Saturday, June 7, 2008

~Mitchel Weiser & Bonita Bickwit~

July 28, 1973: The Band, the Grateful Dead, and the Allman Brothers Band perform
for a crowd of 600,000 (larger by half than Woodstock!) in upstate New York at the Watkins Glen “Summer Jam.”

Weiser took time off from his job as a photography assistant at Chelsea Photographers in Coney Island, New York, and met Bickwit at Camp Wel-Met. Bonnie had been working that summer at Camp Wel-Met, sponsored by the UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in Narrowsburg. Both were intelligent teenagers who attended John Dewey High School, a Brooklyn alternative school for gifted students. Together they set off for the concert, which was 75 miles away. They carried backpacks, sleeping bags, and a cardboard sign that read "Watkins Glen." They were last seen hitchhiking along State Route 97. Neither has been seen since.

At first, everyone assumed the two — who had secretly exchanged wedding rings that summer — had run off to be together. But when there was no call or no letter, thoughts turned darker, to fatal accident, to murder.

Click on Mitchel's name for age progression (Printable Poster)
Mitchel Weiser

Missing: 7/27/73
16 years old
Narrowsburg, New York
D.O.B. 11/23/56
Race White
Hair Brown
Eye Hazle
Height 5' 7"
Weight 140 Lbs.

Click on Bonita's name for age progression (Printable Poster)
Bonita Bickwit

Missing 7/27/73
15 years old
Narrowsburg, New York.
D.O.B. 1/28/58
Race White
Hair color Brown
Eye color Brown
Height 4' 11"
Weight 95 Lbs.

Weiser's family has since moved to Arizona, but they keep a phone listing in the Brooklyn telephone directory since 1973 in case either of the teens decide to contact them. Years following their disappearances, Weiser's father accepted a collect call from someone identifying herself as "Bonnie." By the time the operator was able to connect them, the caller had hung up. She did not call back and has never been identified.

A Jewish Week investigation in 1998 found that police mishandled the case. Sullivan County and New York City police lost vital files and dental records and misled the families into believing they were actively investigating the case. Friends and family charged police never interviewed them. As a result there are virtually no facts about the case.

In 2000, a witness, Allyn Smith, claimed he saw both Bickwit and Weiser drown while they were on their way back from Watkins Glen. Smith, then 24, said he was also going to the Watkins Glen rock festival and hitched a ride on a Volkswagen bus and two teenagers, whom he identified as Bickwit and Weiser, were also on the bus. He did not know their names but had heard them talking about the girl's summer camp and recalled their clothing. They all stopped to cool off in a nearby river when Bickwit got into trouble in the water. Weiser jumped in to save her and they were both swept away, still alive. The bus driver told Smith he would call the police at the nearest gas station, but authorities have no record of such a call being made.
Police call Smith "credible" but wonder why, as an athletic Navy veteran, he did not try to rescue the drowning teenagers. They are investigating his account, which has not been confirmed. The driver of the bus has not been found and Smith cannot remember the location of the river the teens allegedly drowned in. As a result, his story cannot be fully investigated.

June 17, 2000, 100 members of the Class of 1975 gathered at Dewey High School on Avenue X to celebrate a reunion and to plant an 8-foot red maple tree in the missing couple's names.
The tree ceremony was "a dedication, not a memorial," because nobody knows if they're alive or dead, said Bonnie Shipper, a classmate who now lives in Mountain View, Calif.

ANYONE HAVING INFORMATION SHOULD CONTACT National Center for Missing & Exploited Children1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)
Sullivan County Sheriff's Department (New York) - 1-845-794-7100

sources:
NCMEC
The Jewish Week
The Charley Project
Dewey HS Reunion


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