The last time anyone saw 17-year-old Judith Chartier from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was on June 5, 1982. She was at an outdoor party in Billerica, but she disappeared that night.
After nearly 40 years, much has changed. The landscape is different. The world is different. Her parents have since passed, and they never got the closure they so wanted.
“The not knowing is horrible,” the girl’s mother said in 1990, according to the Boston Globe. “I’ll go into a mood that she must have been screaming and hollering for me that night.”
But some of the change is that we now have the technology to help locate wreckage and identify human remains that we didn’t have before, and in November, a huge piece of the puzzle in Chartier’s case was found.
It was Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan who announced that “significant portions” of the teen’s car, a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger, had been found.
According to WHDH-TV, divers with “new sonar technology” found the parts 50 to 75 yards offshore in water around 10 feet deep, and the car was identified through its vehicle identification number.
The following day, divers made more discoveries close to the location they’d searched the day before. They found clothes, a card purse with Chartier’s work ID and human remains.
“They did recover a variety of human remains,” Ryan said. “In addition to those remains, they were able to find other items, including a few pieces of clothing and a purse or card case that contained a work identification that belonged to Judy Chartier.”
Ryan was careful to say that the remains still needed to be examined to ensure they were Chartier’s.
“Now that does not mean the remains are Judy Chartier, but it is a piece of information we’ve taken from that area.
“We’ll be working over the next days and weeks both to make a positive identification of the remains and then to see if we can make any assessment as to what happened.”
— DA Marian Ryan (@DAMarianRyan) November 3, 2021
On Nov. 5, Ryan announced the human remains were in fact those of Cartier after they were compared to dental records, according to WFXT-TV.
Given the state of the finds and the fact that the surrounding landscape has changed over the decades, it could take months to determine if there was any foul play.
Authorities contacted surviving relatives to inform them of the development, and are dedicated to bringing closure to the teen’s memory.
“This is a very significant development in this case and we are still processing the car for any additional evidence,” Ryan said. “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.”
Surviving members of Chartier’s family were heartbroken by the news, but thankful to finally have some closure.
“It’s bittersweet, it’s hard to believe that she was so close all these years,” Chartier’s cousin Heather Laine said. “To have her so close to home is kind of disheartening, but it’s comforting to know she was here all this time.”
“I think it closes old wounds, we are going to have to do a lot of healing,” she continued. “It’s been a long fight to try to find her, but it’s also going to take a lot of time to heal because now we have a place to bury her. We can finally grieve the loss that we haven’t been able to grieve.”
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