PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Stephanie Ann Boller was born in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 19, 1971, to Thomas and Robin Boller. Her parents later divorced, and her mother married Curtis Sell.
In early 1977, Stephanie was Robin Sell’s only child, and Stephanie, along with her mother and stepfather, lived on 12th Avenue in Beaver Falls.
Around 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 1977, five-year-old Stephanie left her home and walked up the street to visit a playmate.
When Stephanie arrived, the playmate’s mother, Bertha Washington, refused to let her in because all three of Washington’s children were sick with the flu. Through the window, the young mother watched as Stephanie walked toward home.
Robin Sell was gone between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and when she returned home, she could not find Stephanie.
Thomas Boller, Stephanie’s biological father, said he had not seen his daughter when she vanished.
Police and hundreds of volunteers searched for the girl but did not find her.
Investigators had dozens of false leads and no idea what happened to Stephanie. However, they did know she did not wander off on her own because there were about eight inches of snow on the ground the day she vanished.
The investigation continued, and a $5,000 reward was offered for any information leading to Stephanie’s whereabouts.
For several months, the Sells believed Stephanie was still alive.
“I don’t know. We just don’t think she’s dead,” Sell said in March 1977. “We just figure that someone picked her up – for some reason other than molesting or killing her,” he said.
Here’s what Stephanie’s mother said about her daughter’s disappearance in January 1977:
“God loves her more than anyone else. We know she is in His hands. There is no reason to get hysterical.” It seemed an odd thing to say when your daughter goes missing.
Police had two theories on what happened to Stephanie:
- A transient saw Stephanie while she was walking and kidnapped her. Beaver Falls had several transients residing in its city limits at the time of her disappearance.
- Someone known to Stephanie abducted her, such as a relative or acquaintance.
There was no evidence to prove or disprove either theory. Still, then-Beaver Falls Police Chief Russell F. Chiodo said they “eliminated “every possibility of someone who knows the child, taking her and keeping her.”
Police administered dozens of polygraph tests, but that led nowhere.
Ten months after Stephanie went missing, skeletal remains were found in Brady’s Run Park, about five miles southwest of Stephanie’s home in Beaver Falls. Pathologists confirmed the remains were that of Stephanie Ann Boller.
A 2015 Times Online news article stated Stephanie had been “hit in the head and apparently died from a skull fracture.” Police said Stephanie was killed elsewhere, and her body was dumped in the park.
About three weeks after discovering Stephanie’s remains, another girl disappeared. Beth Barr, 6, vanished from Wilkinsburg, PA, while walking home from school.
Witnesses reported seeing a man carrying a small girl similar to Beth’s description into a dull blue sedan with red-and-white license plates.
In March 1979, a man walking his dog in a wooded area discovered skeletal remains later identified as Beth Barr. She had been stabbed to death. Due to decomposition, the medical examiner never determined if Beth was sexually assaulted. Beth Barr’s case remains unsolved.
Wilkinsburg is only about 50 miles southeast of Beavers Fall and east of Pittsburgh. While these two cases may not be related, I thought Beth’s case was worth mentioning.
Stephanie’s case is still unsolved 43 years later.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
It seems more likely a stranger abducted and killed Stephanie, but I’m not 100% convinced.
Where was Robin Sell between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.? Their whole “I-assumed-she-was-with-the-other” explanation for Stephanie’s whereabouts doesn’t sit well with me. She was five. They should have known her exact whereabouts at all times. I mean, I can understand for an hour or two, but SEVERAL hours? Robin did not report her daughter missing for over SEVEN hours.
That means Robin reported Stephanie missing sometime around 8 p.m. So, if Robin was home by 7, and no one was home, where was Curtis? And what was he doing between the hours of 3 p.m and 8 p.m.? Did Stephanie actually make it home? Maybe he became enraged at Stephanie and hit her? What was the relationship like? How was his marriage with Robin?
The case is still unsolved, so how come no family members appear to be searching for her killer? In this day and age with social media? Not even her siblings? I found no social media pages on her case. A little strange, to say the least. Police said they eliminated those who knew Stephanie but never said how or why.
I think it’s possible Stephanie’s case is related to Beth’s, but I’m not sure because it is possible Stephanie’s case is closer to home. They are similar though. Both girls were around the same age and walking alone when they disappeared. Additionally, the bodies were dumped in remote areas and not found for several months. I mentioned it because Beth disappeared the same year and shortly after Stephanie’s body was found. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but maybe it isn’t.
The Beth Barr article I linked to in this post mentioned the murder of an adult female the year before. It appears police thought her murder may have been connected to Beth’s, but I am doubtful. A killer usually has a type, so either an adult female or child, blond or brunette, etc. So, why would one killer commit two murders with victims so far apart in age? Not to say it could not happen, of course; it just normally does not. Regardless, a killer or two has walked free for over 4 decades.
I found Curtis and Robin. They now live in Beaver, PA but at different addresses, so they must not be together anymore. They had two more children after Stephanie’s death – one just a few months after she disappeared.