(Introduction to show begins)
ERIC MEADOWS (Co-Host WCAN Radio): Good evening everyone. You’ve joined us for yet another episode of Missing Pieces hosted by Todd Matthews and myself, Eric Meadows. Todd, how are you?
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): Doing really good, Eric. How are you?
ERIC: Really great. I’m doing excellent, excellent, and it’s good to have us back on the air and actually up because it’s been a while. We’re back up and we’re broadcasting and I hear that you brought a guest with you tonight.
TODD: Yes, I do. I have Elizabeth Bruce, and her mother is missing. Welcome Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH BRUCE (Guest): Hello.
ERIC: Good evening, Elizabeth. How are you?
ELIZABETH: I’m fine. How are you?
ERIC: I’m doing really well.
TODD: I’ve known Elizabeth for a while; I call her Liz. She’s…I’ve heard from her quite a bit over the years. Her mother is Brenda Joan Allen-Szabo.
TODD: And, you know, her case file says that she went missing March 1st, 1983; just didn’t show up one day, right?
TODD: Okay, you’ve been through a lot with this. I know that. I know you’ve been through some recent things but we’ll go back to the past, just a little bit, to see how this all started. You remember your mother, don’t you?
ELIZABETH: Um, yes, when I was 3, about 3 years old is the last time I saw her, but because I was taken away and adopted out. And then, in my looking for her, I could never find her, and I found 2 sisters in the process, and then started finding family and all of that.
TODD: So your mom would have been 58 this year because she was born in November 1949, so she disappeared at 33 years old; 5’4”, 120 lbs. She’s a beautiful lady and you feel like she’s alive today.
ELIZABETH: Um…yeah…I do. You know, I’m not sure. I’ve done everything to find her. I don’t know if she is or not, I mean, but there’s a very good possibility that she is.
TODD: Now, when did you first become aware ‘my mother is missing’?
ELIZABETH: When I started…when I found all my grandmother’s family…
TODD: uh hum
ELIZABETH: …and they had told me that she hadn’t contacted anyone, you know, that she said that she would be home and she never showed up.
TODD: Okay, now where was she traveling to and from?
ELIZABETH: She was traveling from the San Diego area to the Dallas, Texas area.
TODD: Okay so that was home for you?
TODD: You were born there?
ELIZABETH: Oh no, I was born in Venice Beach, California.
TODD: Okay. And after you found your mother’s family?
ELIZABETH: Yes, and my brother.
TODD: You found quite a few of these just recently you found some of them, right?
ELIZABETH: Well, yes, and I found some of my mother’s old boyfriends that haven’t talked to her, I mean, nobody has talked to her. Kind of…you know, no one knows.
TODD: Now she…I’m seeing a lot of information on her…she has a Harley tattoo; you’ve actually looked in some of the biker world…
TODD: …for some kind of connection to her? It says that she has a medical condition.
ELIZABETH: Yes. In 1981 she had a problem with her lungs, something with her lung, it was a growth on her lung and she had to have that removed.
TODD: So we are talking about a scar for that situation and she has ‘also known as’ (a.k.a). How did this come into effect? Karen Blaha and Brenda Miller?
ELIZABETH: Right, and there’s a few others. In my looking for her, I ran her name…I had a police officer friend run her name and all these aliases had come up.
TODD: uh huh
ELIZABETH: Yeah, so that’s how I was able to find a sister because the Szabo name was in there.
TODD: And that’s a very unusual name, it’s S-Z-A-B-O, you know it’s not a very common name.
ELIZABETH: Right. And I’ve contacted…I’ve ran every Brenda that was born on her birthday, and I send them all letters every year and have them write me back to see if maybe one of them will pop up, but nothing yet.
TODD: How do these people receive you when you write these letters to them?
ELIZABETH: They’re good. They’ll…they always write back and say, “No, it’s not me” and if I’ve contacted them before, I mark them off the list, but I haven’t had any issues with that at all.
TODD: Well, that’s quite an undertaking there, you know writing a letter, “Are you my mother?”
ELIZABETH: Right. So there’s kind of a letter I write, you know, “I’m looking for her and this is her daughter” and they usually will write back and say, “No, I am not” because I ask them to write back because I do know her handwriting.
TODD: uh huh
ELIZABETH: So, you know?
TODD: Now how helpful was your family, your mother’s family with helping you gather this information to get something to go on?
ELIZABETH: They didn’t…they really haven’t helped that much because they don’t…I probably know more than they do.
TODD: Yeah, you found quite a bit. Now your mother obviously, she had a very troubled past.
TODD: And do you think that she possibly could have been involved in some type of crime that might have made her decide she doesn’t want to be found or possible some type of witness protection program?
ELIZABETH: I have written to the Witness Protection Program and they sent me a letter saying, “They could not confirm nor deny.”
TODD: I’ve seen that classic letter before in a few other cases and it’s hard to get that letter because it’s such a brick wall.
TODD: And I know you’ve backed up and hit it again and again in this case.
TODD: Okay now, you said you remembered her at 3 years old?
TODD: Okay, do you remember your siblings at that time?
ELIZABETH: Um, no. I had no idea that I even had siblings at that time. I only knew that I had siblings when I started looking for her. When I had found the Szabo name, I put in Brenda Joan Allen, well the last name Allen and the last name Szabo, into the California birth index just looking around…
TODD: uh huh
ELIZABETH: … and the 2 girls popped up, being born in San Diego, and I knew she had been in San Diego at the time, so I started looking for them and I couldn’t find them so I knew that they had probably been adopted. So, I paid my source $75, and got their changed names and found them in Michigan and called them up and said, “I think I might be your older sister.”
TODD: Now, did you get to tell them the story of your mother, because we have a missing person's case file that I am looking at right now for her. How was this news for them?
