Susan and Evan aren't the only missing people from Elmore County. Starr Mulder has been missing since June 11, 2016. Hear the never released before details the investigator assigned to her case shared with me and I'll explain the odd connection I noticed to Susan and Evan. Also, you'll hear about a new development in the search for Susan and Evan.
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Welcome to Secrets True Crime. I am your host, Amber Sitton. What is done in darkness will eventually come to light. That is the purpose of this podcast...to shine light on the story of Susan Osborne and her 14 year old son Evan Chartrand. They vanished from their home in the tiny Alabama community of Holtville on Memorial Day in 2017. They haven't been seen or heard from since and their bodies have not been found. This is episode 9 of a serial podcast with each episode building upon the previous. If you have not listened to Episodes 1 through 8, please stop and listen to it first or you probably won’t understand what’s happening in this episode. Listener discretion is advised. This episode does not contain foul language and the subject matter may involve violence, sexual content, murder and adult themes. It’s not suitable for younger listeners. If you know or have known Jerry or knew Susan after she was married to Jerry, I want to hear from you. Someone knows something. Information you may think is small or insignificant could make a difference in this case and you can remain anonymous. firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are going to discuss Jerry Osborne quite a bit in this episode. I want to reiterate that Jerry Osborne has maintained his innocence. To my knowledge, he still claims that Susan and Evan left their home with another man.
Shortly after I began looking into the disappearance of Susan Osborne and Evan Chartrand, I realized they aren’t the only missing people in Elmore County. On my first trip down to the area for interviews back in January, my husband and I spent some time putting up missing person’s fliers for Susan and Evan around the shops and restaurants in the downtown Wetumpka area. My husband went into one of the quaint shops. He asked a clerk in the store if they would be willing to put up the missing persons flier and he was led to the back to speak with the owner of the shop. She was happy to put the flier up for us but she gave my husband a flier in return. She explained that a good friend of hers is also missing. The missing woman’s name is Starr Mulder. Starr has been missing since Saturday, June 11, 2016 but she wasn’t reported missing until 10 or 11 days later on either June 21st or 22nd. She was 52 years old at the time of her disappearance.
I googled her name that day and did a quick scan of the information that was readily available. I saved the flier given to us and have pulled it out numerous times with the intention of researching it a bit more. 2 weeks ago, I did just that. The first search I did led me to the Charley Project website. I read:
Mulder was last seen at her home in Wetumpka, Alabama on June 11, 2016. Someone picked her up, supposedly to take to her to Birmingham, Alabama. She has never been heard from again.
Mulder was living with her ex-husband at the time of her disappearance; he has cooperated with the investigation. Although police can find no evidence of foul play, Mulder's daughter is concerned for her well-being. Her case remains unsolved.
Birmingham? That statement reached out and grabbed me. What are the odds that 2 missing women living just miles apart from each other in Elmore County both disappeared as they were traveling to Birmingham? I had to know more.
The next article I read, written shortly after her disappearance, had a couple quotes from the sheriff’s office and it said there was currently no evidence of foul play and that her ex husband was cooperating. I continued reading other news stories about Starr. Most of them were written soon after her disappearance and I read over and over again that at that time there was no evidence of foul play.
As I worked on this episode, I realized that it will be released just days before the 3rd anniversary of Starr Mulder’s disappearance. I spoke with a friend of Starr’s. She told me she went to high school with Starr but they weren’t really friends back then. She described Starr and beautiful, popular, mature for her age. She said she was always dressed nicely and wanted to leave Elmore County for bigger and better things. And she did leave for many years. She had a daughter and then somehow, later in her life, she ended back in Elmore County. Starr’s friend told me they bumped into each other and were instantly friends. The often met for lunch and chatted about their life. She said Starr had been living with her ex husband for approximately 5 years and was struggling with neuropathy and possibly other health issues. She said Starr had been hospitalized in the weeks preceding her disappearance. She learned about it through Facebook and she reached out to Starr through messenger to see if there was anything she could bring her. Starr requested some fruit and her friend visited her in the hospital the week prior to her disappearance.
I reached out to Investigator Bill Wilson with the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office about this case and I want to share with you the information he provided me to share in the podcast.
