• The True Crime Edition

The Unsolved Disappearance of Patti Ann Adkins

20 years on, Patti Ann Adkins’ case is no closer to being solved, despite having a suspect.


Patti Adkins via the Union County Sheriff’s Office


Marcia wasn’t waiting for the phone to go to voicemail anymore, she was now incessantly calling Patti’s cell. She hadn’t spoken to her sister for a week, and she should have been home a few hours ago to pick up her daughter.

What came next sounded like a Hollywood movie script, not everyday Ohio.

29-year-old Patti was a single mother who worked at the Honda factory in Marysville. By 2001, she’d worked at the facility for ten years and had made her way up the chain of command and was now a supervisor on the assembly line.

It was ‘shutdown week’ at the plant, which meant that all employees got a week of vacation over the 4th of July holiday. Patti worked hard, and when she told her family that she was planning a trip away with her boyfriend for the week, they were thrilled she was taking some time for herself.

Her boyfriend worked in a different part of the Honda factory, and they’d been seeing each other for around a year. The problem was that her boyfriend was married, but according to Patti, not for much longer.

The disappearance

The plan for their vacation was to drive to Canada in his truck, so after boarding her pets and taking her seven-year-old daughter to her ex’s home, Patti got a lift with a friend into work and clocked onto her nightshift.

She’d called Marcia and left a message on her phone, relaying the plan for the week. She told her sister that her daughter would split her time between the dad’s home and Marcia’s house and that she’d pick her up on Sunday the 8th of July. She reminded Marcia of a lack of cell service but that she’d call when she was able to.

At 19 seconds after midnight, Patti clocked off her shift and left the Honda factory. The idea was for her to jump into the back of her boyfriend’s truck and under the tonneau cover he’d bought especially for the trip, so she wasn’t seen by their colleagues or the friend he was dropping home before their vacation started. The move would have been easy because she had no luggage, as her boyfriend had told her that he’d be buying her new clothes when they got to their destination.

For the next week, no one heard from Patti, as they expected. As Sunday came and still none of Patti’s friends or family had heard from her, they began to worry.

Marcia relentlessly called her sister, and when Patti still didn’t answer, she called Patti’s boyfriend instead. When she reached his business’ office, his wife picked up and Marcia was told that he wasn’t back yet. This was good news to the frantic sister, but the relief was short-lived. She called back a while later to find that the boyfriend had returned, without her sister. He also claimed he had no idea what trip she was talking about, and that he barely knew Patti Adkins.

Something was very wrong, but he was adamant; he hadn’t gone on vacation with her, and she was not his girlfriend. After all, he was married.

He claimed he knew Patti from work, but that was all. Marcia called her other sister, who was at their mother’s house. She told them that something wasn’t right and that Patti was now missing, and she was worried.

By 7pm that Sunday night, a missing person report had been filed by Marcia with the local police. Unable to sleep, the sister began to look into Patti’s disappearance herself.

She called the boyfriend’s wife and told him about the affair he’d been having with her sister. She told her about the gifts Patti would buy for the man, to the point where it had become a tradition for her to pick up a keepsake from wherever she’d gone on vacation.

The wife didn’t believe Marcia and began asking her own questions. After a while, the phone was handed to the woman’s husband, and he continued to speak to the sister. However, Marcia soon realised that while she was trying to get information out of him, he was doing the exact same thing to her. He was working out how much this meddling sister really knew.

The investigation

When police arrived at Patti’s home, they confirmed that nothing was out of place, and there was little to speculate she’d been forced from her residence. She’d caught a ride with her friend and gone to work, as usual, and clocked off of her shift just after midnight. It was what happened after that point that was a mystery. She wouldn’t just leave her daughter and family; that wasn’t Patti.

Detectives spoke to the boyfriend, who let them search his home and business and he appeared helpful, but he continued to deny the relationship. They then interviewed his wife, who was still dubious about the apparent affair her husband had been partaking in. According to her, with work, their side business and looking after their children, he didn’t have the time to have an affair — it just wasn’t possible.

The night that Patti clocked off work, the boyfriend was home by 2.30am, after finishing around midnight, like Patti. He had to take his friend home first, but he’d then spent the rest of the weekend with her and their children and went on a short fishing trip. He didn’t have time for anything else.