ELIZABETH: It wasn’t surprising to them. I think that it was probably more surprising that I had found them. At that time they were more concerned with finding the brother, which is totally understandable.
TODD: So have all the siblings been accounted for now?
ELIZABETH: We have all been accounted for, all four of us.
TODD: What about a meeting, have you had this yet, a family reunion?
ELIZABETH: Well, 3 of us have met, the other one couldn’t come because she was pregnant at the time and couldn’t fly, but 3 of us have met.
TODD: Now how was that?
ELIZABETH: It was great. It was good, very good.
TODD: Do you stay in contact with them now? Have they actually tried to help you in this search?
ELIZABETH: Yes, my brother has taken missing posters to methadone clinics and, you know, my sisters, not really, but my brother has and he’s more of a support than anything.
TODD: I think this is pretty much something that you’re the lead in this. Now this is a real case now. It’s got an NCIC number, this is a legitimate missing persons case, it’s not really a lost contact case; this woman has literally vanished, apparently.
ELIZABETH: Right. Well, for her to have the criminal history that she had and to just disappear and not have any arrests or anything is what’s, you know, kind of amazing.
TODD: And we’ve talked about the ‘Witness Protection’ before because that’s one of the first thoughts that pop into mind, you know she might have had some insight into another crime and you know they found her a way out.
ELIZABETH: Right. Right.
TODD: But that’s something that’s very hard to get around.
ELIZABETH: Exactly. But, I’ve tried everything.
TODD: Well I’m looking at…there’s a possibility, now we’ve talked about this before, doing an age progression of her.
TODD: You know, trying to get something a little close, and we look through some pictures probably photographs of you and possibly your sisters and what about her mother, the grandmother?
TODD: Now what kind of communication did you have with her?
ELIZABETH: With the grandmother, I had found her…when I had found her family she had already died.
TODD: Okay. What about any older relatives that remember her?
ELIZABETH: Yes, my great-aunt and she was the one who had told me that she had called her in 1983 and said that she’d be on her way home.
ELIZABETH: And then they heard nothing.
TODD: Did she have any idea of what she thought might have happened to her?
ELIZABETH: No, they all just assumed she had died and that was it. They never really looked or, you know, they just left it.
TODD: So if anybody out there has any on Brenda, you can call the San Diego Police Department at 619-531-2277 or you can contact the show, obviously, and we’ll be able to connect you to somebody that help you out with this. We’re looking for just anything that could possibly help Liz in this case because she’s worked really, really hard in this and definitely looking for some type of closure. Now, you found a few interesting things, you’ve run into some interesting situations in your search.
TODD: Now, you recently got, I’m not sure if you can talk about it or not, but you recently got a call from California, right?
ELIZABETH: Oh, yes the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department…?
TODD: Because there was a serial killer case that, you know, that’s been in the news, maybe you can tell us a little bit about that.
ELIZABETH: Well, I’m not sure what his name is but he has these pictures of 50 different women and I met with them and the one that they thought was her, actually turned out to not be her.
TODD: But at least they flew out to meet you from California.
ELIZABETH: Right. Exactly.
TODD: Now, what did they present to you when they got there?
ELIZABETH: They showed me a picture of a girl that they thought was her and it wasn’t because of the tattoo on the wrist.
TODD: Do you know…did they take any type of DNA sample?
ELIZABETH: No, but I’ve done DNA for Texas and also San Diego.
TODD: So your DNA now is in the missing persons DNA database.
ELIZABETH: Right. Exactly.
TODD: Okay, now that’s not very easy to do sometimes. I’ve had some people that encountered a little bit of trouble locally trying to get that done, where you always have to try to find a different number and sometimes you have to contact Texas, you know for that type of thing.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, Texas sent the DNA here to the Las Vegas Police Department and they did it here locally for Texas and also San Diego.
TODD: Well that’s a big step in the right direction, you know to actually get some stuff going on that but I do want to see an age progression in this case. I think we really need to try to do that because she is so young here and she would be…it’s been a long time.
TODD: We definitely need to get something done with that. Eric, do you have any questions for Liz?
ERIC: Yes, I do. Hi, Liz, you are how?
ELIZABETH: Hi. I’m fine, how are you?
ERIC: We’re really glad to have you on the show tonight. I have 3 questions actually. What is it that prompted you do begin your search? You said that you were 3 years old when you were adopted out?
ERIC: When and what prompted you to begin to search?
ELIZABETH: Um, I’ve always…because I remember her, I’ve always wondered and wanted to know what happened, and so of course I love my adoptive mother, but it’s still not the same.
ERIC: Okay, did they talk to you about being adopted?
ELIZABETH: Um, yes, I knew from the time that I was adopted.
ELIZABETH: So, and they’ve always been very open with me and told me that it would be okay if I wanted to look that they would help me with it.
ERIC: Well, my last question is, are you prepared that if you were to find your mother and she didn’t want to be found, are you prepared that?
ELIZABETH: Yes. Yes, and I totally understand but I don’t…I just have a feeling that that wouldn’t be the case. I mean, if she’s not wanting to be found, it would be probably out of her own guilt, I mean, 4 kids to lose is a lot, you know and to have to answer to that, that’s a lot. But she doesn’t have to answer to that, you know, none of us are angry with her, we’re not…you know, she’s our mother.
ERIC: Right. Well, you talked about your sisters, you know, that they haven’t really lent a hand in trying to pursue this.
ERIC: What are their feelings?
ELIZABETH: Their feelings, I think are mixed.
ERIC: uh huh
ELIZABETH: We really haven’t talked about it a lot with them.
ELIZABETH: But I’m sure that it would be nice to know for them.
