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What happened to this 18-year-old girl who vanished the summer of 1981?

Peggy Houser
Peggy Houser; click to view full-size photo

After nearly 20 years her mother's answering machine in her home still has a message directing the operator to accept charges from Peggy. “Peggy, no matter where you’re at, leave a message and I will come right away,” it says. “Anyone else, leave a message.”

Updated November 8, 2000

Thank you for your interest in Peggy Houser's case. My name is Todd Matthews and I am the Webmaster of this site; I volunteer for several organizations devoted to unsolved crimes. The Internet is a powerful tool; I was able to use its vast resources to learn the identity of the Tent Girl.
It is my hope that this site will find new information and leads concerning Peggy's case.

This site is dedicated to the hope that Peggy will one day return home alive and well.
May JUSTICE be served.

Under Construction!
This site is under continual construction. We will add more information as it becomes available. Currently we will have a copy of the November 5th , 2000 edition of the Dayton Daily News.

1981 description of Peggy

Peggy was about 5'4" or 5'5" and 104 to 115 lbs. at the time of her
disappearance. She had a wiry, athletic build and her hands were small but
her knuckles were large. She had straight brown hair and hazel eyes and a
pronounced gap between her front teeth. She was missing four teeth on top
and two on the bottom, and at age five she broke her right wrist and
knocked a chip out of her left elbow.

Dental records available.

Please click here to visit the main site of

Also click here to visit the Vickie Bertram website . Vickie's case is from 1976. Plagued by inaccurate autopsy reports and mishandling by authorities, the cause of her death has been vaugue for more than 24 years!

A helping hand from
Dayton's guide !
Click to read their November 8, 2000 article!

November 5th Dayton Daily News article reprint.


Miami County mother’s 18-year-old
daughter vanished in 1981

By Martha Hardcastle
For the Dayton Daily News

WASHINGTON TWP., Miami County | "Grief"
may not be a strong enough word to describe the
pain of a parent who has lost a child.

What words describe life for the parents of Peggy
Sue Houser? Hattie Oglesbee, 64 of Washington
Twp. in Miami County and her former husband,
Steve Houser Sr., 69 of Tampa, Fla. They don’t
know if their daughter is alive or dead. And they
don’t know if they will ever find the answer.

Peggy Houser has been gone longer than she lived
with her family. Nineteen years after her
disappearance, she is frozen in time for them as the
18-year-old girl who vanished the summer of 1981.
But there is one hope the family didn't have then —
the Internet.

Several Web sites are dedicated to searching for
missing people or putting names on unidentified
bodies all around the country. Many police
departments, lacking the technological knowledge,
have yet to tap into the wealth of information
available on the Web sites. They welcome the help
from amateur Web detectives, like the one who plans
to spread the word about Peggy Sue Houser.

The youngest of five, Peggy was born Sept. 19,
1962 in Largo, Fla. She spent her childhood in the
Miami Valley.

“She was kind of quiet,” her father said recently from
his home in Tampa. “As a kid, she was the most
loving one.”

Around age 13, she got into some trouble, running
with a bad crowd and experimenting in drugs. She
was placed in a foster home, and then went to live
with her father in Florida. That didn’t work out,
either, so Oglesbee flew to Florida and brought her
daughter home.

“She was skipping school and messing with drugs
and alcohol,” Oglesbee said. “She was the youngest
. . . I had trouble with one other child, but the others
all straightened up.”

At the time she disappeared, the family believed
Peggy, who had returned to Florida, was close to
straightening up herself — if she had gotten the

On June 14, 1981, Peggy Houser was with friends in
a Tampa bar called The B-52 near McDill Air Force
Base. Florida's drinking age was 18. For some
reason, she became angry with her friends and
walked into the night.

“She was probably drinking a little bit, and she
walked into the parking lot and stuck her thumb out,”
said her brother, Steve Houser Jr., who lived in
Tampa at the time.

It took the family awhile to realize she was missing.
Steve Houser Sr. and his children lived in the same
Tampa neighborhood. Peggy often popped in and
out of their homes.

Four days later, Peggy’s sister Sandy called
Oglesbee in Piqua to see if Peggy was there.
Oglesbee and Houser contacted police in Tampa, but
because Peggy was an adult, there was little they
could do.

“In Florida, 18 is it,” said Sgt. Lyle Roberts of the
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. “Adults have a
right to come and go as they please.”

But Peggy was not the kind of girl who lost touch
with her family.

“She was nice and cheerful and really kind of
soft-spoken,” said her brother Steve Houser Jr., 42,
who now lives down the road from his mother just
outside Piqua.

Peggy Houser wasn’t a perfect angel, but her love for
her family is evident in letters she wrote to her
mother, sister and stepfather from Florida.

“I have gotten over the worst of Sassy’s death (a
pet poodle belonging to her mother),” she wrote to
her sister Karen. She drew a rose in red pencil
instead of the word “rose” in the next line, “A rose to
you, kisses and hugs to Mother, and to Sassy in
heaven. Love, Peggy.”

Oglesbee was the last family member to hear
from her daughter.

“It was a few weeks after she was missing, and
she called and asked me if she could come
home,” Oglesbee said. “I said yes, but the phone
just clicked.”

Oglesbee believed it had been a local call.

