APD: What Maxine Farrell Knew

While John Lucking and Chuck Miller were struggling with the Joanna Messina murder, a larger problem loomed on the horizon. The first person to notice was Maxine Farrell with the Anchorage Police Department (APD). Farrell was troubled. Deeply troubled.


Walter J. Gilmour

“While all this was taking place, Maxine Farrell of the Anchorage Police Department noticed what looked like a strange, new development. She was used to dancers being reported missing, only to turn up later, but now topless dancers in the Anchorage area seemed to be turning up missing with increasing frequency. And not very many of them were turning up again. The press picked up on the story and headlined the disappearances with some alarm. When some of the “missing” dancers eventually turned up in other cities, however, the newspapers lost interest in the story. Maxine Farrell never lost interest.

“In fact, as 1980 stretched into 1981 and 1982, it was evident to everyone in law enforcement that something was amiss.

“And yet, while Maxine Farrell was the most suspicious, even her suspicions were difficult to document. The lifestyle of these women made it almost impossible to determine if there were a large number of missing dancers. Several factors were important in this.

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“The fact that a prime source of information in these cases was women who worked the streets was the first obstacle. These women have very little trust in the police, which is understandable given the fact that most of the time we’re adversaries. As a result, most were reluctant to talk.

“The second obstacle was the constant movement of these women. In a year’s time, one of these women might work in a club, then out on the street, then in a massage parlor. She might also work the circuit and move city to city; in those days, one of those circuits tracked from Seattle to Anchorage to Honolulu. And after all that upheaval, this same woman might get sick of the routine and quit without giving notice. Later she would be reported missing — but wasn’t missing at all. It was often difficult to determine whether a woman who seemed missing was actually missing.

“A third obstacle was the fact that many of these women used stage names. Investigators would talk to a woman on the street or in a club, who’d tell them she had worked with a woman named ‘Tania’ a few months before — and hadn’t seen her in a while. In checking out the lead, investigators would go to some of the other clubs in the Anchorage area. At ten different clubs, they’d find 15 different ‘Tania’s.’ So which Tania was that, anyway?

Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.


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