ERIC: It would be nice.
TODD: Well, obviously you had a better lifestyle, you know that she made the choice to go ahead and give you up and let you guys be adopted out. The only sad thing is that you guys didn’t grow up together.
TODD: But you were able to find each other. Did you have any step-siblings or adoptive siblings?
ELIZABETH: Um yes, I did.
TODD: And you’re still…of course your parents are still your parents, right?
ELIZABETH: Right. Exactly, and my adopted sister, I talk to her all the time, you know.
TODD: So she still managed to have a life out of this?
TODD: But she still has this missing piece in her life though?
ELIZABETH: Right and it’s very frustrating because I would like to know what happened to her, you know, and if she isn’t here any more, we’d at least like to know where she is and what happened.
TODD: Well, you know when you were talking about the possibility of the Witness Protection Program, there’s a possibility that efforts to try to locate or find somebody that’s missing, could potentially endanger them.
TODD: And I’ve always thought about that and you know I wonder about these cases when we’re working on unidentified bodies and missing persons, are we actually opening up something that’s going to put somebody in danger. You know that’s always the thought, you’d never want to do anything like that but you know you can’t just not look because of that type of thing.
TODD: But, you drive a taxicab now?
TODD: Do you ever wonder when somebody gets into that taxicab, have you ever seen somebody ride that cab, that you thought, “Could that person be my mother?”
ELIZABETH: No. No, I haven’t, and I think that…I don’t know, I just think that I would know, but yeah, the thought has crossed my mind, you know, “Maybe one day she’ll just get into the cab” but…
TODD: We talked about that once before because a lot of people go to Las Vegas.
ELIZABETH: Right. Exactly.
TODD: So it would be a thought on my mind, you know, maybe, what if…you know. Have you ever thought about putting a poster in your cab?
ELIZABETH: Um, no, I haven’t, but maybe I should.
TODD: Well, that’s what we’re trying to do… a work in progress here too, trying to brainstorm a little bit. Do you ever talk to your passengers about this?
ELIZABETH: Um, yes, a lot of times I do.
TODD: Because we see on HBO, the taxicab stories and you know people, they actually talk to their passengers and they say that they talk about all the places that they’re from and, you know when they tell you, “Well, I’m from San Diego.”
ELIZABETH: Right. Oh no I always…I bring it up.
TODD: You always have to mention it. How do people react to that?
ELIZABETH: Um, their reactions are okay.
TODD: (chuckles) They don’t think you’re crazy or weird or…?
ELIZABETH: No. No. Not at all. Not at all, and if they’re from Dallas, I’ll bring it up and usually they’ve read…like if they’re from Dallas they remember reading the story in the Dallas paper, so…
TODD: And she’s managed to get this story in a lot of different newspapers.
TODD: So you’ve done really well. I believe I would maybe tape those up in my cab and maybe somebody would see it and you never know, you never know how these pieces connect together.
ELIZABETH: Right. Exactly.
TODD: Now, let’s talk about, and I don’t know, I’ve not really talked to you about this a lot…you father, your natural father. Do you know who this person is?
ELIZABETH: Um, no, well there were 3 different men that were named and I found 2 of the men but they’re not, and the third man, we still don’t know his name.
TODD: Well, do you have the same desire to find your father as you do your mother? Of course you found a potential crime connected to your mother and I know that sort of put a whole different perspective on that particular side but you know your father’s still out there probably.
ELIZABETH: I do but I can’t…I do but the file is not open, as of yet, so I can’t find his name so I can’t find him but I think that my mother, it’s more important to me, I think, to find her.
TODD: Well, I always thought of the possibility that your father could probably, hopefully shed some light on what might have happened to your mother or where she might have been.
TODD: And anybody else that might have been involved with her at some point in time. Were you ever able to get any information out of those guys?
ELIZABETH: No, I haven’t been able to find anything on him, you know because it’s in the file of course and it’s sealed so.
TODD: Now you’ve had some interesting communications with the adoption folks?
ELIZABETH: uh hum
TODD: Can you talk to us about that a little bit?
ELIZABETH: I…I can’t.
TODD: Okay, you can’t talk, but you’ve hit a brick wall with it, basically.
ELIZABETH: Yes. Yes…we’re filing.
TODD: Well, you know with the Tate family, Eric, that we interviewed before (Episode 17), the family that was actually taken away from the abusive father here in Tennessee, you know the efforts to protect them as children, you know even when they’re into adults, those laws are still in place and sometimes it’s very difficult. We had a very hard time you know helping those guys find each other even though they were adults.
ELIZABETH: Yes, because of the sealed records, correct?
TODD: Yes, but for me I’m thinking, you’ve already found your siblings.
TODD: You’re all adults?
TODD: It looks like that would possibly make this a little easier to get through.
ELIZABETH: Help unseal those records? It doesn’t. I wish it did but it doesn’t.
TODD: What all have you tried?
ELIZABETH: Well, they say that they are protecting her right to privacy.
TODD: uh hum
ELIZABETH: And so that is why they won’t unseal those records that have his name because they are trying to protect her right to privacy.
TODD: And that’s so hard because you know that’s a piece of your own past.
TODD: You know and I feel like we should know that. You know when it’s about your own self, how can somebody hold this back from you?
ELIZABETH: I fully agree.
TODD: But you’re not getting anywhere with that though, right?
ELIZABETH: No, it’s not right and there are a lot of agencies out there to help adopted people like me, like ALMA Society and Bastard Nation. We’re working on it but it’s just not that easy.
TODD: What hope have some of these agencies given you?
ELIZABETH: Well, Alma Society really helped me in finding out who I was and who she was and her name and there are support issues with Bastard Nation and Alma Society both. They have both really helped in the support, which is good.
