The 1977 disappearance of Rachel Hanna Ziselman

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LOS ANGELES – Pacific Palisades sits north of Santa Monica and south of Malibu. It was here where a little girl vanished without a trace nearly 46 years ago, never to be seen again.

Rachel Hanna Ziselman was born in New York City on September 30, 1965, to actor John Ziselman, known publicly as John Zee, and Rosemarie Ziselman. She and her family had resided in the U.S. Virgin Islands before moving to Pacific Palisades. Her parents later separated, and Rachel lived with her mother on Monument Street. 

On Labor Day, Sept. 5, 1977, Rachel, 11, left home at 3 p.m. to walk two blocks to Hughes Market, 15120 Sunset Blvd., to purchase bread, hot dogs, and cold drinks. She wore a checkered blue, yellow, and pink bikini and a white T-shirt. 

Rachel was last seen at 4 p.m. by a store cashier and a box boy as she finished shopping and a nearby theater owner as she left Hughes Market. A woman driving by the market also saw Rachel carrying a large bag of groceries and offered the girl a ride home, but she declined. Rachel vanished after this last sighting.

When Rachel had not returned home, her mother telephoned Rachel’s friends and searched the neighborhood. Rosemarie Ziselman notified the police at 7:20 p.m., more than three hours after Rache left the store.

About 50 Sierra Madre search & rescue team members looked for her, searching areas from Mandeville Canyon to Las Tunas Canyon, then-Lt. Mike Carpenter said. Authorities were starting to lose hope as it had been more than 40 hours since Rachel vanished. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, “20 policemen, 10 Explorer Scouts, and 20 members of the Citizens Alert” canvassed Rachel’s neighborhood seeking information to no avail.

Police received hundreds of calls saying they thought they had seen Rachel or knew where she might be. The tips led nowhere.

Her mother could think of no reason why her daughter would run away, and there were no issues with her father regarding visitation.

Police administered polygraph tests to Rachel’s parents but said they “gave us nothing.” They did not believe Rachel had run away. Four days after Rachel vanished, police called off the search but continued the investigation. 

Carpenter said: “We’re satisfied that we are not going to find her” in the brush-covered canyons near her home. “We’ve turned every rock over twice out here,” he said. 

However, police conducted another search in late September 1977, focusing on Big Tujunga Canyon, where the remains of Merle “Hondo” Chance, 8, were found on May 26, 1977. Hondo had disappeared on April 10, 1977, after leaving his Venice home on his bicycle.  

The search team failed to find any trace of Rachel.

Around this time, somebody found Rachel’s clothing she wore when she vanished in her bedroom at her mother’s home, which police had thoroughly searched after she disappeared. Rosemarie Ziselman said her daughter might have been wearing other clothing or had come home and changed.

It was an odd statement by Rachel’s mother, given that she told the police the time her daughter left home. That suggests Rosemarie Ziselman was home when her daughter left for the store. It was Labor Day, after all. A newspaper article in October 1977 stated that Rachel was last seen wearing multi-colored shorts and a T-shirt, not a bikini. Current agencies report Rachel wore a bikini and a white T-shirt.

Police then briefly looked at the parents but found nothing to suggest they would harm their daughter. However, they speculated someone known to Rachel had abducted her.

After 1977, news of Rachel’s disappearance faded into oblivion with her, other than a brief mention among other missing children. It’s surprising, considering her father was a working actor. But in 2015, the Palisadian-Post did a series of articles on Rachel’s disappearance. Please see more below in “Thoughts.”

John Zee died on November 26, 2009. During his acting career, he appeared in several movies and television shows in the 70s and 80s, including “Cannonball Run II,” “McCloud,” and “Days of Our Lives.”

It is unclear if Rachel’s mother is still alive. If she is, Rosemarie Ziselman would be in her 90s.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I think Rachel made it home. Something transpired there, and her mother knew what had happened to her.

Witnesses saw Rachel wearing a bikini and a white T-shirt. I am curious about who found the clothing in her bedroom. Rosemarie said Rachel might have returned home that day and changed. If she had, police would have seen the clothes when they thoroughly searched the home shortly after Rachel disappeared. They did not.

So, how did her clothes end up in her bedroom in her mother’s house? I don’t think Rachel’s parents are entirely innocent here.  

Yes, I could be wrong, of course. But the clothing bothers me. Someone would not have found Rachel’s clothes in her bedroom if a stranger had abducted her. 