However, according to Patti’s friends at work, who knew about the affair, it was more of an emotional relationship. They could talk about anything and for hours, and the connection they had was more than physical. They’d only got together a couple of times during the year they’d been seeing each other, which is how he’d had time to continue the relationship.

Small pieces of the puzzle

Police found a birthday card in the boyfriend’s house. Though he tried to explain to them that it was from colleagues at Honda, it was only signed by Patti. They also found a phone that Marcia told police Patti had bought for the boyfriend.

There was a t-shirt from the Hard Rock Café that Marcia remembered Patti buying for the boyfriend on the sisters’ trip to Florida months earlier.

Physical evidence that he had items from Patti began to bring the relationship to light. This wasn’t a figment of the young woman’s imagination; it was real.

The boyfriend claimed that he and his friend stopped at a fast-food restaurant before he dropped him home that night, but in articles about this case, it’s unclear whether the friend confirmed the stop after the shift. Arriving home two and a half hours after punching out, even to eat, is mainly unaccounted for, though he did give his friend a ride.

Though police now had reason to believe that the boyfriend was lying, there was still one thing unaccounted for that the sisters knew about; Patti had been loaning the boyfriend money.

Over the year they’d been together, Patti had given the man over $90,000. He wanted to buy out his share of the side company he owned, and he’d told Patti that they couldn’t be together until that had happened. Determined to move their relationship along, Patti cashed in stocks, took out a second mortgage on her house, and withdrew $30,000 from her 401k. Her family wasn’t happy that she was now giving her money away to some guy. However, Patti insisted that the boyfriend would pay her back the money over time, and she wasn’t worried about the situation. He also agreed to start paying her the money back two days after returning from their vacation to Canada.

During a sweep of Patti’s home, police found many money bands, so it was no surprise that none of the money could be linked to the boyfriend. She’d only dealt in cash, and the money had never been deposited into his bank accounts.

During a search of the boyfriend’s home, cadaver dogs found a scent on a patch of newly poured cement on the property. The cement was dug up but nothing suspicious was found. However, the mixture was leftovers and was taken from another site. There were no reports that the initial site was ever searched.

Police noticed that the truck had all the parts for the tonneau cover, but the pull-down itself was missing. The cover was found on another of his properties and speaking to one of the men the boyfriend worked with only created more questions in the investigation.

The co-worker told detectives that the boyfriend had the tonneau cover installed on the truck the day Patti went missing on the 29th of June. The cover was in storage again a week later, claiming it was for his fishing trip that weekend. The issue was that the truck was a company vehicle, and the flatbed was a crucial part of the operation; it needed to haul items, so putting a cover on it made it unusable.

A forensic examination of the cover showed pet hairs from Patti’s cats and a small drop of blood. Technology still had a way to go in 2001, and the amount of blood wasn’t enough for a conclusive analysis. If they were going to test the blood, they’d have to use the whole sample, which may not have been enough for a match anyhow. The decision was not to test the blood, and it remains in a cold lab somewhere, waiting for someone to decide to find out the truth.

There are many unanswered questions and floundering leads in this case. The location of the boyfriend during the two and half hours after his shift ended. The boyfriend told Patti not to bring any clothing, and if she was going to buy new clothes there, why wouldn’t there be cell service in a vacation town that has the infrastructure to aid shops?

Simple questions, including why wasn’t the initial building site searched when the dogs found a scent on the cement, are left unanswered. Harder queries, like what happened to Patti’s $90,000 if the money wasn’t deposited into a bank account. But perhaps most importantly, we’re left wondering, who was the boyfriend? Police have declined to mention his name in any interviews, but 20 years later, this may be the piece of information needed to crack the case.

To date, Patti’s body has never been found, and no one has been arrested for her disappearance. Her boyfriend remains the prime suspect, but without solid evidence, he will remain free. Her case is considered cold but active. Patti’s daughter is now 27, and the whole family still wonders what happened to their sister, mother and daughter.

“I have never fully grieved for my sister because the pain is so overwhelming,” said Marcia in an interview with dispatch.com. “You can’t come to terms with it because your mind wants this to be rational. And it isn’t. There is nothing rational about someone just vanishing from this Earth.”

If you have information relating to the disappearance of Patti Adkins, contact the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

Further reading

Adkins was last seen departing her place of work at the Honda of America automotive plant in Marysville, Ohio. She…charleyproject.org The last thing anyone knows for certain about 29-year-old single mom Patti Adkins is that she punched out at…www.dispatch.com