TODD: But that stops at some point. Were these guys helpful in helping you find your siblings?
ELIZABETH: Yes, very much so. They all have ideas and there’s a whole network of people.
TODD: uh huh
ELIZABETH: Which is good.
TODD: But now you stay in contact with these people. This is something that is ongoing for you.
ELIZABETH: Yes, I do.
TODD: Okay. I’m going to ask you a little bit about her tattoos, now how many tattoos did she have?
ELIZABETH: I know of the one, on the wrist.
TODD: And that’s the Harley?
TODD: Okay, do we have any type of photograph of that tattoo or anything close to it?
ELIZABETH: And you can see her wrist in that photo.
TODD: Okay and we’ll definitely put that on the archive page so that we’ll be able to rotate that around and take a good look at it and let our listeners look at it. How close do you think that you look like your mother?
ELIZABETH: Um…not…I don’t look exactly like her but you can tell that we’re related. You can tell she’s my mother. We all have certain traits that she had.
TODD: So all your brothers and sisters have a little bit of a resemblance.
ELIZABETH: Right. Oh yes.
TODD: I wanted to ask you about now I know your mom, we talked about her troubled past, and maybe this might help with somebody that might have remembered her, now she’d been in jail quite a bit, could you talk to us a little bit about some of that? And I’m not meaning to hurt or embarrass you with this, we’re just trying to, you know…it’s on the website so…
ELIZABETH: Oh no. Right. She was a heroin addict, or course, and she had problems with that. So, of course she had been jailed for theft and forgery and counterfeiting, I think were the last 2 charges that she had been put in and had.
TODD: And that was in California?
ELIZABETH: uh hmm
TODD: But now she’s crisscrossed the country, I’m looking, originally from Dallas, Texas; she ran away from home in 1966 then crisscrossed the country from New York to California. And how did you come upon that information about her running away from home?
ELIZABETH: From my uncles, which would be my grandfather’s sons.
TODD: uh huh
ELIZABETH: They were the ones that were able to give me that information about New York. Of course, she had left my brother in New York; that’s where my brother was born.
TODD: So you guys were quite scattered out?
ELIZABETH: Right. So, just the 3 of us girls were born in California.
TODD: Okay, and she actually worked as a waitress, danced in nightclubs, you know she definitely has a good work record out there. There’s information that’s available there as far as that…even as a dog groomer?
ELIZABETH: Yeah, and I think she learned to do that in prison.
TODD: Okay, now, where are you in the case right now as far as contact with law enforcement? Not with the adoption people but with law enforcement?
ELIZABETH: I really haven’t…well I talk to them probably once every 3 months and still we haven’t found any new leads or anything.
TODD: How does that phone call go, you know? Who do you call, who’s the officer that works on this case?
ELIZABETH: I call San Diego.
ELIZABETH: Detective Tieszen, and we haven’t found anything new so…
TODD: Do you really think anything is actually being done or do you feel like they’re just…?
TODD: Checking it off at certain points in time, “Yup, she’s still missing.”
ELIZABETH: Yeah, that’s what…yeah, because I don’t really see what, I mean, she’s been gone for so long that I don’t see where that they know where to start looking, I mean, you know she kind of was everywhere. We just don’t know where to start.
TODD: Wow, but you’ve been…what are some of the interesting leads that you’ve had? Now I know that you’ve kind of run down a couple of things and I know that every time you had found one of your siblings, you had hoped that they had had contact with her.
ELIZABETH: Right. Right and they hadn’t. In fact, they always knew less than I did, so…
TODD: You were the informer in the family.
ELIZABETH: Yes, exactly.
TODD: So, you have had a couple of interesting leads and I was hoping that when they actually came from California and they were involved in the serial killer type situation there, I’d hoped that, even though she might not have been connected with this, it was going to give you enough of an opening to try to pursue it and push it a little harder.
ELIZABETH: Yes, I agree.
TODD: But it didn’t.
ELIZABETH: No, it didn’t, but the detective on that case has been, you know I call him too and if I have things to look at, you know he’ll do them for me, which is a really big help to have anybody that can look things up for you, which is good.
TODD: Now, what made them think that she was actually involved in that particular case?
ELIZABETH: People from, I think Crime and Justice…?
TODD: uh hum
ELIZABETH: …online, were calling in and saying that that girl looked like her.
TODD: So, it was just, basically, a visual?
TODD: Now, even though this girl that they thought looked like her, and you realized that’s not her, do we know all of the victims of this particular serial killer?
ELIZABETH: No, we don’t. Well, I’m not sure if they do or not.
TODD: Was there anything that put her I the proximity of this person that it’s still a possibility?
ELIZABETH: Well, yes, she was in L.A. at the time, well I mean in the California area.
TODD: uh huh
ELIZABETH: And she did go to Texas.
TODD: And we’ll have information, we’ll put a link on the website about the serial killing so that you guys can actually look into in a little bit deeper when you check back into the archives.
TODD: Well, Eric, have you got any other questions to ask her? This is just such a crazy case.
ERIC: You know I’m listening to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth you know I commend your efforts in trying to find mother, but you know there are other avenues for added closure; ones that I don’t think that you and your brother and sisters have explored, is you said that you really don’t talk about it. It might be good to get everybody’s opinions on this, you know, what reasons wouldn’t you want to talk about it with your brother and sisters?
ELIZABETH: Right. Well, I speak to my brother about it but I don’t really, we don’t really speak to the sisters about it.
ERIC: Why is that?
ELIZABETH: I...I don’t think they really want to talk about it.
TODD: Do you think it’s painful for them?
ELIZABETH: Right, I think that’s what we get from it so we just kind of leave it alone.
