Sharon Wright can’t help but live in the past.
Her mind constantly flashes back to the morning of Jan. 7, 1980, when she bickered with her 12-year-old daughter about how the girl would get to school.
Carla Wright asked for a ride. Her mother said no because she was on medication and had to get ready for a doctor’s appointment.
They exchanged words, as mothers and pre-teen girls can.
Carla left their Tacoma house about 8 a.m. and took a shortcut to Gray Junior High School, a trail that wound between rows of houses beside a brush-covered hill.
She never made it to school.
Sharon Wright reported her daughter missing that afternoon when she didn’t come home. Carla’s body was found 12 days later, 100 yards from the trail in Wapato Hills, hidden under a piece of plastic in some brush.
Some boys playing with BB guns in the area found a black bra. Then they spotted Carla’s body.
She’d been raped and strangled.
“I think about it every day of my life,” Sharon Wright, now 75, said tearfully. “She didn’t kiss me goodbye or say she loved me when she left.
“It was the worst mistake I ever made, not taking her to school.”
Carla’s death is still unsolved. Tacoma police have done DNA tests over the years but don’t have a suspect.
Back then, detectives seemed confident they’d figure out who killed the girl. They theorized Carla must have known her killer since it appeared she went with the person willingly.
When the trail went cold, a well-known psychic from New Jersey visited for three days to work with investigators, breathing new life into the case.
Sharon Wright and her husband collected reward money in hopes of bringing in more tips. Detectives issued lie detector tests to several people in the neighborhood, including Carla’s stepfather, but made no arrests.
The lead detective back then called it the department’s “most frustrating unsolved murder case,” according to a News Tribune article.
Sharon Wright moved out of the house she’d lived in with her daughter.
She couldn’t stand looking at the people in the neighborhood, wondering if one of them had stolen her baby girl.
Sharon Wright remains desperate to know who killed her daughter. She can’t bear the burden of guilt for not driving Carla to school.
She thinks about her independent, spirited daughter, who got up at 4 a.m. every day for her paper route. How Carla was generous with her money, often using it to buy candy for neighborhood children at the corner store. How proud she was to make the drill team, and how much she loved riding her motocross bicycle in the hills with her stepdad.
“She was just as sweet as she could be,” Sharon Wright said. “I want to know who did it.”
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653
Anyone with information about suspicious males in that area or info about attempted kidnappings or sex crimes in that area during the late 1970s to early 1980s is asked to call Tacoma police Detective Lindsey Wade at 253-591-5506.