I keep saying “someone” found her clothes because I do not know if it was Rachel’s mother or someone else. I can only assume it was Rosemarie. 

Regarding the Palasadian-Post articles, I cannot access them without paying. So, my article is from my research. I will not pay for a newspaper that I will use only once. 

A Websleuths user, JusticeWillBeServed, posted some info from those articles. I rarely visit the forum, but I did read Rachel’s entry. Here is some information:

Rachel and her siblings had just returned from their father’s (John) home where they had spent the afternoon swimming. Rachel’s mother (Rosemarie) sent her down to the store. She was last seen walking back with a bag of groceries but never made it home.

Sam (Rachel’s brother) was considering going to the store with her but decided to take a nap instead. Rosemarie woke him up a couple of hours later in terrified state and asked him to go look for her. This was the beginning of the investigation although it took some time for LE to arrive. The searches conducted following her disappearance were vast but no evidence was found.

There were conflicting reports on what Rachel was wearing. Apparently, the bathing suit she was thought to have been wearing was found in her room. She probably just changed before leaving. Everyone in the family (except Sarah, Rachel’s sister who was seven) were given polygraphs.

Sam talks about his parents being investigated as potential suspects in Rachel’s disappearance. Detectives looked for hidden insurance policies, secret lovers, connection to criminals, etc but nothing was found. Sam maintains his innocence as well as his parents and I don’t think they were involved. Although they were separated when Rachel disappeared, they were not divorced. After the disappearance, they remained together for the rest of their lives.

LAPD detective Luis Rivera has been in charge of the case since 2012. There’s a picture of him with Rachel’s case-file and it’s quite large. Despite this, he says they actually have very few leads on what could have happened to her. One witness reported that Rachel was having trouble carrying the grocery bag. The witness said she was about 100 yards away from her home. There were no witnesses to a crime or no evidence that a crime had occurred.

The detective says that Rodney Alcala is a “person of interest” because of the Huntington Beach case and has been for awhile. They would like to interview him about Rachel. They also received information that Alcala may have been in the area during the time period of her disappearance.

I disagree with this user on the family’s responsibility and Rachel’s clothing. I think the family knew more than they said. Just because police found no evidence in the members’ backgrounds does not mean they are innocent. 

Why did Rosemarie wait so long to call the police? Rachel left home at 3 p.m. She was last seen at 4 p.m. Rosemarie called the police at 7:20 p.m. How long does it take to reach friends and search the neighborhood before realizing something is wrong? I’d wager less than three hours, in my opinion.

The clothing was not found until more than three weeks after Rachel disappeared. If that isn’t suspicious, I don’t know is. Again, if she had returned home to change, the police would have found the clothes, and her family would have seen her. After Rachel disappeared, her mother never said the girl had returned home from the store. The police said she vanished while walking home from Hughes Market.

Even though Rachel had only three items to purchase, she likely spent time browsing the store, maybe looking at a few teen magazines. That would explain why she spent about 45 minutes in the store. The walk to Hughes Market would have taken her at most 10 minutes.

There were no witnesses to a crime or no evidence that a crime had occurred. It could have been an accident. 

I don’t know how old Sam Ziselman was in 1977, but why did the police give him a polygraph? Sarah was seven and Rachel 11, so he must’ve been a teenager.

Current reports state that the family passed the polygraph tests, whereas the police in 1977 said they “didn’t give us anything.” I take that as they were inconclusive, but I could be wrong.

I find this family strange. The Websleuths user states that Rachel has a brother and sister, yet no 1977 reports mention them, not even Sam, for taking a polygraph. That could have been the parents doing, I suppose. 

Why aren’t there any articles about Rachel between 1978 (I found one) and 2015? It also takes the family’s participation to keep the case alive, not just the police.

With social media, why doesn’t her family have Rachel’s story on all the channels? I never found any, so it appears she has been forgotten, for the most part.

As far as Rodney Alcala as a suspect goes, I don’t think he killed her. He’s a good suspect, yes, but I’m not convinced. He died in 2021, so if he did kill Rachel, we will never know. Police said in 1977 that they believed Rachel knew her kidnapper, assuming she was abducted.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so I recognized Zee when I saw his picture. I’m not sure he was a well-known character actor, but he had steady work, according to his IMDB entry. I could not find Zee’s obituary, and he is not on He died in 2009. WTH? 

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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