Despite mysterious sightings, Highland Park woman still missing after going to store 35 years ago

Family searches for answers in disappearance of Jo Ann Mason

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Derick Hutchinson

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. - Did she walk away from her son and family, or did something more disastrous happen to Jo Ann Mason?

It's been 35 years since the Highland Park woman made a trip to the corner store, never to return.

Mason's family is in desperate need of answers, but her case is so old some of the files are missing. Witnesses and possible suspects have died, but the family is hoping since years have passed, someone with information might have the courage to speak up.

Charlie Mae Mason's voice echoed through her Highland Park neighborhood as she sang Gospel songs, praying for help in finding her daughter.

"We want closure," she said. "We want to know whether she's dead or alive."

"She was a very wonderful person," said Tawanna Mason, Jo Ann's sister. "She would help anybody if she could."

Jo Ann's photos decorate her mother' home. Charlie Mason celebrates her daughter's birthday every year by making a small shrine to her missing child.

Jo Ann was 19 years old on April 25, 1983, when she left her home in the 200 block of Buena Vista Street. She walked to a nearby store at Hamilton and Glendale avenues to buy a few items for herself and her 4-year-old son.

"When it was getting ... kind of dark (I got worried)," Charlie Mason said. "She had been gone longer than she'd go and leave her son, because she was very devoted to her son."

One witness said she saw a man get out of his car and approach Jo Ann near the store.

"They were on Glendale and went out Glendale, and she said she watched them for as far as she could, but then she could no longer see them," Charlie Mason said.

Family members wondered if it could have been an abusive boyfriend from the past, but police never found proof.

For the past couple of decades, Jo Ann's niece, JaQuela, has been going through old papers and notes. She's looking at anything she can get ahold of to try to solve the mystery of her aunt's disappearance.

"I would like to see her come home, but if she's deceased, we still would want to know, where is her body?" she said.

Highland Park police said the case is still open, but there haven't been any arrests or leads.

"Cases from the 1980s sometimes don't survive into today's current technology," said Sarah Krebbs, of the Michigan State Police. "A lot of those cases started off as what we call a paper case. So the law enforcement agency was documenting it without a computer, without a database."

That has made Jo Ann's case difficult to solve, even though there have been some strange reported sightings of her. She was apparently seen at a dentist's office and a nightclub, and there was even a mysterious phone call linked to Jo Ann.

"Sometimes I say, 'Lord, did I do all I knew how to do to help her? Could I have done more?'" Charlie Mason said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.

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