten into a fight with her fiance, her brother told local station WBTS in Boston in 2017, ahead of the 35th anniversary of her disappearance. After driving him home to Chelmsford, Chartier had apparently gone back to the party, where she was last seen before driving off. 

Joe Chartier told the local outlet that his sister was his best friend when they were adolescents. 

"I've lost both parents and my four brothers," he told WBTS four years ago. "I can deal with that because I know what happened. But with Judy, it's different. We don't know what happened. It's very difficult to live with."

The ongoing investigation into Judith Chartier’s disappearance is being conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Unit, Billerica Police, Chelmsford Police, Massachusetts State Police Detectives assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts State Police Dive Team. 

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