For years, Rusty Arnold has had a “hunch” that vehicles found submerged in Benbrook Lake may have clues to the 1974 disappearance of his sister and two other Fort Worth girls in the city’s most famous cold case.
He’ll find out soon.
Arnold said Saturday on Facebook that he and his group of volunteers had reached their goal of $10,000 to pay divers to pull out the three vehicles sitting deep in the bottom of the lake.
A practice dive was conducted Friday at Burger’s Lake in northwest Fort Worth.
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Weather permitting, the cars will be pulled out Sept. 22 by the divers and crew to see if there are any clues to the disappearance of Arnold’s sister, 17-year-old Rachel Trlica. On Dec. 23, 1974, Trlica, Lisa Renee Wilson, 14, and Julie Moseley, 9, went missing after shopping at what was then Seminary South Shopping Center on 4200 South Freeway.
The case is listed as active and open by Fort Worth police, but Arnold said they are not involved in the search at the lake.
Arnold, who lives in Edgecliff Village and was 11 when the girls went missing, and his group of volunteers are focusing on the cars because they believe one of the vehicles belongs to a person of interest in the case who knew the girls.
Arnold did not disclose the name of the person of interest.
“At the same time the girls went missing, we believe the vehicle he was driving also disappeared,” Arnold said Sunday in a telephone interview. “We sat around coming up with theories, and we discovered that the person of interest lived within five miles of Benbrook Lake at the time. It’s a hunch.”
Arnold and his group have been working on the lake theory for four years, getting the help of a friend who used sonar and found vehicles at the bottom of Benbrook Lake. The lake is in southwest Fort Worth, and it’s about 10 miles from the shopping center.
He said two years ago they pulled parts from two of the vehicles.
“One vehicle we have identified and the other we couldn’t,” Arnold said. “We plan to pull all three of them out in September.”
It will add another chapter to the search. Arnold has searched for years with the help of other family members of the girls, friends and strangers.
They’ve dug at dozens of locations throughout Texas, searched creeks and even combed a swampy bayou near Port Lavaca near the Texas coast.
Arnold created a website, missingtrio.com, and a Facebook page in hope of finding clues.
“I really don’t believe they’re alive,” Lisa’s father, Richard Wilson of Fort Worth, told the Star-Telegram in a December interview. “I would like to think otherwise, but it’s been so many years.”
The mothers of Lisa Renee Wilson and Julie Moseley died in recent years without ever knowing what happened to their daughters.
The girls left home before noon that morning and stopped at an Army/Navy store to pick up Christmas presents that were on layaway.
Then they headed to the shopping center, which is now La Gran Plaza, and parked Trlicas’ Oldsmobile on an upper-level parking lot near Sears.
Rachel had asked others to go shopping, but only Julie and Renee made it that day. Rachel was a newlywed, having married Tommy Trlica in July of that year. Renee wore red and white sneakers and a pale yellow-green T-shirt with “Sweet Honesty” printed across the front.
In a 2009 interview with the Star-Telegram, Rayanne Moseley of North Richland Hills said her daughter called, begging to go with Rachel and Renee because she didn’t have anyone to play with that day.
“I knew Renee and her family, so I finally decided the girls would be able to watch over Julie, and I let her go,” Rayanne Moseley said in 2009.
Witnesses told police they saw the girls inside the shopping center during the day. Investigators believe the girls returned to the car during the afternoon.
The families have heard several stories about what happened after that. A witness reported some men hustled the girls into a pickup. Another witness said he’d seen a man forcing a girl into a van. Nothing has ever panned out.
The Oldsmobile was found at 6 p.m. on Dec. 23, 1974, right where they left it, locked with the presents inside.
“I will keep searching for answers,” Arnold said. “I miss my sister.”
This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.