CLEVELAND – On May 24, 1978, Judy Martins went to a party in a Kent State dorm room and was never heard from again. Now on the 45th anniversary of her disappearance, her siblings are hoping someone out there remembers something that could finally bring them the closure they need.
Nancy Baer and Steve Martins have only fond memories of their older sister Judy. “She was smart, she was popular, she was pretty,” said Baer. “She was like the head of our family.”
“What stands out for me is her intelligence and her artistic ability,” Martins said. “Nancy and I didn’t get that!”
The siblings grew up in Avon Lake with their mother Dolores, who was a nurse, and their father, Arthur, who was a maintenance worker.
“We were your typical family,” Baer said. “We went to school, we fished, we played in the lake, we ran the neighborhood. You know, free-range kids.”
By the late 70s, the siblings were grown and went their separate ways to separate schools, but they never lost touch. In fact, just ten days before her disappearance, Judy was home in Avon Lake with her parents and brother to celebrate Baer’s 21st birthday and Mother’s Day.
May 24 was like any other Wednesday on the Kent State campus. Judy was goofing around with a friend in a dorm room and even posed for fun photos wearing a red wig. Afterward, she made the five-minute walk from Engleman Hall to Dunbar Hall for a party. What happened that night is not clear, but after 2:30 a.m., no one saw Judy again.
Other students who were there that night said she walked home to Engleman, but no one witnessed her walking away. Judy was a resident adviser, so she lived alone in her dorm room.
Baer remembers trying to call Judy the following day. “You have to remember that was before there were recorders or cell phones or anything. I called her a couple of times and it just rang and rang and rang, which you thought nothing of. She wasn’t home.”
By Friday, Judy’s mom knew something was wrong. “My mom started calling Judy every hour on the hour,” Baer remembered. “Boom, boom, boom. All day long. All Friday, all Friday night.”
That’s when Judy’s parents decided to make the hour’s drive to Kent. They sent Baer in to check her dorm room. “As soon as I went in, I thought, ‘Something horrible has happened to her.’ Her makeup was all there. Her money was there. Her glasses were there.”
“It seemed clear she had not gone back to her room,” Martins said. “If you’re going to take off, you’re going to at least go back to your room and get your money, Baer said.
Kent State University police didn’t feel the same way. It was the start of Memorial Day weekend, and they were convinced Judy had gone somewhere for the holiday and didn’t file a missing person report for seven days.
Even then, there was no evidence of a crime. Judy’s purse was never found, and her credit card was never used. Still, the tips came pouring in.
“She was at a garage sale. She was buying things because she was moving to Mexico,” Baer said. “There were all these crazy rumors that went around.”
Each false lead was false hope for the Martins family. Eventually, it all took a toll on Judy’s parents. “He was just never the same,” Martins said about his dad Arthur. “It changed him to the point that he was a different person. The joy in his soul was gone.”
Arthur got cancer at the age of 52 and died five years later. “I believe it was that mind-body connection. He was just so grief-stricken his whole immune system shut down,” Baer said of her father.
Dolores, on the other hand, never gave up. “My mother was absolutely dogged in her communication with the police, trying to follow up on every little lead,” said Martins.
“Even when I was getting married in 1983, five years [after Judy disappeared], my mom said ‘make sure Donna, who was my maid of honor, can hand her dress over to Judy if she shows up. Maybe she’ll show up for your wedding,” Baer remembered. “Of course, we knew she wouldn’t. But for my mother, it was important that she kept hope.”
Dolores died in 2003, never knowing what happened to her daughter. But her two surviving children are still fighting.
“For me, I want the closure,” said Martins. “Moreso for my parents. We’re not ‘an eye for an eye’ type people.”
“We’re at the point where we don’t care about prosecution or anything else. All we want to know is where she is and what happened to her,” Baer said.
If you know anything about Judy Martins’ disappearance or know anything that may have happened the night of May 24, 1978, call the U.S. Marshals Tipline: 1-866-492-6833. Tips can remain anonymous.