“I had a feeling she was in Piqua, and I went to
the old Sohio station on North County Road 25A
and took Houser’s picture and showed it to an
attendant,”Oglesbee said. “Peggy had been there
with a man on a motorcycle who took the phone
out of her hand and hung it up.”

The attendant didn’t see which direction they
were going, and by the time police responded,
Peggy was gone.

“It was just like I had lost her over again,”
Oglesbee said.

When Piqua annexed the land under the Sohio
station, the city's police department took over the
case in 1983. She is the only long-time missing
person in their files.

“We wouldn’t hold out high hopes for good news,
but we would hope to find out something, just to
give the family some peace of mind,” said Piqua
Lt. Bruce Jamison, who worked the case for more
than a decade. “The computer spits out possible
matches with unidentified deceased every now
and then, and we continue to check those.”

Peggy Houser is listed in the National Crime
Information Center (NCIC) as missing out of
Piqua because that is the last place she was heard
from, rather than Tampa, from where she first
became missing.

In the records, Peggy S. Houser is listed as 5 feet
4 inches tall and 102 pounds although her mother
says she may have been as tall as 5 feet 5 inches
and may have weighed 115 pounds when she was
last seen. Her hair was brown and straight and
her eyes were hazel. She had a tattoo of a pink
pig on her right breast, a gap between her teeth
and she was missing six teeth that simply never
erupted. At age 5, she broke her right wrist and
suffered a chip from her left elbow a few weeks

All of those facts may help identify her. But the
Internet is providing many resources on missing
and unidentified people that did not exist even
five years ago.

Todd Matthews, 30, of Livingston, Tenn. is a
mentor to investigators of missing people and has
aided police departments. In 1998, with the aid of
the Internet, he was able to solve the 30-year old
mystery of the “Tent Girl,” later identified as
Barbara Ann Hackmann Taylor.

Matthews became interested in the the Taylor
case when the father of his girlfriend was
featured in a detective magazine because he
found the body of a young girl wrapped in a
tarpaulin on May 17, 1968 off I-75 near
Georgetown, Ky.

Matthews began an obsessive ten-year search of
his own, driven by the feeling that someone must
be looking for the young woman. Taylor’s sister,
Rosemary Westbrook, crossed paths with
Matthews on-line in February 1998, and DNA
confirmed that Taylor was indeed the Tent Girl.
Barbara's husband, Earl Taylor is a suspect in the
death, but he died of cancer in 1987.

Matthews still has a day job in a Tennessee
factory, but he spends his spare time sleuthing on
his and related Web sites and trying to help others
find their missing loved ones. It isn't easy. He has
only found Taylor in the three years he has been

When he searches Web sites, Matthews compares
descriptions, photos and other information to see
if the unidentified body on one Web site matches
any missing people.

Matthews reviewed Peggy Houser's case and is
putting it on several Web sites, including He also has
advice for families of the missing.

“Don’t take everything at faith that law
enforcement did everything they could do,” he
said. “Get involved.”

Matthews said cases like Houser’s can fall
through the cracks for various reasons. For
instance, NCIC dropped her from their records
although Piqua police later re-entered her.

“I want people to be involved in their searches
and not to depend on the police,” Matthews said.
“Not to not trust the police, but sometimes they
need a little help. Never give up, alive or dead if
you ever want to find them. Police are
understaffed and overwhelmed constantly. No
matter how much they are working on your case,
you can always do more.”

He doesn’t believe Peggy is still alive, however.

“My first instinct is I don’t feel like this person is
alive,” Matthews said. “But I wonder if she is
lying somewhere with no NCIC number or maybe
her body has never been found.”

In checking Peggy’s description with several
hundred unidentifieds on the Internet, several
looked close but were ruled out by checking
dental records. The Monroe County Fla. Sheriff’s
Office is still checking her information against
several Jane Does in their files.

Piqua police haven’t given up yet, either.

“We do an auto track search. There has not been
anything in the database on her or using her
Social Security number,” said Lt. Rick Cron, who
is currently handling the case.

The family of Peggy Houser is keeping their own
painful vigil, knowing that if she had been only a
few months younger and a juvenile, the case
might have been investigated more intensely.

Hattie Oglesbee has kept rejection letters from
Unsolved Mysteries, America's Most Wanted and
Turn to 2, none of which were interested in
Peggy's story.

Steve Houser Sr. wishes he could do it over again.

“If I would have known that, I would have
reported her as younger,’ he said.

Hattie Oglesbee, plagued by health problems
including emphysema, is deeply troubled by what
she can't do for her daughter.

“It kind of kills you,”she said. “You can’t give
her Christmas presents or share when you give
the others something. I was the kind of mother
that if I poured out the Pepsi, I made sure it was
the same amount in each glass.”

Oglesbee’s answering machine in her home still
has a message directing the operator to accept
charges from Peggy.

“Peggy, no matter where you’re at, leave a
message and I will come right away,” it says.
“Anyone else, leave a message.”

Martha Hardcastle can be reached by e-mail

ON THE WEB Web sites for missing
and unidentified people
Missing Children Help Center:

The Doe Network:

Instant Technologies Missing
Persons Service:


National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children:

The Nation’s
Missing Children Organization and
Center for Missing Adults:

The Lost and the Found: is
Todd Matthews' web site. You can
also reach him by E-mail at

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