By James Roth
The Carrollton Leader
July 16, 2010
A 1988 missing persons’ case involving two popular Carrollton girls is drawing new attention because of modern technology.
On March 19, 1988, Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley were two normal girls who attended Newman Smith High School just months away from graduation. However, after that night, the city of Carrollton was changed forever.
That evening, Madison and Smalley traveled to many locations across the Metroplex. According to police, the girls went to the mall, then to a friends party in Arlington and then to a Steak and Ale restaurant in Addison where Smalley worked.
"It is hard to know exactly every spot they stopped at that night. If this were to happen today we would have been able to pin locations using cells phones and other technology," said Sgt. Joel Payne, lead detective on the case. "We talked to people at the party that took place in Arlington and found nothing there."
Payne said that once the girls left the restaurant their whereabouts and location are unknown. He said the next day phone calls were made by both Madison and Smalley’s parents but the police were not notified.
"This was Carrollton in 1988, bad things did not happen in this city," Payne said. "Both girls were very responsible, so the red flags of something horribly wrong did not go off in either household."
The following Monday, Madison’s father went to Newman Smith High School to see if the girls were in school. After talking to a security guard, Madison’s father found out that the girls were not at school and notified the police.
Madison’s car, a 1967 Ford Mustang, was found in the parking lot of the El Fenix restaurant at the intersection of Webb Chapel and Forrest Lane.
According to Payne, in 1988 Forrest Lane was a very popular place for people to drive around and hang out. He said once people became aware of the situation, leads began to come in from everywhere.
"We had all sorts of leads, from psychics calling in to people saying they saw them on a bus in New Mexico," Payne said. "Unfortunately nothing solid came in until that summer."
That summer, an ex-boyfriend of one of the girls admitted to his new girlfriend that he was involved in the disappearance of the girls. According to Payne, that lead was looked into but nothing conclusive was found.
As time went on, the months and years passed and the case became cold. Payne said while leads are continually worked, there is not enough evidence to figure out what actually took place.
Interest in the case was renewed when Carrollton resident Shawn Sutherland wrote the book "This Night Wounds Time: The Mysterious Disappearance of Stacie Madison and Susan Smalley," telling the girls story.
Payne said that the book did not provide any new evidence on that night but it did make him think differently about how the night progressed.
"In talking to the author and looking back over everything I began to make different connections that were not there before," Payne said. "I began to start the whole investigation from scratch. I pulled in some of the original witnesses and began to verify things."
According to Payne, he was amazed at the memory that many people still had of that night.
"The disappearance of these girls is a benchmark for an entire generation of Carrollton residents," Payne said. "People know where they were and what they were doing. They are connected to that moment in time."
Payne said because so many people from Carrollton are connected to that moment in time, the conversation about the girls disappearance has never gone away. He said new forms of communication such as social networking has helped police bring in new witnesses to gather information about the girls.
"Facebook groups are huge," Payne said. "There is a Facebook group about these girls and people post information about them all the time. We are able to contact them and make connections."
Payne said that individuals who were friends with Madison and Smalley are now adults with children who are 17 or 18 years old, and they do not want another incident like this to occur.
"People are coming forward now and talking more openly about details that night," Payne said. "Back in 1988, someone we questioned might not have said something because they did not want there friend to get in trouble with their parents, or get themselves in trouble."
Payne said the culmination of technology and friends of Madison and Smalley now having children of their own are sparking interest in this case once again.
"We have been able to get a better feel for what took place that night because of things like people talking on Facebook," Payne said. "The better the description we get and the more people we talk to only help us."
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Madison and Smalley can contact the Carrollton Police Department at 972-466-3335.