Starr was last seen at her Elmore County home in the Redland community. This is approximately 12 miles from the home that Susan Osborne and Evan Chartrand lived in with Jerry Osborne. Investigator Wilson told me Starr lived at the residence with her ex husband and had been living with him for years. He said they lived on opposite ends of the home. Starr had just been released from the hospital where she had been treated for some type of illness. She was still not healthy and had to use a walker to get around. This walker was left behind when Starr disappeared. Her ex husband, who has not been publicly named, says he left their home that morning before 7 am. He told investigators that even though he was gone for a short period of time, Starr was gone when he returned. Her vehicle was left in the carport and appeared to be undisturbed. Investigator Wilson told me that Starr’s ex husband said Starr was convinced she had cancer and wanted to go to Birmingham for more testing and treatment at the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital. He said the doctors that treated Starr during her recent hospitalization found no evidence of cancer but Starr was certain she did have it. Her ex husband indicated to investigators that he’d been trying to get Starr to move out for some time and he felt that everytime he broached the subject, she would become sick again. He was planning to ask her to move out again just before her last hospitalization. Wilson said the ex husband initially claimed he’d left that morning to pick up medication for Starr. He never made it to pick up the medication. He then claimed that he went to get her breakfast and then later changed his story again to say he went to buy her toiletries. He also told investigators he went to pick up a prescription for her but it was never picked up or ever even filled. She was taking a medication that it was necessary for her to take daily. Starr’s ex husband told the investigators that he thought a male friend picked Starr up to drive her to Birmingham to UAB or maybe Starr called a cab. Investigators verified that a cab didn’t pick her up. They also confirmed that she never made it to UAB hospital. Starr’s friend told me that this story confused her. Both she and another female friend of Starr’s had both volunteered and agreed to drive Starr to Birmingham to UAB. Both women were just waiting for Starr to tell them what day she wanted to leave. Investigators searched Starr’s ex husband’s vehicle and found Starr’s rings in the vehicle. Her ex husband claimed they’d been left there by Starr when he picked her up from the hospital from a prior hospitalization. Investigators asked the ex husband about Starr’s finances and he stated he didn’t know anything about her finances. Investigators said that Starr’s employer paid her by putting funds onto a prepaid credit card. They later discovered this card had been used twice by her ex husband. Both uses of Starr’s credit card took place during the time between when she went missing and the time she was reported missing. Both times he used it to buy gas. When they questioned him about this, he said Starr owed him money and had given him the card to use to settle the debt. Investigator Wilson told me there was sixty something dollars on the card. Starr is 5’2” and 120 pounds. Investigator Wilson told me Starr’s ex husband’s drivers license indicates he is 6’ and 250lbs but told me that his would guess he’s closer to 285-300 lbs. Starr was small and her ex husband would be described as a big guy. Investigator Wilson told me there was no evidence of a struggle in the home and it did not appear to have recently been cleaned or tidied.
Investigator Wilson described the neighborhood that Starr lived in as one way in and one way out. He noted that this neighborhood also has a surveillance camera system set up at this single entrance and it videos the entrance to the neighborhood to capture everyone who enters or exits. Investigator Wilson described one major issue with the various stories that Starr’s ex husband told them about where he’d been the morning Starr disappeared. According to the neighborhood surveillance video the investigators obtained, the ex husband’s vehicle never left or entered the neighborhood at the times he had given the investigators. As a matter of fact, the ex husbands vehicle never left the neighborhood all weekend. Investigator Wilson told me he obtained the surveillance video for the dates of June 9th-June 14th. It is believed Starr disappeared on Saturday June 11th. The surveillance video showed her ex husband leaving the neighborhood for work and returning home after work on the Thursday and Friday preceding her disappearance. The video evidence does not show the ex husband leaving the neighborhood again after he returned home from work on Friday afternoon until he left for work the following Monday morning. They also looked to see if Starr’s vehicle left the neighborhood at all during that same time period of June 9th-June 14th and found that it did not leave the neighborhood either.
What happened to Starr? She disappeared just shy of a year prior to Susan and Evan. Based on the information Investigator Wilson gave me, I find it unlikely that she ever willingly left her neighborhood or she and the vehicle she left in would have been seen on the video surveillance from the entrance to the neighborhood. It also seems unlikely to me that she would’ve left without the walker she needed to get around. Regardless of my opinions, the initial news reports stated it was believed she might have left with someone headed towards Birmingham which is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes away. That is what caught my attention. Here is Lieutenant Evans talking about where Jerry told the investigators Susan and Evan were.
