To: Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger
Subject: Justice for Bernadette Stevenson Caruso
We, the undersigned, have patiently awaited an arrest in the murder of Bernadette Stevenson Caruso, whose 1986 disappearance/death has now surpassed a quarter century.
On Saturday, September 27, 1986, Bernadette Stevenson Caruso walked out of her job at Shaws Jewelers in Eastpoint Mall and for all intents and purposes, seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.
At the time of Bernadette's disappearance, she was twenty-three years old with a three year old daughter. Not only was she a loving and devoted mother, she was also the youngest of seven children in a very close knit family, as well as a survivor awaiting a divorce from a very volatile marriage. In the fall of 1986, Bernadette had asked the Baltimore County State's Attorney to open a prior stet case of domestic violence charges against her estranged husband, a former police officer dismissed from the Baltimore County Police Department for brutality. It was not an easy time for Bernadette, but she was happy and positive about leaving a bad marriage and making a better life for herself and her daughter. One week from that fateful September day, Bernadette was set to testify in court regarding said prior domestic charges. Investigative files state co-workers recall her husband calling her on the job numerous times that day and Bernadette saying, "I am going to meet him to see what he wants." Bernadette was never seen or heard from again.
While we understand police investigations take time, we do not purport to understand how two and a half decades can go by with no real investigative efforts taken and no arrests in Bernadette's case. Her husband battered her throughout their marriage, threatened her life in front of numerous witnesses and stood to lose everything as his marriage and career crumbled around him. How is it a person with such propensity for violence can walk free from these crimes for so long? Her husband's measure of brutality was also noted on record with the Baltimore County police department in 1986 and his threats against Bernadette's life were known to many. Yet, in September 2006 during the 20th anniversary of her disappearance, then Baltimore County spokesman Bill Toohey went on record stating, "There was an incident in his past and he "retired" from the police department." Many family, friends and advocates of Bernadette's case believe her case has been "shielded" by the Blue Line of Silent injustice within the BCPD. While none of us are privy to all the details in Bernadette's investigation, many believe her abduction was not a "random" encounter. In addition, we are saddened (as well as angered) that the death of a bright, beautiful, twenty-three year old mother, daughter, sister and friend with everything to live for, could be suppressed under the carpet of injustice for so long.
Throughout the years, there have been many legislative protections put in place regarding this deadly behavior against women, but laws were not in place to protect Bernadette Caruso in 1986. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) recognizing the scourge of domestic violence in this nation. In 2009, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's administration passed new legislation in the fight against domestic violence. After the May 2010 death of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love, Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger gave sweeping interviews and conferences on domestic violence warning signs, imploring friends to intercede on behalf of their battered loved ones. Domestic violence expert Susan Murphy-Milano summed up the issue best when she stated, "We have become numb to a national epidemic where those silenced continue to fill headstones at a death rate far greater than those who have fought and died for our freedom in war."
As of December 2012, there have been 378 no-body trials throughout 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, with a conviction rate of 89%. Since 2010, Baltimore County has successfully prosecuted two no-body murder cases, with the convictions of Dennis Tetso in the death of his thirty-two year old wife Tracey Gardner of Rosedale, MD and Jason Gross, in the death of fifteen year old Rochelle Battle from Essex, MD. Like so many others in absence of the victim's bodies, both of these cases were based largely on circumstantial evidence, tying together compellingly proven cases of guilt with the two defendants. We believe Bernadette Caruso's case also warrants such dedicated efforts. For well over twenty-six years, Bernadette's family has patiently stood by awaiting law enforcement to do the right thing in bringing her killer to justice. For twenty-six + years, this murderer has been free to live his life while Bernadette has now been missing longer than she was alive on this earth. This travesty of inaction has taken an immeasurable toll on her family, and they have all but lost faith in our criminal justice system.
We are deeply concerned about the extremely slow developments of this investigation and are afraid that justice may never be carried out in Bernadette's case. Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger campaigned on a slogan of, "Crusader of Justice" and promised to, "Fight Crime First." He led Baltimore County to believe he cared about putting victims before criminals and getting killers off our streets. In addition, his online biography states he has a reputation as, "an aggressive and tireless advocate for victims of crime." That would include the murder of a devoted, young mother whose life was tragically cut short well over two decades ago. Bernadette's family cannot have closure in her death without an arrest and an attempt at seeking justice.