ERIC: Okay, well, I have to ask this question, and please, you know I’m not trying…
ELIZABETH: Oh, no.
ERIC: …to be crass or rude or anything but I’m getting a feeling that it’s just you that’s concerned about, you know, what happened. It’s you that’s looking for answers to satisfy yourself. What is it you hope to bring to the relationship if you do find her?
ELIZABETH: Um, I just would like to know if she’s okay and, if she’s not, to know what happened to her. I’m that kind of woman but I remember her more than anybody, I was the oldest, well I wasn’t the oldest but I was with her the longest so of course I remember her, you know.
ELIZABETH: And I just feel that, you know, with her family on my grandmother’s side, not my grandfather’s side, but my grandmother’s side, I feel like I can’t quit. I feel like they gave up on her and because of her problems, and I feel like we’ve all had problems in our life that doesn’t make it okay to just forget about her. She’s still a person and she has problems.
ERIC: Right. I’m not saying to forget about her but you know, in what portion of your life do you stop and say, “Okay, my life needs to continue on, maybe without her, or do you even get to that point?
ELIZABETH: Um, no, I haven’t gotten to that point and maybe I will one day but I…it bothers me, it’s always in the back of my mind.
ELIZABETH: You know she’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night.
ERIC: Do you have a family of your own?
ELIZABETH: Yes I do.
ERIC: Okay. How do they feel? Are they supporting you in all of this?
ELIZABETH: Um, yes. Yes, because I think that we all would kind of like to know what happened, you know, I mean people just aren’t supposed to disappear.
TODD: No, but it happens a lot. I think if you just felt like she continued her life and she was okay and not a victim of some type of crime, what if she just said, “Hey, I’m here but I don’t want to talk.”
ELIZABETH: Right, and that would be fine, I could deal with that because at least I would know that she’s okay.
TODD: uh hum
ELIZABETH: But, as it is know, no. I don’t know what happened. There’s nobody that knows what happened so…
TODD: Did you ask your brothers and sisters to listen tonight?
TODD: Well I hope that one of them will call in, that would be great if they could call in. Eric, what number would they call if they wanted to call?
ERIC: If they wanted to call in, they just have to dial 1-866-921-2205, again that’s 1-866-921-2205.
TODD: Not to put any pressure on you guys to call. If you want to call, we’d love to have you to call. I just feel that Elizabeth is sort of swimming alone, even tonight.
ELIZABETH: They’re kind of shy. They’re all kind of shy. I’m not.
TODD: Well usually when I talk to you on the telephone you’re a lot more chatty, when we talk on the telephone, Eric says that she just has to take a breath you know trying to get everything out and I’ve talked to her when she’s driving, she’s actually been in the car driving and trying to talk to me at the same time so…
ELIZABETH: It’s just nerves.
TODD: Well, I don’t want you to have any nerves because you usually talk so much more.
ELIZABETH: I know. I’m sorry.
ERIC: Oh, that’s okay. You know a lot of times when people are coming on the air, you know they are realizing that the magnitude of this work is reaching the whole world you know.
ELIZABETH: So, yeah, put the pressure on…thanks.
TODD: We want you to have a relaxed conversation just like we’ve had before. Why don’t you talk to your brother or sisters, tell them what you’d like to see out of this, you know maybe you can talk to them, you said you can’t talk to them sometimes or you don’t want to talk to them.
ELIZABETH: Well, I think we all want the same thing, it’s that we’d just like to know what happened to her.
TODD: Do they really know how important this is to you?
ELIZABETH: Yes they do.
TODD: They really realize it?
ELIZABETH: They really…yes, in fact I’ve probably driven them crazy at times about it, but you know…
TODD: You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do though and I know this is eating you up. Now, your father, I know we’ve talked about your father and you’re not exactly sure who or where…
TODD: …but if he were listening tonight what would you want to know or say to him?
ELIZABETH: Um…I would just like to know, you know if he knew anything about where she is or what happened, you know?
TODD: Now, what about you mother? Now, I talked to you last night before we did this, before we actually called this show in…I want you to think of something that you might want to say to your mother if she’s alive and well and listening possibly and you know this show is going to be in the archives so it’s going to be echoed out again and again for anybody that wants to download this program you know. What would you want to say to your mother? Just talk to her like you’re…what do you want to say to her?
ELIZABETH: Just that I love her and that we understand; I speak for my brother as well as my sisters, um, you know and that we just want to know her.
TODD: uh huh
ELIZABETH: And to let her know that, yes, she had problems but none of us are angry with her, we don’t hold it against her and that we just want to know who and where she is.
TODD: And you think there’s a possibility she has a guilt problem?
ELIZABETH: Well, yeah, I mean if she is alive, I think that there could be a lot of guilt there.
TODD: Now, it’s very easy for somebody, and I’ve had it happen before; I had a woman that actually Googled her own name…
TODD: …and made contact and she found her daughter had been looking for her and I got to work with those guys when they were actually getting back into communication with each other, she had committed a crime, she had actually committed a crime and had actually run away and her family thought she was dead and I think that she felt the same way. She felt like, “I’ve done this, done this huge thing that was very wrong to do and now I’m a little ashamed to try and get back in touch with them.” But she saw her daughter doing just exactly what you’re doing…
TODD: …you know, reaching out and trying to find her, so hopefully she’ll find your words and in most interviews that you do, you don’t really get to say a lot, you know you get your words picked through you know they’ll make a few statements, you know you’ve got time to talk from your heart tonight. You know you’ve got an entire hour to do and say what you want to do and tell us about your future plans. What do you plan to keep doing to try to locate her?
ELIZABETH: Um…I really haven’t thought about the future, I’ve really have just been sitting back lately and just waiting to see if anything that I’ve done kind of comes back.