TE: He just said she’d gotten into a vehicle with an unknown male uh and left, he believed to the Birmingham area which we couldn’t understand why he assumed she gone to Birmingham but uh
I wonder...did Jerry hear about the Starr’s disappearance? Did he read that her ex husband who was reported to be cooperating, stated she left with a male headed to Birmingham? Could it be that he learned of this story and decided to use it to explain the disappearance of Susan and Evan? While the disappearances of Susan and Evan and Star aren’t related, it’s hard to ignore the similarities in their cases. In both cases they disappeared from their homes. In both cases, the male that also lived in the household stated they left with a man headed to Birmingham. And unfortunately, in both cases, I’m aware of no evidence that any of them have ever been seen again. Are the similarities in story a coincidence or was it intentional on Jerry’s part? We will probably never know the true answer to that question. If you have any information that could help solve the disappearance of Star Mulder, no matter how big or small, please call the Elmore County Sheriffs Office at 334-567-5546.
I was contacted last week by a good friend of Susan’s from Michigan. She gave me permission to share our conversation but she described herself as introverted and asked that I not share her name. I’m going to refer to her as Amy. She sent me the following message:
My name is Amy. I was one of Susie’s close friends here in Michigan before she left for Alabama. We met at work and we clicked right away. We spent almost every day together before her issues with Eric and moving down south to keep Evan close to his dad. We talked almost every day by text until New Years Day 2013. She was talking about some great news she wanted to share with me but she didn’t want to jinx it. I remember she had a court date for the kids earlier in December that year. I had assumed that was the good news. The last message was a simple “Happy New Year.” I kept texting and asking if everything was okay. She would log into Facebook every now and again under her old profile name Susan Chartrand. She was still friends with me on LinkedIn and Twitter, but wouldn’t respond to any of my messages or texts. I had no idea that she had met and according to the timeline on the podcast, had gotten engaged days prior to her last text to me. I had gone back to check the texts from her looking for anything of concern, but she had never mentioned anything regarding Jerry or meeting anyone or dating.
Thank you for taking the time to bring this public. She was a beautiful, strong, classy, smart and funny woman and Evan was the sweetest kid. I really appreciate you and I hope justice comes soon.
We determined from the divorce documents Jerry filed that he and Susan married on January 25, 2014. We know they purchased their marriage license in October of 2013. Hollie told me that Jerry proposed to Susan in front of his entire family at Christmas about a year prior to them getting married so that would have been the Christmas of 2012. It does appear that Susan cut all contact with her friend within a week of her engagement to Jerry.
Amy sent me screenshots of her last texts with Susan. After Susan wished her a happy new year on Jan 1, 2013, her friend sent her a series of messages.
On January 21, 2013 she said Hey how are ya? Haven’t heard from you. What’s up?
On the 22nd, Hey are you okay?
On Feburary 8, 2013, Are you mad at me or something?
On February 23, 2013 Can you please just let me know you guys are alright? You always respond and I haven’t heard from you at all
Amy sent me another message that read:
I was so upset when she wouldn’t respond but now I feel so guilty for being upset. I have tried to contact her throughout the years, that’s how I found out she was missing. I did a search for her shortly after she was reported missing. My heart sank when the police missing persons poster popped up.
I’ve mentioned the word abuse a few times over the course of this podcast. When I planned this episode and even when I was midway through preparing this episode, I had not planned to delve into domestic abuse but I started receiving some messages that struck a nerve for me. A woman messaged me to tell me she finds it interesting that I don’t mention Susan’s intellectual ability. She mentions that Susan has a degree and that I portray her as juvenilely senseless when she was an intelligent and capable woman. She was clearly inferring that Susan is not a victim. I don’t think this woman who is a nurse recognizes that domestic abuse isn’t something that only happens to unintelligent and incapable people. The website domesticshelters.org has an article titled 14 misconceptions about domestic violence. Number 10 on the list of misconceptions is that domestic violence only happens to women who are poor or dependent or uneducated. It quotes Katie Ray-Jones, president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) and the National Dating Abuse Helpline (NDAH) as saying Domestic violence does not discriminate," Ray-Jones says. "At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, we receive over 22,000 calls a month. We hear from every socioeconomic class, every race, every education level, every geographic region. We've had doctors who have called us, women who call us and say they live in mansions and their husbands work on Wall Street and they don't know how to get out because they don't have the financial means to leave and they can't talk about it to anyone because it's the big secret in their social arena. One day we were having high call volume and I hopped on the line and there was a doctoral student calling me, and all she kept saying was, 'How could I be so dumb? I'm working on a Ph.D.' Domestic violence doesn't say, 'OK, you have a Ph.D, I'm not going to touch you.'"
