Soon after Kimberly Mileo disappeared, roses mysteriously began to appear under the windshield wiper of her boyfriend, Dana Hudson's, car.
Hudson, then 24, was the primary suspect in the disappearance of 20-year-old Mileo, who vanished 30 years ago this week.
The rose mimicked one found on the dashboard of her car when it was found in Southern Prince George's County. It had been given to her by Hudson the day before she vanished.
Mileo's body has never been found, despite one of the largest investigations in Prince George's County history. No one has ever been charged in the case, which police call a homicide.
|To catch a killer|
|Anyone with information in the Kimberly Mileo case is asked to call Prince George's County Police Sgt. Rick Fulginiti at 301-772-4925 or Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS (8477).|
She is among 1,400 unsolved murder victims on the books in Prince George's County, one of a handful of cases where no trace of a body is ever found. Mileo's disappearance dominated local headlines in the summer of 1983. It has now faded from the memories of all but her family and a few others. For them, it left a space in their lives that was never filled, and a sense of justice left undone.
"I've had to learn to live all over again," said Mileo's mother, Diane Beck. "I have to believe in karma. It's the only thing I hang on [to]." Beck broke down when she heard the news of her only daughter's disappearance and was unable to even talk with police. Eventually, she moved to California, hoping the distance would help her forget. But that didn't happen, and she returned to Crofton, Md. "She didn't even get a chance to become a woman," Beck said.
Michael Mileo, Kimberly's father, will turn 70 if he lives until August. He is suffering from head and neck cancer that has kept him from eating without using a feeding tube for more than three years. The cancer has persisted, and he is undergoing chemotherapy.
"I'm in bad shape," he said. "I just want some closure."
On the morning of June 8, 1983, Kimberly Mileo, just days shy of turning 21, had gone swimming with girlfriends. She then spent much of the day with her boyfriend, Hudson.
She was a diminutive woman -- less than 5 feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds. After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro, she took a job at Bloomingdale's at White Flint Mall in Montgomery County.
When she didn't return home the next morning after swimming, Mileo's father called Hudson, who said she had left his family's home in Croom about 2:30 a.m.
Two days after the disappearance, as a police investigation began, Mileo's car, a 1972 Chevy Vega, was found by Hudson's brothers locked and abandoned on a secluded stretch of Croom Road, about 12 miles from the Hudson house.
Inside the vehicle, police found a purse, wallet and a yellow flip-flop sandal. They also found the single rose.
Investigators questioned Hudson and his younger brothers for hours. Hudson failed a lie-detector test, and the family hired an attorney. The attorney advised him not to talk further to police.
The disappearance of Mileo triggered a massive search for her body throughout the southern county, which involved hundreds of local volunteers, police officers, divers and a helicopter with heat-sensitive devices.
Months into the investigation, police publicly released an FBI psychological profile, which theorized that the unknown offender may be feeling intense guilt because he did not mean to kill Mileo.
During this time, Hudson began finding a single rose under his windshield wiper at random times.
The Hudson family suspected police officers of a psychological ploy. Hudson's father claimed he was injured in an encounter with police at his business, Penn Dower Petroleum in Upper Marlboro. Both the elder Hudson and the police officer sued, with both cases eventually getting tossed.
Mileo's case simmered for years. A Prince George's County grand jury was convened to look into it in 1997. Witnesses, including Hudson and his family, were interviewed. No charges followed.
Hudson, now 54, lives in Calvert County in a ramshackle one-story home at the end of a dirt road, about 15 miles from where he last saw Mileo. In an interview last week, he said he didn't kill his girlfriend. He said he, too, wants the case solved and noted police now have his DNA after he was convicted of a felony drug charge in 2007. He theorized Mileo was killed by someone who lives near where her car was found.
"I do think about her," Hudson said. "It makes me sad to think that someone's life would be taken by another human being. It's a shame."