TODD: You sort of burp it.
ELIZABETH: I think I’ve already done so much, you know I don’t have any new ideas of what to do, you know?
TODD: Well, you’ve got to keep doing things like this and there are lots of things that we can to with a program like this, especially once it gets transcribed, you know there are bits and pieces that we can pick out of this and maybe contact some of the media and when some things pop up, we’ve done it before. It’s actually been picked up in a few articles on a couple of other cases that we worked on. I get a lot of calls from media because I work as a media director for several organizations with missing and unidentified persons and, you know I got like 6 calls from media today and they’re looking, “Do you have a case like this?” or “Do you have one of these?” or that type of thing and I’m always able to go back into the archives and just say, “Well, you know I have this and you are welcome to use this interview on Missing Pieces to help with your research if you want to follow up on it” and we’ve had it happen before.
TODD: And I’m hoping to do the same thing with this but, as far as your online efforts, a lot of people are creating MySpace pages, have you thought of doing anything like that?
ELIZABETH: You know, I haven’t. This year, I’ve just really not done very much, you know I’ve been dealing with sick kids and the whole 9 yards, but I plan to do that soon.
TODD: Are you just tired? Do think you just got tired in your search?
ELIZABETH: I’m tired but I’ve got a lot of other things going on in life right now too.
TODD: uh hum
ELIZABETH: You can’t get…I can’t get tired, that’s giving up.
TODD: Definitely. You know I thought maybe you were taking a little bit of a slow down right now and maybe trying to get your bearings straight on this case.
ELIZABETH: Well yeah, that and the fact that I’ve got some court case, which I can’t talk about, and you know, my kids, they’ve been kind of sick lately and I’m going through a divorce so, you know…
TODD: Now, the court thing, you’re not the only one that’s involved in this, I mean, this is something that’s happened with a lot of cases.
ELIZABETH: Um, no, I’m the only…my case will be the only case.
TODD: For that particular situation, and we’ll be able to reveal that later in a later broadcast, I hope, or post information like an update in your case, you know there’s…let’s just say Elizabeth went out of her way to try to get information on her mother.
ELIZABETH: Right, and I’ve done a lot of things that shouldn’t have happened.
TODD: Do you think there was a mishandling in the case, which obviously you do?
ELIZABETH: Of course…a huge mishandling. A huge mishandling…and then just from the whole adoption and…that’s it, you know.
TODD: Who actually filed the missing persons report?
ELIZABETH: I did.
TODD: So you actually got it to the point that it’s at now?
ELIZABETH: Correct, because no one had ever filed it. There is a detective that is my mother’s cousin and he looked for her for many years but never could find anything so, you know, he was kind of at a standstill, and then I found all of them and so…
TODD: Now, when you made your first…when you made this missing persons report, where did you go to? How did you start this?
ELIZABETH: I did it on the phone and I called San Bernardino because that’s the closest place to L.A., and they had said, “Well, just call us back in 7 years and we’ll give you a death certificate.” And they had just put it in a shelf in storage.
TODD: What year was this that you actually made this call?
TODD: But, you know, that she had already been missing for…
TODD: You know, with no record of…there’s no work record; there’s no nothing.
ELIZABETH: Right. Even her social security number, nothing comes up.
TODD: There’s nothing, it’s just like this person just ceased to exist and the records that they left on that day are the last time this person ever existed, so then they ask you, at that point in time when you made this report, to wait an additional 7 years to declare her dead?
ELIZABETH: Right, and the case was just going to go into storage and, of course, I wasn’t happy with that because that’s when I started calling Los Angeles and San Diego, and San Diego agreed that it should be with them.
TODD: This is a classic case of where a family member has gone missing and nobody really fully reports it, you know this is the classic ingredient of a Jane Doe. It really is. This is how they happen.
TODD: Everybody assumed that Brenda just decided to do her own thing, and you know I think that maybe they didn’t want to involve law enforcement; possibly they didn’t want to get her in any trouble or cause her any problems.
TODD: And that happens. You know, like I’ve told Eric before, I‘ve got a cousin, his mother passed away and we couldn’t find him, he’d been in trouble with the law enforcement so much you know and we hated to have them to help us look for him at that time because he was involved in drugs, he was involved in a little bit of everything, and you think, “Well, I don’t want to add to his burden by trying to use law enforcement to find him” but you know, I have to think he could be dead you know. At what point does one of us step up and say, “You know, we’ve not seen him in a long time, he could be dead, he could be killed due to his interactions with drugs and, you know, the illegal activities that he’s been involved in.” Who has to file this report, you know, his mother’s gone…who does it?
TODD: You know, who has to step up and do that, and it was up to you to do this.
ELIZABETH: Right. And which I did all after those years, I’m sure they thought I was crazy. You know, I mean, they were like, you know, “Why wasn’t it filed years ago?” and you kind of have no answer for that but you still have to do it because there is that possibility that they still are out there.
ERIC: Well, Elizabeth, that’s one of the questions I was getting ready to ask you. How do you file this as a missing person after so many years? I mean, how do you know that her…I mean, what is it that prompted it, because nobody’s heard from her?
ELIZABETH: uh hmm
ERIC: Just simply on that alone, that’s enough to file?
ELIZABETH: That nobody had heard from her, that she didn’t come up anywhere on any databases online or…we couldn’t find anything you know. I probably have called every Brenda Joan Allen and every Brenda Szabo there is in the United States, and nothing.
TODD: So at the same time where you actually lost contact, or she lost contact with your family, this is the same time that her social security numbers and everything just ceased to be used?
ELIZABETH: That’s right.
TODD: So it was all at the same time but you know I don’t think that we would ever be able to see Brenda Szabo listed as a missing person with the NCIC, the whole 9 yards, if Liz had not tried to find her mother.
