The Answer to an Unsolved Mystery Sat 120 Miles Away

Mary Ann Perez vanished in 1976. Police believe they know what happened to her
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2018 9:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – Police say the two mysteries were one—but 120 miles separated them. Now, investigators believe they know what happened to Mary Ann Perez, a 33-year-old mother of three who disappeared after meeting friends at a New Orleans-area country-western bar on March 26, 1976. As WKRG explains, just eight months after her disappearance, a set of female remains were found by hunters in Alabama's Mobile County near the Mississippi border, but in the pre-computer age, the 120 miles that separated the two cases proved too great: No one put one and one together. Four years later came a revelation, but not one big enough to solve the mystery. In 1980, a man arrested in Kansas confessed that he and his wife had killed multiple women, including one they picked up at a country-western bar, reports the Washington Post. It sounded like Perez. But there was a problem.

David Courtney revealed the location of the bodies to cops, and those remains were found. All except one, that is: the New Orleans woman, whom the Advocate reports the Courtneys say they saw having car trouble. She accepted their offer for a ride, and David said he strangled her and deposited her somewhere along the Mississippi border. But no body, no crime. Things went nowhere for decades, until Det. JT Thornton of the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office started looking into cold cases, came across the Jane Doe, and then learned about Perez. He met with her family, who told her Perez had a partial dental plate due to a traffic accident—as did the remains found more than 40 years ago. Those remains are now being DNA-tested to confirm the mystery has indeed been solved. Courtney is serving a life sentence in Kansas; his wife, Donna, served 10 years and died in the '90s.

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