Since Cynthia Davis Long disappeared in November 1980, four detectives have looked into the case, and all four came to the same conclusion:
Her husband at the time had something to do with it.
Without a body or physical evidence showing that she was murdered, no charges were ever brought. Despite the best efforts of her family to prod investigators and prosecutors, Cindy Long, a 1970 graduate of Lakes High School, remains a missing person.
But the death late last year of that suspected husband, Bobby Long of Graham, brings slight hope. Her two children and four siblings think someone knows more about Cindy’s disappearance than they were willing to offer when Bobby was alive.
“I hope one day there is more to come on this story, that now that he has passed, anyone who knows something about the story can come forward without fear of repercussions from him,” said Cindy’s son, Michael Kennedy.
Pierce County Detective Sgt. Tim Kobel still wants to build a case that Bobby Long murdered his wife and disposed of her body the night of Nov. 18-19, 1980. Like the other detectives, Kobel said the story of the disappearance told by Long has more holes than substance.
“Actually, I don’t see them as inconsistencies,” Kobel said. “I see them as outright lies.”
There are so many, too many to list in a single column. But here are a few:
Bobby Long told Cindy’s family and the sheriff’s department that he had driven her to the Seattle Amtrak station that evening and put her on a train to Texas to visit her mother, who was ailing. Her family, however, knew nothing of a visit, and her mother had asked that no one come at that time.
Neither a letter to her mother sent three weeks before her disappearance nor a postcard the day before mentioned a pending visit. Her family was aware of something else though: that Cindy was unhappy, that Bobby was physically and emotionally abusive, and that she suspected him of having an affair.
Because of that, the only trip Cindy was considering was one to take refuge along with her children in Oklahoma, where a sister lived.
In the days after he said he last saw her – but before the Amtrak train would have reached El Paso – Bobby Long bagged up Cindy’s and the children’s clothing and took it to the workplace of Cindy’s ex-husband, Mel Kennedy. He asked Kennedy to pick up Michael and Christina from school.
Three days later, Bobby Long suggested Mel Kennedy pick up the kids’ beds as well. Later that day, Bobby Long filed a missing person report in which he said he dropped Cindy at the curb of the Seattle station because the children were asleep in the car. Her son, Michael, however, says he made no such trip. The first he and his sister knew their mother had left was when Bobby told them the next morning.
A woman Bobby was having an affair with told investigators that when she met him at a motel the next day, he told her he was “now a single man.” His behavior was so odd that she broke off their relationship and eventually went to the sheriff.
Then came a bizarre event on Dec. 29. Long, who worked for a tree service, climbed a tree in Tacoma’s Wright Park with a sign protesting that the sheriff wasn’t taking his wife’s disappearance seriously. A photograph in The News Tribune showed Long holding a pole from which hung an American flag. The flag was displayed at half-staff.
Six months later when he sought a license to remarry, Bobby Long gave his marital status as “widowed.”
Walt Stout, the detective assigned to the case shortly after Cindy disappeared, told me he suspected Bobby Long from the start.
“Her husband’s behavior after her disappearance was rather bizarre,” Stout wrote in 2002. “I have definite ideas about the case, but with no body (and I feel ‘body’ is the proper word here) and no strong circumstantial evidence, the case did not proceed satisfactorily.”
Despite his suspicions about Bobby Long, fueled in part by a failed lie detector test, Stout didn’t seek a warrant to search the house or the property.
The first time I wrote about Cindy Long was in 2003. When I asked Bobby Long then what happened to his wife, he said: “Somehow, she disappeared between here and there.”
The county detective on the case in 2003 was Mike Portman.
“He was the prime suspect,” he said of Long. Portman gathered all the circumstantial evidence he could and presented it to the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, which declined to file charges.
“We don’t have a body,” Portman said in explanation. “Do I think he did it? Yeah, but we can’t prove it.”
Todd Gabler is a private detective hired by Cindy’s family. When he contacted Bobby to ask if he could use ground-penetrating radar to search the land where the couple lived when she disappeared, Long said: “What’s going to happen to me? I guess if you find something, I’m going to jail.”
That search came up empty.
And now comes Kobel, who works cold cases for the sheriff’s department when he isn’t working current homicides. He too is focusing on Bobby Long.
“Everybody likes the smoking gun; they want the body,” Kobel said. “Many times, there are neither.” Kobel hoped to put together a circumstantial-evidence case and take it again to the county prosecutors.
“He died a little bit quicker than I had hoped,” Kobel said. “I’m afraid the secrets of this case went to the grave with him.” That is, unless someone comes forward.
Said Michael Kennedy: “The ultimate result for my family and myself is to find her remains and have a proper burial.”
Anyone with information that might help solve Cindy Long’s disappearance can call Pierce County Crime Stoppers, 253-591-5959 or 1-800-222-TIPS.Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657