TODD: Would anybody have ever known? Would anybody have even cared? Anybody that’s alive cared what happened to Brenda Szabo?
ELIZABETH: No. I believe, no. I don’t think so.
TODD: Now, the name Szabo, that’s not her birth name?
ELIZABETH: No, that’s a married name.
TODD: Okay now, what about Mr. Szabo?
ELIZABETH: Oh, he passed…
TODD: That’s the one that passed away?
ELIZABETH: Right. He passed away in a car accident, yeah, so we weren’t able to find him but we found his family.
TODD: And they had no…?
ELIZABETH: Yeah, nothing, nothing at all, but they…I did get a picture of her from them and that’s the colored one on the National Center for Missing Persons, which just…was a help.
TODD: Now were they actually divorced before?
ELIZABETH: I…I don’t…I don’t know the answer to that. I know that their marriage was…
ELIZABETH: …their marriage was confidential. It was confidential I do know that.
ELIZABETH: I know that she had gone to prison…he had gotten out of prison 5 months after she had gone back in, so I know that…and then she had turned up missing before he got out and he had died a couple months after he had gotten out.
TODD: Did her family meet his family? Now those are in-laws, you said they’re basically pretty nice people, of course. They never had any better dates that they could maybe lock down a time period where they never saw her?
ELIZABETH: No, not at all. Not at all, you know just before the girls had been taken away, that’s probably about the last time that they had saw her and that was about in ’79.
TODD: Wow. Were any of the kids, children of Szabo?
ELIZABETH: Yes, the 2 younger sisters are.
TODD: Okay, so you have good contact through that family for information so you’ve pretty much cleaned that house too.
TODD: Wow. You know, Eric, if she had not, you know, tried to find her birth parent, you know this is just another cold case sitting on the file that probably nobody ever would have even touched.
ERIC: And you’re just one out of what…maybe a couple hundred thousand that are like that?
TODD: Oh, easily, you know, and then all the Jane Doe’s and John Doe’s, you know there’s… and I always say that there’s over 6,000 listed with the NCIC, but we know that there’s probably 40,000 to 45,000 unidentified bodies out there.
TODD: And, you know a lot of them are not listed with the NCIC yet, so you know we’re trying to do that. In fact, today, there were 2 cases in Kentucky that I’ve been working with trying to…”Well, they’re missing and they’re listed locally but they’re not listed with the FBI NCIC and what do I have to do to request this to be done?” I’m not the next of kin because it’s a Jane or John Doe, so what do you do? You know it’s hard to do that, but after a few phone calls, you can finally try to get them to, you know prompt them to go forward and, with no family, they’re probably not looking at the case unless something in the news brings them up, you know to kind of spark it along. You know you basically have become the spark in this case.
ELIZABETH: Yes, well…
ERIC: Todd, let me ask you a question.
TODD: uh hum
ERIC: And, I’m not saying that is the case with Brenda Szabo, but what happens if, let’s she has started another life…?
TODD: uh huh
ERIC: She’s dealt with the guilt, she doesn’t want to go back and re-visit that situation, and let’s say Elizabeth does find her and she doesn’t want this, maybe it might be something that she hid from her new family, how do you work something like that out, how do you explain or to get the 2 to come together even if it’s just for a brief moment?
TODD: And that’s the hard part because I’ve actually seen a case that happened like this and the lady had to think really quickly, “Wow, there’s a lot that my family doesn’t know and I’ve got a lot of explaining to do because this case is heating up and they’re actually hearing about it” and this person pretty much had to go to her family and say, “Look my past is not exactly what I told you” and then they had to go about the process, but have to wonder how many people decide, “Hmm, I think I’ll just keep this to myself and try to avoid it and hope nobody recognizes me.” So we have no idea what pressure, you know when we do things like this, working on Brenda, you know, what type of pressure Liz is actually putting on her mother. If she’s actually watching these activities, if she’s actually Googling her name and seeing everything that’s going on, you have to wonder if she’s saying, “Please stop. Please stop. I don’t want to be found. I don’t want to face this. I’ve got a new life.” You know, you have to wonder because she’s not an old woman, you know, she is in her fifties, in her late fifties now, so you know she could be a grandmother…
TODD: …and possibly have hidden this from her entire family.
ELIZABETH: Well, I do know that she doesn’t have any more kids other than us. We were the only 4 that she had.
ERIC: But how would you know that?
ELIZABETH: I got medical records from the hospital where she had her lung surgery and in that it said she had a tubal ligation.
TODD: So that’s the likelihood that she probably didn’t have any more children, okay.
ELIZABETH: Correct, and you know, she does have 9 grandkids with the 4 of us, so you know, I mean.
TODD: If she called to you, if we made this information available to her where she could actually call you and she called you and said, “Liz, I’m okay. I’m here” and she could prove it to you that this was her and she said, “But I don’t want any more contact and I don’t want anybody to know that you ever found me,” how could you deal with that? Could you deal with that?
ELIZABETH: Yes, I could.
TODD: And you could just put the lid on it and put it away?
TODD: Because you’re talking to her, there’s a possibility that you’re talking to her now when you’re actually making these statements. Could you tell her you could do that?
ELIZABETH: Definitely, and I could do that because I would know that she’s okay and that wondering of not knowing what happened will be gone.
TODD: Because I think that’s a pressure on a lot of people’s minds, Eric, because “I don’t want to reveal myself because it’s all going to break loose, you know, this is going to be headline news, front page news” but you know it doesn’t have to be.
TODD: You know I’ve seen people come back silently before and re-enter their family’s life or pass along a message and not open up a whole can of worms.
TODD: So that option’s open for you.
