John Majane found, when he traveled on business, that he would flip open phone directories in strange cities and search for his daughter's name. For 10 years, he had hoped to find Carolyn Marie Majane safe in some town, somewhere.
Now Majane, of Bethesda, knows that place does not exist. Police have found his only daughter, missing since Aug. 22, 1975. Four miles from the New Jersey town where the Majanes once lived, at a spot where developers' bulldozers bore into the ground, under three feet of sand, the remains of Carolyn Majane have been uncovered.
The skeleton of the 15-year-old was found Dec. 20 by two boys playing at the development site, a wooded area where teen-agers in quiet Moorestown, N.J., sometimes went after parties.
County police, still working to determine the cause of death, identified the remains four days later by matching dental records.
The Majanes had no doubts when they heard there were braces on the bottom teeth, a puka shell necklace around the neck and clothes that matched the description of what their daughter had been wearing when she left for a party one summer night: a white blouse and corduroy pants.
"It was a small town, the kind of place that seemed to have a protective atmosphere," said Majane, who was an engineer and is now self-employed.
"One wasn't concerned normally about kids . . . and that attitude is what hurt Carolyn. When we went to the police, they basically said, 'How could this happen in our small town? It couldn't. Your daughter is a runaway.' "
"I can see now, talking to police, that the whole attitude about missing children has changed," his wife Elizabeth added later. "Now, the police are very sensitive. They're kind. They are aware of the kind of people who would run away. At the time this happened to us, there was nothing. Nothing."
The Majanes and their children, four boys and Carolyn, had lived in Bethesda for years when a business opportunity arose in Moorestown. The family moved, lived there several months and then, again for business reasons, planned to return to Bethesda by October 1975.
Two months before that departure, Carolyn disappeared. Elizabeth Majane remembers, still with some incredulity, the morning she realized that Carolyn had not come home after a night of partying. "I started calling all her friends. No one had seen her. No one knew where she could be. When I called the police, they didn't want to come. And when they finally did come and I showed them a picture of her, they said: 'She's young and attractive and she's a runaway.' "
"There was nothing at the time to indicate it was anything more than a runaway [case]," Robert Scara, a spokesman for the Burlington County prosecutor's office, said yesterday. "The girl disappeared without being seen by anyone . . . . There weren't any leads to pursue -- or assume anything more."
Police have labeled the case a "suspicious death." They say they have no evidence of how she died.
Carolyn, a blonde-haired, athletic girl who had been a member of swim teams in Moorestown and at Churchill High School in Montgomery County, was seen last at an ice cream store at one end of Main Street in Moorestown.
Elizabeth Majane said she had driven her daughter and son Joey to the store to meet friends about 9:15 p.m. Joey, a year younger than Carolyn, later left with another friend. Carolyn told him she was going to walk to a party a few blocks away and would be home late.
"And after that we just don't know what happened," Elizabeth Majane said.
Elizabeth Majane appeared on a Philadelphia television station to appeal to anyone who might have seen her daughter. Police, who followed routine procedure, listed her child as a missing person after waiting 48 hours. Groups of neighbors searched the area up and down Main Street. John Majane asked for help from the FBI and later from attorneys.
In the end, no one helped, the Majanes said. Their daughter, incredibly and untraceably, was gone.
"You know, when I woke up and she wasn't there, I thought then: She isn't alive," Elizabeth Majane said. "She wasn't the kind of kid who would run away . . . . The first few days, I was out of my mind. I couldn't sleep. And then one day, about a week after she disappeared, I had a dream she came to the foot of my bed. She put her hand on my knee and said: 'It's okay. Don't worry.' "
"I don't think my wife ever believed she was alive," John Majane said. "I didn't know . . . . I would hope. I would travel for business and always check the phone books. You know, she was something special."
Elizabeth Majane said the family, over the years, has never been able to discuss its loss. There have been times of frustration and silent tears. Repeated visits and phone calls were made to the Moorestown and Burlington County police in New Jersey. Two months ago, the Majanes contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington.
Then came the unexpected and, after a decade of uncertainty, the end.
"I guess I should have, but I have no desire for revenge," Elizabeth Majane said. "In some ways, it's just a relief to know."