Human remains and a work ID belonging to a Chelmsford teen who went missing in 1982 were recovered from the Concord River in Billerica on Wednesday, officials said.
The discovery came one day after investigators recovered parts of the 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger Judith Chartier was driving on June 5, 1982, the day she disappeared. Friends said they last saw her around 2 a.m. leaving a party in Billerica. The 17-year-old has not been seen since.
“They did recover a variety of human remains,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said at a press conference. “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. Now that does not mean the remains are Judy Chartier, but it is a piece of information we’ve taken from that area.”
Divers recovered the evidence about 50 to 75 yards from shore in about 8 to 10 feet of water, Ryan said. Parts of the car were also found in the river.
Ryan said the discovery was a major development in the case. Chartier’s parents are deceased, but officials conveyed the finding to other relatives.
“As you can imagine, after all of these years, first to hear just a little bit of news yesterday, that we’ve been able to locate the car, and then to hear this morning that we’ve actually found these human remains, is both heartening, in that they now have a sense of what happened to their sister,” Ryan said. “But [it’s] also distressing, in terms of all the years they have waited.”
In a 1990 interview with the Globe, Chartier’s mother, also named Judy, said life after her daughter disappeared had been a nightmare. Had she been abducted? Was she still alive? The family never got any solid answers.
“The not knowing is horrible,” Chartier’s mother told the Globe at the time. “I’ll go into a mood that she must have been screaming and hollering for me that night.”
Ryan said identifying the remains and reconstructing what happened could take weeks or months. She said the search was complex and labor-intensive.
“Because of the debris and vegetation, you can only search for so long before it becomes too murky to continue,” Ryan said.
Ryan said it was too soon to say whether Chartier was a victim of foul play.
“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,” she said.
Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.