We are now calling on Attorney Shellenberger to do the right thing on behalf of Bernadette and the Stevenson family. Your Baltimore constituents (as well as the nation at large) urgently appeal for your attention in this matter and ask for delivery of justice through a grand jury hearing on Bernadette's case. Please let this country know that in a county under your leadership, violence and murder of young women WILL NOT BE TOLERATED, under any circumstances.
Bernadette Stevenson Caruso was a real person, not just a statistic of violent crime. When voices become silenced by their killers, victims need the public to rise up and speak for them. WE ARE SPEAKING OUT AND WE DEMAND TO BE HEARD.
We are watching - and waiting - for Baltimore County to do the right thing and bring Bernadette's killer to justice.
UPDATE ---- While we continue to search for answers in Bernadette's case, our sonar water search has been delayed for an undetermined amount of time. (most likely spring/summer 2014) It appears as though the two dive teams who promised their support last fall has fallen by the wayside and we were stymied in our attempts to get our effort underway this summer. I can only imagine this is due to the politics of bullshit which has kept Bernadette's case cold and without justice for nearly 27 years. Getting authorities to do anything on her case over the years has always been an uphill battle, but we are not giving up. In the up-coming months, we will check into permits and licensing to see about getting an out-of-state private search team to help with our endeavor. For those of you who have donated to Bernadette's case, kept her family in your thoughts and prayers, signed her petition and shared her story to the masses, we love and appreciate every one of you so much. Please continue to do so, check back periodically for updates and know that we have not given up our search for truth & justice in Bernadette's case.
In the meantime, we ask that you please spread the word for everyone to join us as we rally for change in the way our Maryland police and politicians handle missing persons cases. There are many, many families just like Bernadette's who wait for years and decades on end for answers and justice in their loved ones cases, while killers walk among us who are getting away with murder. This is a travesty and needs to change - NOW. If you know anyone in the Maryland area who has a missing loved one, please share our message and ask that they come out and join us on September 27th as we demand accountability and justice for our missing loved ones.
And please continue to keep families of the missing everywhere in your prayers. t/y
PLEASE REPOST & SAVE THE DATE TO COME RALLY WITH US FOR CHANGE ***
MARYLAND'S CALL TO ACTION: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2013, 9-5 P.M.
This September 27, 2013 will bring about change in how Maryland looks at its Missing and Unidentified Adults and Children Crisis. Yes folks, this has been a CRISIS for far too long! "We, the People", are putting in Full Force that day in our relentless pursuit of truth and justice. The Bernadette Stevenson Caruso United Voices Movement Campaign for The Missing and Unidentified - together, with other families of Maryland Missing Persons, will gather to support one cause - JUSTICE for our missing loved ones - one case at a time!
We, the family and friends of Bernadette Stevenson Caruso, missing from Dundalk, Maryland since September 27, 1986, are asking the Maryland States Attorney to present Bernadette's case facts to a Grand Jury! We need your support as a Maryland resident! You vote for your Politicians and Representatives, so lets hold them responsible for change in our courts and laws. Its time for them to step up to the plate to keep our love ones safe! Talk is cheap. Walk the walk with us that day to help support us! WE Want Change and WE can make it happen! Bernadette's family has had door after door slammed in their faces for almost 27 years! Bernadette is a VICTIM. This could be your love one tomorrow!
Be the CHANGE that you wish to see in this crazy world! See you on Friday, Sept 27, 2013 at 401 Bosley Avenue, Towson, MD 21204, between 9:00 - 5:00 p.m. We will be at Patriot Circle, located in back of the States Attorney/Circuit Court building.
All Domestic Violence groups, Victim Advocacy groups, Missing Person Groups, School groups, etc and all News, Radio and TV personnel are invited to attend and cover this event. Come out and meet the people that will make a difference in how Maryland handles their Missing and Unidentified Person cases in the future! Thank you! ~Susan Bowerman~ I can be reached at Bowermans06@frontier.com. Sister of Bernadette Stevenson Caruso, missing from Baltimore, MD since September 27, 1986.
PLEASE SAVE THE DATE - YOUR SUPPORT & ATTENDANCE MEANS EVERYTHING TO US!
