JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ind. – A court has declared missing college student Molly Dattilo dead more than 13 years after her disappearance.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Darrell Auxier signed the order Wednesday saying Dattilo was presumed dead on July 6, 2004—the date of her disappearance.
“We presume that she is dead at this point. So I do not feel that it is a way of giving up. Just because someone is legally dead does not mean that you will ever stop searching for them,” said Molly’s sister Celestra Dewey.
Dattilo was an Eastern Kentucky University student who was taking summer classes at IUPUI. The 23-year-old was last seen at the Westlake Apartments, where she was living.
Her family didn’t hear from her for several days, which was unlike Dattilo, who was usually in constant contact with family members. Weeks passed and there were no signs of Dattilo, whose remains have never been found.
Police traced a phone call Dattilo made to a friend around 11 p.m. on the day of her disappearance. She’d made the call from a pay phone at a gas station on Crawfordsville Road.
Investigators discovered that Dattilo was with John E. Shelton on that day; his brother was a maintenance worker at her apartment complex. Dattilo left behind her cell phone, clothes, ID, and ATM card, among other items.
“Do you think John Shelton is the one that killed your sister? At this point we do. We have no evidence to the contrary.All evidence points to him,” said Dewey.
No criminal charges were ever filed in the case, although her family believes Shelton and his father, Edward Shelton—were responsible for it. The family won a $3.5 million civil lawsuit in the case.
Her family has worked tirelessly over the past decade to find answers and posted flyers about her disappearance.
Her disappearance and absence for the last 13 years “cannot be explained other than that she is deceased,” the court order said.
Her mother, eight siblings and a guardian signed letters of consent regarding the court’s determination.