Mpls. police renew search for dying woman's daughter last seen in '90

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2012 - 9:53 PM

Minneapolis police hope to satisfy a dying woman's wish to know the truth about her daughter's disappearance in 1990.

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Victoria Jane Owczynsky went missing as a 17-year-old in 1990. The photo on the left is a composite of what she might look like now. On the right, is a photo of how Vicky looked around the time she disappeared.

At age 59 and dying of lung disease, all Larene Johnson wants is to have a proper burial for her daughter Vicky, who disappeared from northeast Minneapolis one summer Sunday morning in 1990 and has never been heard from since.

Victoria Jane Owczynsky, a soon-to-be high school senior at Minneapolis Edison, was living with a girlfriend's family when the missing person report was filed.

"Results have been minimal" from the pursuit of various leads, police said in a statement Friday.

Police Sgt. Stephen McCarty said that some of the impetus for reviving publicity about Owczynsky's disappearance is that her mother is gravely ill. "Wouldn't you like to know if you were in that woman's shoes?" McCarty said.

Moreover, advances in DNA technology give investigators hope in locating Owczynsky, the sergeant said, adding that samples have been taken from both of her parents.

While police even now publicize Owczynsky's case in terms of her being alive -- going so far as distributing a composite sketch of what she might look like as a 39-year-old -- Johnson said she knows better.

"I know if she were alive, she would try to contact one of us in her family," said Johnson, speaking barely above a whisper because of what her illness has done to her vocal cords. "I've got the feeling that she's gone because it's been more than 20 years."

Johnson, who lives about 30 miles north of Brainerd, said what motivates her now is "closure. I want to find her body, bring her home and give her a decent funeral."

About 14 months after Owczynsky was last seen, police suspected the father of the family she was living with, given that he saw her in the home that morning of Aug. 26, 1990.

Two years earlier, he had been ordered out of the house by authorities on accusations that he sexually assaulted his daughters. The man has never been charged, but Johnson said, "I know in my heart it was him."

Police on the case back then said Owczynsky left behind items people normally take along when intending to leave for any length of time: clothing, what little money she had and cigarettes. She agreed that day to meet a friend at a nearby park.

But she never showed up.

John Baade, a police sergeant on the case early on, said, "That's not somebody who elected to be gone. ... Basically, what we're talking about is a potential homicide."

A homicide unit sergeant is leading the renewed investigation, which McCarty said is standard in missing-person cold cases. He declined to talk about any potential suspects.

Anyone with information is being urged to call police at 612-673-3406 or CrimeStoppers (1-800-222-8477), which is offering a reward of up $1,000 for help in solving the case.

Along with the composite image, police Friday also released to news media a photo of Owczynsky from 1990, the same one authorities distributed upon her disappearance.

Owczynsky is described as white. At the time, she was 5 feet tall, 110 pounds, with brown hair, brown eyes and a birthmark under her left eye.

"Vicky was always smiling, happy and adventurous," Johnson said. "She liked to play football with the guys. She'd arm-wrestle her brother."

Long resigned to believing her daughter met a violent end, she said, "I'm still doing the crying. Very hard."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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