Abuse can come in many different forms. I read a lot about domestic violence and abuse many years ago but I wanted to read up specifically about isolation. After all the research and interviews I’ve conducted into Susan’s relationship with Jerry and her life with him as a whole, there is no doubt in my mind she was a victim of domestic abuse and he kept both her and Evan isolated. I found an article written by Dr. Lisa Aronson Fontes, PHd on the Psychology Today website titled When Relationship Abuse is Hard to Recognize. It reads:
Isolation. Threats. Humiliation. Sometimes even physical abuse. These are the weapons of coercive control, a strategy used by some people against their intimate partners. A relationship that should involve loving support ends up as a trap designed for domination. Although coercive control can show up in a variety of relationships, the most common is one in which a man uses coercive control against his wife or girlfriend.
The article goes on to describe how victims of coercive control feel. It says:
People subject to coercive control grow anxious and afraid. Coercive control strips away their independence, sense of self, and basic rights, such as the right to make decisions about their own time, friends, and appearance.
Many men who use coercive control also abuse partners physically or sexually, but some use coercive control without physical violence. Outsiders may not be able to see the signs of coercive control in a couple; those who use it are often quite charming.
Victims of coercive control often feel like hostages. Over time, being grilled, criticized, stalked, and monitored may seem routine and inescapable. Victims often blame themselves as they feel despairing and disoriented. It’s easy for a person in this position to lose confidence and accept a partner’s view of reality. They may feel confused as they are told again and again that they themselves have triggered their partner’s behaviors by doing something "wrong." At the same time, to keep the peace, victims may suppress their own desires, silence their voices, and detach from loved ones. Unfortunately, victims often do not see the connection between their partner’s control and their own isolation until time has passed. Losing self-confidence and close relationships at the same time can be paralyzing.
These things fit the stories and descriptions of Susan to a T. She cut ties with some friends and family altogether. Others just heard from and saw her much less. Even Hollie worried about Susan when she began to frequently cancel plans at the last minute. Other plans weren’t cancelled but Jerry would insert himself into the plans and if nothing else, insist on driving Susan to and from something such as dinner with Hollie. Evan had friends at school but if he spent time with those friends outside of school hours, no one I’ve spoken to is aware of it. Susan was a person who didn’t really like to wear dresses but she told family that Jerry wanted her to wear dresses and always have her hair, nails and makeup fixed so that’s what she did. According to Hollie, Susan was anxious and afraid. She spoke of having to watch her back and having to be careful because Jerry had a temper.
The article goes on to say:
People who get caught in the web of a controlling person are no different from others. They just have the bad luck to become involved with an abuser at a time when they are especially vulnerable. Typically, an abuser will lavish attention on a woman at the beginning of the relationship. Over time, he becomes jealous, monitors her whereabouts, and restricts her interactions with others. His partner thinks the original “helpful man” is the “real” him, and if she does things right, he’ll go back to being wonderful again. At times he may indeed act loving, if this seems like the best way to maintain his control. Loving acts become another controlling tactic.
Susan was especially vulnerable when she met Jerry. It was just a little over a year earlier that she’d been jobless and struggling financially. After her failed attempt to move home to Michigan with the kids, she’d lost custody of both kids. She did gain back custody of Evan pretty quickly but it wasn’t as easy with her daughter. By the end of 2013, she had joint custody of her but J had primary physical custody. Susan told Hollie that her daughter would cry when she had to leave. Susan was desperate to get primary physical custody of her daughter. She was vulnerable. Custody of her daughter was her weakness and Jerry promised to help her get her daughter back. As we heard in Susan’s own words in her email to Hollie, he even used his offers of help to deceive Susan while he was hours away spending time with other women in strip clubs.
The article ends with the following:
Once a controlling man has caught a woman in his web, he will do everything he can to prolong the relationship. Sometimes he will threaten, stalk, assault, or even murder her if she leaves or he suspects she’s trying to leave. For this reason, even if there is no physical violence it is important for a person who is being controlled to contact a domestic violence agency and devise a safety plan.
Only a couple of decades ago, society named and recognized the problems of sexual harassment, dating violence, marital rape, and stalking. Coercive control needs to be similarly named and recognized, so we can begin to address it. We all need to learn more, so we can offer the right kinds of support and not allow victims to become isolated.
