Every fall since 1907, when the first hints of crisp autumn breeze are in the air, people from far and wide have ventured to the city for the annual State Fair of Oklahoma. One September afternoon in 1981, friends Cinda Pallett and Charlotte Kinsey stepped onto the fairgrounds. Among the vendors, entertainers, and artists, the teens were eager to experience the fair for the first time on their own.
The girls never returned home. The horrific events surrounding their disappearance would haunt the state of Oklahoma every year, being remembered at the time of the fair. On Sept.
26, 1981, Charlotte June Kinsey and Cinda Leann Pallett attended the Oklahoma State Fair for the first time without their parents. That year, they believed they were old enough to go to the fair on their own. “I made a mistake in that case that I have regretted my entire career,” said Ray Elliott, a retired assistant district attorney and district judge in Oklahoma County.
At 13 years old, Charlotte stood about five feet tall with blonde feathered hair and blue eyes. In 1981, her mother, Pearla Peterson, said Charlotte was diligent about calling her parents if there were a change of plans. Cinda, who was also 13 years old, contrasted Charlotte, with her dark brown hair.
She too had blue eyes and stood five feet tall. At approximately 5 p. m.
, Charlotte called home to tell Pearla that she and Cinda were offered jobs at the fair to help a carnival worker unload stuffed animals from a truck. Though Pearla agreed, she told Charlotte to call her back around 9 p. m.
Cinda’s mother, Norma Pallett, instructed her daughter to do the same. The girls were last seen at the fairgrounds at 5:30 p. m.
By 9 p. m. when the pair had yet to call home, their parents called the Oklahoma City Police Department to report them missing.
In the days following, a dedicated task force was formed to assist with the case. Both uniformed and undercover officers patrolled the fairgrounds, looking for any signs of the girls. “There were hundreds and thousands of people that needed to be interviewed.
We ultimately had witnesses from over forty states that we had to locate, interview, determine if they had pertinent information to the case,” Elliott said. Family and friends hung flyers of the girls, hoping anyone with information would come forward. Little did everyone know this was only the beginning.
“The case kind of took on a life of its own. It grew and grew. The deeper we dug into the weeds, the more obvious it became there was going to be lots of work,” Elliott said.
When Elliott got the case, he visited both of the girls’ families. To this day, Elliott recalls how the Pallett family had left Cinda’s room exactly the way it was the day she disappeared. “She was working on some little crocheted Christmas decorations prior to her going to the fair.
Mrs. Pallett gave me one of those Christmas decorations and said, ‘This will be your inspiration,'” Elliott said. Elliott still has that decoration today.
Following the girls’ disappearance, two teenage boys came forward and told police they might have information of interest to investigators. According to the boys, they said a man had driven them, as well as the girls, to a truck stop off Interstate 40. “There were two young boys who were also in the car with the girls who drove away from the state fair,” Elliott said.
The man told them they would be meeting the truck with the stuffed toys. Upon arrival, the truck wasn’t there, and the man asked the boys to wait at the truck stop while he took the girls to check on the truck. The man, nor the girls, ever returned.
The boys were able to provide a clear description and ultimately a composite drawing of the man they got into the car with, as well as the girls. The sketch of the man and his description were placed on the missing persons flyers. This would prove to be crucial to the investigation.
“They described the car. We learned it was a rental car. So then, we were able to determine that a car fitting that description was rented by Roy Russell Long,” Elliott said.
Royal “Roy” Russell Long, a carnie and long-haul truck driver, had lived in Tuttle but was in Oklahoma City the day before the disappearance. He later admitted to investigators that he visited the fair the day of the girls’ disappearance. Additionally, Long had an uncanny resemblance to the police sketch.
So much so that upon seeing the sketch, his ex-wife notified investigators that she thought it was Long. Long was no stranger to law enforcement. In fact, by the time investigators wanted to question Long in relation to the disappearance of Charlotte and Cinda, Long was serving time in the Wyoming State Penitentiary, having pleaded guilty to the kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl and her 12-year-old friend, Sharon Baldeagle.
