In December 1993, Judith Bello of Stanwood, Washington, vanished from her work place – she did not return home or pick up her three-year-old son from day care.
At the time, a massive police search was sparked into finding the 28-year-old mother.
Judith Bello’s car was later found abandoned outside a post office in Stanwood triggering a major crime investigation that would last almost two decades.
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives feared Judith Bello had been the victim of a crime as it was deemed unlikely she would have voluntarily left her son.
Eventually Judith Bello’s profile was added to a deck of cards of unsolved homicides or missing persons.
The mystery stretching over 18 years was finally brought to a close last week when Judith Bello herself called detectives to say she was alive and well and had started a new family in California.
Judith Bello, who was last seen on December 13, 1993, when she suddenly left her work at the National Food Corporation in Silvana, had spotted her profile on the sheriff’s website.
The woman is featured on the eight of hearts in the county’s deck of cold-case playing cards, among seven other people who vanished under suspicious circumstances.
Judith Bello is the first missing person in the 52 cards to be located.
Since receiving last week’s call, detectives worked to confirm her story and verify her identity.
Through multiple interviews with Judith Bello and her family, detectives are confident that she is alive and has three new sons, sheriff’s Chief Kevin Prentiss said.
The investigation revealed that Judith Bello left her family because of marital problems and has escaped the state in August 1994.
It is not known why Judith Bello did not contact her family or the sheriff’s office until now.
“There are a lot of reasons why people go missing, and not all of them are bad,” Kevin Prentiss told HeraldNet.
“Sometimes people just don’t want to be found.”
Detectives have since put Judith Bello in contact with her family, who had helped to confirm her identity.
“Everybody is happy,” her brother Roberto Bello told HeraldNet.
The family had much to celebrate when they gathered for Thanksgiving last week, Robert Bello said.
“We finally found out that she is alive. We also have three (new) nephews,” he added.
Judith Bello explained that she left because of serious problems with her husband and did not reach out to her family because she was scared of her husband and feared that he would cause problems for her siblings, Robert Bello told HeraldNet.
Three months after her disappearance, Judith Bello’s husband left town with their son. Police for years were unable to locate the man.
Robert Bello said the family had not heard from his sister’s son until several years ago, when he called his grandmother in Mexico before she died.
They have remained in contact with their nephew, now 21.
The family is hopeful that they will be physically reunited with Judith Bello soon and several of her brothers are planning to go to Fontana to be with her for Christmas, Robert Bello said.
“I think it gives hope to other people whose loved ones are missing,” Kevin Prentiss said in the HeraldNet report.
Detectives created the deck in 2008 in hopes of generating leads on unsolved homicides and missing-persons cases.
The cards were handed out in jail and prisons with a reward offered for viable tips.