I have zero doubt in my mind that Susan was a victim of domestic abuse. After the messages I received I described earlier, I felt compelled to share more information in this episode. If the descriptions I just read sounds like something you are experiencing, there are many resources available to help. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE
We have reached a point in the story of Susan and Evan’s disappearance and investigation where you will be hearing things almost in real time. The Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin recently told Susan and Evan’s family that this is not a cold case and it is still an active investigation. So much has been happening in the last few weeks. My inbox has been full with people sending me tips and information. It seems more people are becoming aware of this case and that many feel connected and invested in finding out what happened to Susan and Evan. There’s one more development I want to share. Not only has this case caught the attention of the general public but it has grabbed the interest of a private investigator too. He reached out to Hollie, Susan and Evan’s family and to me. I asked him what drew him to this case:
anything to, you know, keep it going, keep the interest though and keep people listening to it. I think, I really think that exposure is going to prove to be a critical thing to this. Um, I do not think
something of this magnitude could be pulled off by a single person. I think there were people helping and that's more people you have involved, the more likely that mistakes were made and other people are aware. So the more people that know about it, know that the cases ongoing that is being investigated, I think the more likely it is that someone comes forward with that critical puzzle piece that puts the whole thing together for us. Um, and for the sheriff's department and everyone involved. So yeah, I think it's a good thing. Anything we or I can do to increase awareness and people paying attention to it, I think it's, it's definitely worth it. Well, I would say that mostly it's an emotional thing. Um, I'll look at a lot of cases.
It's often a mental exercise for me, um, to look at, um, cases similar to this, uh, especially cold cases and, and see where things are and just a mental exercise that I go through frequently.
This case is different because it has grabbed me emotionally. I can, I can empathize with what the family must be feeling, how frustrating, um, and grief stricken they are. And especially after talking to them, I know that that's the case.
And I, I'm, I'm really hit by the fact that they desperately need answers to questions. They need closure. And they want to see justice. Um, and at this point in the game, I don't, I look at things really any problem in life deserves a measured response. You, you don't pour all of your effort into tiny problems. Um, if you do, you wear yourself out. And that's, that's just a life lesson. Um, so depending on the magnitude of the problem, you apply an equal amount of resolve to, to, to get to a resolution. And I look at this case and where we are in time and, and, and it needs more attention. It needs more effort. Um, and fresh ideas, fresh perspective.
Um, I don't think I'm, um,
did I bring anything, uh, any kind of super power to it. Um, but for me, that measured response to something like this is more than, um, so-called Facebook activism.
For me, the way that this case has grabbed me, um, emotionally. Um, and,
I, I can't sit still and just watch it. I'm not that kind of person. Um, my brain doesn't work that way and I don't, I don't feel a sense of involvement unless I am very close to it. And very involved, um, and putting whatever time and resources I have available, um, in into trying to, to find an answer and
I mean, I, I'm not related to the family. I don't, I don't know the family other than having contact with them on this case. But, um, I on a, on a personal level, I, I just cannot let it keep going without knowing that people were looking at it. People are talking about it, people are aware of what's going on with it. Um, and the, the people that have the time and the resources are putting something into getting this family answers.
And I want to be one of those people. Um,
I want to help them find the, the answers they need and the closure they deserve and ultimately the justice that Susan and Evan deserve.
And there's a measure of anger, uh, involved in it. I live in the county.
I grew up in the area and knowing that, that someone out there had a hand in this and they, they have not answered for what they did. Um, it genuinely angers me and, and motivates me to do whatever I can to, to defend Susan and Evan, defend the family.
And help them get the answers they deserve.
Thank you for listening to Secrets True Crime. If you have any information that could help in solving the disappearance of Susan Osborne and Evan Chartrand, please call the Elmore County Sheriffs Office at 334-567-5546. You may also email me at email@example.com. I want to say thank you to those who have contacted me with information and those who’ve reached out to encourage me. Each of you has provided a tremendous amount of help and you are making a difference in this case. Not only am I appreciative but Susan and Evan’s families are so thankful as well. To those of you listening that have information and fear or something else is keeping you from reaching out, please just do it. Many like you already have and any information they’ve requested be kept private is and will continue to be kept that way. If you are enjoying this podcast, please let us know by giving us a 5-star rating and review in Apple Podcasts. I’m active on social media and often share photos of Susan and Evan. Follow Secrets True Crime on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. @secretscrime.