Fort Worth

Clues to whereabouts of girls missing since 1974 elude family, volunteers

Forensic experts failed to find any clues from a car pulled out of Benbrook Lake in the case of three Fort Worth girls who have been missing since 1974, a family member of the missing girls said Thursday.

Using huge air bags, divers from North Texas Marine Recovery & Salvage pulled the 1960 Cherolet Corvair out of the lake Saturday, but they temporarily abandoned their effort to bring a second car to the surface after they had difficulty lifting it up.

Divers will return to the lake in a few weeks to try and retrieve the second car and a third vehicle that family members of the missing girls believe might have evidence leading to the whereabouts of Rachel Trlica, 17, Lisa Renee Wilson, 14, and Julie Moseley, 9, who went missing on Dec. 23, 1974, after shopping at what was then Seminary South Shopping Center on 4200 South Freeway.

“We’ve got a VIN number off the Corvair and we’re still trying to track down its owner,” said Rusty Arnold of Edgecliff Village in a telephone interview Thursday. Arnold was 11 when his sister, Rachel Trlica, disappeared.

“The car did not have any evidence linking it to my sister or the other girls,” Arnold said.

Forensic experts spent several hours looking over the Corvair, which took divers about two hours to pull out of Benbrook Lake Saturday morning near Longhorn Park.

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These three Fort Worth girls have been missing since 1974. Courtsey: Star-Telegram archives

More than 100 family members of the missing girls, friends and curious residents sat on the shore for most of the day to watch divers work.

The divers have raised about $12,000 for equipment to pull the vehicles out of the lake.

Arnold and a group of volunteers have focused on the cars because they believe one of the vehicles belongs to a person of interest in the case who knew the girls.

Arnold has not disclosed 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 told the Star-Telegram a few weeks ago. “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 the 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.

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.

Witnesses told police they saw the girls inside the shopping center during the day.

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 been corroborated.

Fort Worth police have not been involved in the dragging of Benbrook Lake because the recovery operation is extensive and dangerous.

But the case was being worked through other means.

“It’s a stone that will be turned over,” Arnold has told the Star-Telegram. “And if we don’t recover any clues, we’ll just move on.”

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763,@mingoramirezjr.
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