Bernadette's video on youtube. Please continue to support us by sharing our mission across social media as much as possible. We are still far from our goal and need everyone's help to return this young mom to her family. t/y
Bernadette Stevenson Caruso, age 23, a loving mother, daughter, sister, co-worker and friend, went missing September 27, 1986, after leaving her shift at Shaw's Jewelry store at Eastpoint Mall in Baltimore, Maryland. Bernadette disappeared along with her vehicle, a 1982 gray/green Chevy Cavalier, tag #FYW 097. It has been said that recovering her car will be the crucial lead in finding out what took this young woman away from her family well over two decades ago.
Some time ago, a tip was called in on Bernadette's case mentioning a body of water in Eastern Baltimore County. This particular area was checked by police and divers when Bernadette first disappeared in the 1980s, but was ruled out when tag numbers of vehicles in the water did not match Bernadette's car. Those vehicles were never recovered. Due to information uncovered in 2008, we believe this area of interest needs to be re-investigated with water sonar; today's technology that may prove beneficial in uncovering clues in Bernadette's disappearance.
Side-scanning sonar, along with ROVs (remote operating vehicles) are underwater inspection and navigation systems that have been used in the water recovery of missing persons cases for years. The acoustic signals create panoramic pictures by reflecting off objects under the water's surface. This technology aids in positive identification of target 'hits', allowing divers to check only relevant objects in water investigations. Assisting divers with exact location of bodies and vehicles, even in the deepest of water, allows for greater response time and better safety conditions for the divers.
In July 2006, divers in Danville, Illinois, were testing out new Humminbird Side Scan Sonar in Kickapoo State Park when they located a vehicle in 50 feet of water, just 100 feet from the road. Inside were the remains of 19 year-old Ryan Katcher, a University of Illinois college sophomore, who had been missing, along with his 1999 black Ford-150 pick-up truck since November 5, 2000. The equipment used in the discovery of Ryan's remains replaced earlier sonar technology that, along with divers, was used in numerous pond searches of this same area, but failed to locate his truck.
I would like to see Maryland purchase this sonar to aid in the recovery of missing persons cases - first and foremost - in a renewed investigation into Bernadette's case. However, our police department has stated their budget cannot afford this equipment. Therefore, I am putting out a call for help to social media. In order to thoroughly check this body of water, divers desperately need this piece of equipment, as well as a crane and the service of a flatbed towing company to remove all vehicles found under this water. After purchasing this sonar and payment to the two companies, any remaining funds will then be turned over to police to go towards the reward fund for anyone with information leading to an arrest in Bernadette's case. Will you please help us? We hope to raise enough donations to complete this water investigation by the 26th anniversary of Bernadette's disappearance in September 2012 and would be extremely grateful to anyone who can assist us.
Bernadette's loved ones are still reeling from her disappearance and have lived a waking nightmare for the past 25 years. Despite their own pain, they have spent over two decades helping other families of the missing with on-going support; providing assistance, resources, charitable donations and love because they know what it's like to walk this long, tragic road. In 2005, they created the Maryland Task Force for the Missing and Unidentified Adults & Children; an organization dedicated to bringing support to Maryland families, awareness and education to the public and assistance to agencies that deal with missing and unidentified persons. They are a warm, loving, beautiful family who deserve answers, and the person or persons responsible for Bernadette's disappearance to be brought to justice.
Please help us show Bernadette and her family that she is not just a cold case file or forgotten statistic. The police have deemed her disappearance as, "suspicious, under foul play circumstances" and she has now been missing longer than she was alive on this earth. She left behind a young daughter who never had the opportunity to know her mother, and family and friends who love and miss her very much. Bernadette deserves the spiritual peace of a final resting place and her loved ones a place to pray. This family desperately needs our help and your contributions would be greatly appreciated. Please help us if you can. Anyone wishing to contribute to Bernadette's fund can do so by this fund raising link, or by sending a check or money order to: Tracey Reitterer, c/o: Northwest Savings Bank, 1101 Maiden Choice Lane, Baltimore, Maryland 21229 and referencing "Bernadette Caruso Fund Raising Effort" in the memo section. Thank you, and blessings to each and every one of you!
Tracey Reitterer Baltimore, Maryland firstname.lastname@example.org "Those we love don't go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near; still loved, still missed and very dear" â™¥
Lets all pull together to collect enough money for the water sonar equipement needed to search for Bernadette, So that we may give closer to her family, as well as other families. One Nation under God, we can do this if we work together!!!