“We found out later, after he got here, he was watching the coverage in the TV room in the Wyoming State Penitentiary,” Elliott said. Long had a long history of sexual violence, specifically against young girls, including his own daughter. According to court documents, Long was accused of molesting his daughter from ages three to four years old until she was about 15 years old.
Later, Long’s daughter would assist investigators in their case against her father. “She testified there would be multiple times when they’d be on these cross-country trips and he would see young girls, give her money to go play the pinball machine or buy a soda, and he would use stuffed animals to lure those girls to the truck. When she would come back, the girls would be gone,” Elliott said.
According to Elliott, Long’s daughter had also told investigators that her father had said no female over the age of 13 would ever sexually satisfy him. As investigators built their case against Long, he was extradited back to Oklahoma. A task force was headed by Elliott, along with three police detectives and two civilian employees assisting.
Elliott said because Long had to be extradited, they had some time to make sure their case was solid. During their investigation, a fellow inmate in the Wyoming penitentiary testified that while in prison, Long had been watching the coverage on the case and said, “If you cut the bodies up small enough and stick them in a rat hole, they’ll never be found. ” As he was serving time in California for another crime, Long had learned a trade: he was a meat cutter.
In addition to witness testimony, investigators had a vast amount of evidence that pointed toward Long as the prime suspect. The car Long had been driving, which had also fit the description given to investigators, was determined to be a car that was rented by Long. Upon examination, several scalp hairs found in the trunk came back as a match to Cinda.
There were also some blonde hairs recovered, though DNA tests proved to be inconclusive. In addition to the hairs, luminol testing revealed blood stains in the trunk of the car. Elliott said this was the first case in Oklahoma where investigators had used luminol testing.
“We were able to show, and in my opinion did show, he did this multiple times and perhaps killed as many as twenty or more young girls,” Elliott said. “We believed then, and I believe today, we had the right man. ” The case seemed to be strong, with solid facts, insurmountable evidence, and convincing testimony.
Therefore, when the case was thrown out by the judge, after granting the defense’s motion to dismiss the case, Elliott and his team were shocked. “It was a sleepless night that night. We were concerned,” Elliott said.
“The only thing I remember from his ruling was that he said, ‘The prosecution picked him green,’ meaning that we filed the case before we had enough evidence. ” Understandably, Elliott, his team, and the families were devastated. Elliott described that moment as the lowest point in his career.
He recalled the day he visited Mr. and Mrs. Pallett, still emotional from the guilt he said he had from the case.
“I sat in his living room and promised him that we would convict Roy Russell Long. I was not able to fulfill that promise, and I live with that today,” Elliott said. “I truly believe I let that family down.
” Elliott said from that day forward, he never promised another victim’s family anything other than he would do the best he could. The day after the case was dismissed, Long was being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, he leaned over to whisper to the families. The families would later tell Elliott what Long had told them.
“He leaned over to the victims’ families, the mothers and fathers who were sitting in the front row, and whispered to the family, ‘Only I know where the bodies are and I’m not talking,’” Elliott said. From that moment forward, Elliott said he knew, without any doubt, they had the right guy. Whether or not it could be tried in a courtroom, Elliott said he believed they presented enough evidence to let a jury decide.
He said, without a doubt in his mind, the jury would’ve convicted Long. “I don’t believe it’s a cold case at all, except perhaps to the extent it’s a cold case in that we still haven’t recovered the bodies,” Elliott said. To this day, the girls’ bodies have never been found.
Long died of a heart attack in November of 1993 while serving time in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. He is a possible suspect in several other unsolved cases. “The girls’ bodies have never been found.
If there’s any one thing I could do before I pass from this earth, I would like to find those girls’ bodies,” Elliott said. Now retired, Elliott said he doesn’t feel as though he’s ever had the closure he needed. KOCO 5 asked Elliott if he believed he would ever get closure.
He had one answer. “Only if we, at some point, find the girls’ bodies. I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, those girls’ bodies are within 55 miles or less of the Oklahoma County courthouse, based on the evidence we have and what we were able to prove,” Elliott said.
Today, the case remains unsolved, and the girls’ bodies have never been returned home. .