VALLEY GROVE - Julie Wurtzbacher has not seen her father for 30 years, and she wants to find him - dead or alive.
The mysterious case of Leon Moncer began on Feb. 18, 1982 when he went missing from his home at 65746 Indian Run, Bellaire, shortly after finding a note in his mailbox declaring "Leave It Alone, Or You Are Dead."
The sender apparently placed the note, made out of cutout magazine letters, in Moncer's mailbox because it did not carry a postmark.
Irene Zimmerman, Moncer's wife at the time, filed a missing persons report with the Belmont County Sheriff's Department and then began searching for her husband. She found his car two days later nosed into a ditch at the entrance of Anco Mining Road just off Ohio 331 near Bannock. The car was splattered with mud in what appeared to be caused by spinning tires. The keys were in the ignition, the driver's side door was ajar and the dome light remained on but it was very dim.
Inside the car she found Moncer's coat, his cigarettes and lighter and some money.
"It was cold outside and he would not have voluntarily gone without a coat," Zimmerman said. "And he never went anywhere without his cigarettes and lighter."
She said two theories surround the case.
"Either he met with foul play or he was in some kind of trouble and wanted to get lost."
The Moncers were in the process of getting a divorce, according to Zimmerman. She said he drank heavily and had a short temper. He had been known to beat her and to beat a Wheeling woman with whom he was having an extra-marital affair.
"He beat his girlfriend in the face once so badly that she had go the hospital," she said.
Zimmerman said Moncer had become over protective of her and their daughter and was adamant about not allowing their pictures to be taken. He would not permit them to leave the house without him.
On Nov. 16, 1988, a Belmont County Court judge declared Moncer dead at the request of his mother, who had been paying premiums on a small life insurance police since her son went missing. No other insurance policies existed and Julie began receiving Social Security payments after that date.
Passage of time has not eased Wurtzbacher's pain.
"I think about it every day," she said. "Sometimes, I think about it from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed."
Wurtzbacher, now a 33-year-old mother of a 9 year old, seeks answers for herself, her daughter and her grandfather.
"My dad's father went to his grave not knowing what happened to his son," she said. "That haunts me. It also bothers me that I cannot explain things to my daughter. If somebody did something to my dad, I don't need to know who they are but at least they could let me know where he is so he can have a proper burial and he and his dad can rest in peace. If somebody hurt him, they took him away from his granddaughter and me. I feel like we have been robbed."
Wurtzbacher is considering getting a tattoo fashioned after a rare picture of her at 6 months old sitting on her father's lap
"It would make me feel like he is still with me," she said.
While circumstances tend to imply foul play is involved, Wurtzbacher clings to a faint hope that Moncer is still alive.
"Nobody can just vanish from the earth," she said. "Somebody knows something about my dad's disappearance. They have to feel guilty about not coming forward."
Wurtzbacher has asked the Ohio Valley Cold Case Task Force to look into the case. Anyone with information is urged to call the Task Force at 740-359-3599 or anonymously through firstname.lastname@example.org.