Missing New York Woman Found 42 Years Later

December 18, 2017

A 78-year-old New York woman named Flora Stevens was found 42 years later in a Massachusetts assisted living facility.

In August of 1975, Flora was 36 years old. She was working for $2.25/hour as a chambermaid at one of the most elite hotels in upstate New York, the Concord Resort Hotel. One summer evening, her husband dropped her off for a doctor’s appointment. When he returned to pick her up, she was gone.

Even though many people were elated that she was found alive, there’s still a mystery. Where did she go? What did she do all those years? Was she running from something? Someone?

"To be honest, I don't think she ever really wanted to be found," said Festus Mbuva, a former employee at CareOne assisted living, who helped care for Flora for a decade. "You can tell something happened in her past that she didn't want any part of."

When authorities found Flora in Lowell, Massachusetts, she was diagnosed with dementia and using the last name Harris. Unfortunately, officials have not been able to gather much information regarding her life and the details of what happened between the time she disappeared in 1975 and today.

Law enforcement would periodically review this cold case, but kept running into dead ends. In September, authorities got a tip thanks to a query from a New York State Police investigator who was working on several cold cases.

The investigator found skeletal remains of a woman in Monticello, and believed the general characteristics matched Flora’s. After further investigation, that ended up being a false lead but led the team of investigators to do some cross-checking. The database showed that a “Floral Harris” was using Flora Steven’s social security number and living in Lowell. As it turned out, it was the same person.

Mbuva, who left CareOne in December, said Flora had rarely talked about her husband, Robert Stevens, and her family. However, Mbuva said that at times Flora said that she came from a bad marriage and that he had been abusive towards her. The police have not commented on that claim.

Mbuva was able to provide some tidbits about Flora. She had grown up in Yonkers, worked for the Concord Hotel, used to be a hairstylist, and went to the 1969 Woodstock concert. Mbuva said that Flora’s usual saying was, “none of your business.”

Before detectives sat down with Flora, they were unable to find any living relatives. They were able to offer several photos of her, in which she immediately recognized. She also recognized her husband as well. She also recognized the Concord from a postcard picture.

Robert Stevens died in 1985. The Concord she worked at closed in 1998. The hospital where her husband dropped her off is now abandoned. Administrators at the assisted living facility declined to answer any questions. Further information about this case is still unclear, however, the police are happy to be able to close this missing-person case.

"It's not too often we get to solve a 42-year-old missing-person case," Sheriff Mike Schiff said in a press release. "The main thing is we know Flora is safe."

"Most of the secrets are locked inside of Flora," one of the detectives said. "And I don't think we'll ever get them."

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