ELIZABETH: Oh, definitely.
ERIC: You know the reason I’m asking these questions is because, even for my life, there was a drug addiction that took place in my life and there was a lot of guilt behind that. I eventually overcame that but there was a time when I had considered, “I’m going to separate myself from my family and not be bothered with them, and not because of anything that they did, but it was all about me at the time. I didn’t want to bring any more embarrassment or shame upon them.
ERIC: That’s why I’m asking this you know. I’ve since grown since then, you know we’re talking and everything and we have a…well we have an okay relationship, but I was just wondering, that if she’d gone along this same path, and you’ve talk about a criminal history, you’ve talked about addictions that have taken place, and it could have been a lot of other things. You know when you remove that much innocence from a person, you pretty much leave them in a position of when they have these moments of clarity, there’s a lot of shame.
ERIC: You know starting over sometimes is the only option that some people actually see to that.
TODD: So we have no idea of what this lady might have went through and, if you are listening and you do make contact with us, you know, and it’s not your desire to go public with anything, of course we’ll do everything in our power to let your children know that you’re okay and do the best we can just to relieve them of their pain but I’m hoping if Brenda is out there, if there’s anything that she can do to help, you know in this search for her family, just so that they’ll know everything’s okay and so that they can go on and live their life. Because, you’ve got kids, and you definitely want to move on and have a good relationship with them, and you know you broke the cycle, you kept your kids.
TODD: I know you’re a good mother. I’ve talked to you too many times; you’re very fond of your children obviously.
ELIZABETH: Right. Yes, and it would be nice to know, you know, what happened and you know and even I guess I could put it to rest, you know.
TODD: I have to ask you, do you have a tattoo?
TODD: What kind?
TODD: You didn’t get a Harley tattoo, did you?
ELIZABETH: No I didn’t. No.
TODD: You’re not too far gone then.
TODD: I said you’re not too far over the edge with this then.
ELIZABETH: No. No, I didn’t get one.
TODD: Wow, and you seem like you’re taking everything great. You’re able to laugh and take things in stride.
ELIZABETH: Right. You kind of have to because, you know it’s frustrating but, you know, what are you going to do?
TODD: Do you have any time frame of when you might hear something? I know you have a couple of things in the works and I’m hoping that we’re going to get an update from you really soon.
ELIZABETH: Within the next year, probably, you know I know that the court issues are being dealt with probably as we speak so, hopefully within the next year, we’ll be able to update you on that.
TODD: Okay, well we definitely want to try to get you back at that point in time, and any movement on the case, when we know that something is happening, we’ll add updates and hopefully maybe even do a quick interview with you to add to what we have; just anything that we can do to try to help you. I told you that this isn’t like a normal show; it’s mostly just like a fireside chat, you’re just talking to 2 old friends I hope and trying to brainstorm and fill us in on what’s going on.
TODD: Eric, can you think of anything else that we might have left out in this case? Eric?
TODD: Are you there? I thought I lost you.
ELIZABETH: We put him to sleep.
ERIC: No, no, no, I’m wide awake now. Elizabeth, like I said, I have to commend your efforts with doing what you’re doing. I just want you to be very careful. I would hate for you to get your feelings hurt, you know, any further.
ELIZABETH: Well, you know, I’m okay with that because I understand, I mean, you know I’ve had a colorful past myself and I completely understand.
ELIZABETH: You know, we’ve all done things like that but I just want to know that she’s okay.
TODD: You’ve done a lot for her. Now, you know, if you never make another…any more progress on it in your lifetime, you’ve done a lot for her already.
TODD: You went above and beyond. You’ve got her listed on missing persons cases, you know, the file with the NCIC. You know that some effort is there. Do you want your kids to continue this?
ELIZABETH: Right, and I think that, most importantly too, is in looking for her I found siblings…
TODD: uh hum
ELIZABETH: …that I had no idea I even had, which is good.
TODD: But do you want to see your kids continue to search for her?
ELIZABETH: Um, no. I mean they can if they would like but, no, I mean I don’t force it on them.
TODD: Well, you’ve done a lot. You’ve left a lot behind, even if you stop today, you know there’s a lot of action that you put in process, I mean you set them in motion and I think you’re going to get some degree of resolution in this; I’m just nearly positive that you’re going to find something.
ELIZABETH: Right. Yes, and that’s what I hope and at least, we can at least find out what happened to her.
TODD: Well, we didn’t get your siblings; we didn’t tease them into calling in. They’re chickens.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, you know if they’re listening; they’ll probably listen to the archives later.
TODD: Well, we’d love to hear from them if they have any comment that they want to add to your archive pages; if they have a statement that they want to give to their mother, you know in written form, you know I’d be happy to add that. We’ll definitely do that, you know anything they want to try to do to reach out and I’m hoping that they will and it will echo out onto the World Wide Web just like you have and hopefully we’ll find something for you.
ERIC: I also want to put this out there, that if your siblings or brother and sisters would like to contact WCAN, they can do so by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward all messages over to Todd.
ERIC: To Missing Pieces or Todd, just so we can get that over to you. We’re actually here just so that we can add closure or help to add closure to some cases.
ELIZABETH: Right. Exactly.
ERIC: We want to thank you for having been on tonight, both of you, Elizabeth Bruce, who is looking for her mother who disappeared in 1983; her name is Brenda Szabo, and we’re hoping that somebody out there might be able to give a word or tell us something so that we can pass that on to her. I have to say that the clock on the wall says that’s all, so I want to thank the both of you for having been on.
ELIZABETH: Well, thank you for having me.
TODD: It’s been great talking to you guys and, Eric I’ll see you next week.
ELIZABETH: Thank you.
TODD: Goodnight everybody.