Fraternal twins Patty and Peggy McDaniel were born in Florida on February 6, 1962, to Bob and Joyce McDaniel. They have a younger sister, Paula. Their parents divorced in 1973, and the twins lived with their father in Live Oak, Florida. A registered nurse, Joyce relocated to Linden, New Jersey, in 1975.
The girls moved to New Jersey in 1978 to live with their mother. But Joyce noticed a difference in her daughters.
“I found they didn’t want to go to school,” Joyce said in 1980. “They were secretive and defensive around their elders and always up to some kind of mischief.”
Patty and Peggy became so challenging that Joyce became ill and sent them back to their father in Live Oak.
The Disappearance of Patty and Peggy McDaniel
A few months after the girls returned to Live Oak, Bob called Joyce to tell her that Patty and Peggy, 17, had run away. Before they moved to New Jersey, the twins began dating two black men. Patty was seeing a much older man named Edward John Gross, 36. Peggy was also dating an older man named Nelson George Johnson*, 25. Both men had grown up together in Live Oak but were not friends. Gross once stabbed Johnson in the back and, another time, threatened him with a shotgun.
After the girls ran away, they went to Gross at his apartment in Pompano Beach, 213 NW 12th Ct., where he forced them into sex work.
On September 1, 1979, Joyce received a letter from the girls stating they were in a “lot of trouble” and “in a situation we can’t handle.” They begged their mother to write back “immediately.”
Joyce wrote two letters to the Pompano police that were never answered. She called the shoe store where Peggy worked and the restaurant across the street where Patty was employed. Staff at both places told Joyce that the girls had disappeared without notice or collecting their final paychecks.
On September 13, 1979, Patty reported her sister missing to the Pompano police, saying Peggy had been missing for two days and was last seen with Johnson.
Two days later, on September 15, Gross walked into the police station and said Peggy had returned on the 14th, then both girls left with a “white, hippie type” in a white Chevrolet Vega. Police said nobody canceled the missing person report.
Gross also claimed he met Johnson in Pompano that same day. But detectives said in 1980 that Gross had a poor memory or the meeting with Johnson never occurred.
The Murder of Nelson George Johnson
Johnson lived at 2324 NW 13th Ct. in Fort Lauderdale. His neighbors told the police that Johnson said he was taking the twins to a disco on Saturday, September 15, 1979, and left in his 1973 Oldsmobile.
Four days later, police found Johnson’s body stuffed in the trunk of a car at the Firestone store on State Road 7. He had been dead for four or five days and shot five times with a .22-caliber handgun. Police said Johnson was “dressed to go out on the town.”
Authorities said a briefcase with personal papers and about $1,800 in cash Johnson had with him was also missing.
In October 1979, someone burglarized Bob McDaniel’s Live Oak home, taking only the twins’s clothing and winter garments.
Police believed the twins witnessed Johnson’s murder and may have fled the area out of fear. They theorized the twins broke into Bob’s home because the thief only stole the girls’ belongings, nothing else.
“I’m sure that they saw what happened and I’m sure they’re both alive, somewhere, scared to death,” Sgt. Edward Madge told The Miami Herald staff writer Philip Ward in April 1981. Madge had previously worked with the Lauderhill Police Department but became a patrolman with the Broward Sheriff’s Department at the time of the interview.
Gross left the area after the girls vanished but returned to Live Oak by September 1980. One police officer said he had seen him in April 1981 in Live Oak.
“He plays sometimes in a little disco in Jasper, about 17 miles from here,” said James Dix, a Live Oak patrolman.
At the time, Live Oak police said they had received several reports of the twins in the company of a black man. Yet, further investigation proved futile. Gross died in Tallahassee in 2000 at age 45, leaving behind a wife and daughter. Police never officially named him as a suspect in the twins’ disappearance.
Billy Mansfield Junior
During March and April 1981, authorities removed the skeletons of four women from the property off Central Avenue in Weeki Wachee Acres, owned by the Mansfield family. Two were identified as Elaine Zeigler, 15, of Warren, Ohio, and Sandra Jean Graham, 21, of Tampa. Elaine disappeared on New Year’s Eve, 1979, and Sandra was last seen alive on April 27, 1980, when she left a bar on W. Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa.
Brown and Hernando County, Florida authorities noted a strong resemblance between pictures of the twins and one of the two faces that a forensic anthropologist reconstructed on a skull unearthed from the Mansfield property. Someone who had seen the reconstruction in a local newspaper brought the issue to the police. (Stevens 1982)
Police charged William “Billy” Mansfield, Jr., with first-degree murder in connection with the four deaths. Hernando County Circuit Judge L. R. Huffstetler sentenced him to four life terms in August 1982. A few months before, a California jury convicted Mansfield for the murder of a Watsonville, CA woman, 29-year-old René Saling, and he was sent to Folsom prison in California. At that time, they had still not identified two of the skeletons.
Authorities identified one in July 2022, and it belonged to Theresa Fillingim, 16, who was reported missing on May 16, 1980. They never identified the other one, believed to be under 13. Under hypnosis in California, Mansfield said her name might have been “Anna’ and that she was from Michigan. She remains unidentified. Florida authorities never connected Mansfield to the McDaniel disappearance.
While searching Tampa’s Lake Tarpon Canal Friday for a missing woman named Brenda Starr, last seen in 1995, Sunshine State Sonar found a submerged vehicle, thinking it was Brenda’s 1993 Mazda Protege. Instead, it was an early 1970s Chevy Vega. However, police believe this car is unrelated to the disappearance of Patty and Peggy McDaniel.
Joyce traveled to Florida five times between when the girls vanished and April 1981 and offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to Patty and Peggy. The girls were born with congenital disabilities that affected their learning; Joyce called them “slow learners” with the “minds of 14-year-olds.” She believed they could not have survived without help if they were alive. She never found any trace of her daughters but has always believed her ex-husband knows more than he said.
Bob and his wife, Helen, live in Bushnell, Florida. Joyce is now retired and lives in Florida, as does her daughter Paula McDaniel Hovley.
*Worth noting: Some online sources and Joyce herself on FB states the second black man was Marvin Warren, 19. However, 1979 news articles say it was Johnson, and Joyce mentions Johnson back then. She says Warren is still alive, but as mentioned above, Johnson was murdered. I am confused about this, so I am leaving everything as I have it. So, don’t come after me crying misinformation. If I find more info on Warren, I’ll add it to the article.
Anyone with information on the disappearances of Patty and Peggy McDaniel should contact the Broward Sheriff’s Office or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.
Rodriguez, Nathaniel. “No Human Remains Found in 70s-era Car Located in Tarpon Canal.” WFLA.com. July 23, 2023. https://www.wfla.com/news/pinellas-county/70s-era-car-found-tarpon-canal-during-search-for-missing-woman-group-says/
Stevens, Bill. “Officials Seeking Dental Records to Help Identify Woman’s Body.” Tampa Bay Times. May 27, 1982.
Ward, Philip. “Lost Twins Considered Key to Solving Death.” The Miami Herald. September 9, 1980.
Ward, Philip. “Mother Offers Reward for Clues Leading to Twins.” The Miami Herald. April 12, 1981.