She Was Last Seen

We were watching Denis Villenueve’s Prisoners in our apartment. Someone might have been cutting onions during the scene where Hugh Jackman, the father of a missing daughter tells Detective Loki, played by Jake Gyllenhall, “She’s wondering why I’m not there to rescue her! Do you understand that? Me, not you! Not you! but me! every day!” I felt that.

This subject matter strikes a different chord after fatherhood. I’m admittedly, a pretty emotional person, and bringing children into this awful world has only heightened those feelings.

The movie triggered a hazy memory. I remembered a house I once lived in, and I lived in many, it was one of the better houses I have resided in, located on the corner of 22nd avenue and Parsons Boulevard. It has long since been knocked down and replaced with a larger house that has much less character. I can remember playing on the side of the house with my toys: G. I. Joes and Tonka trucks. I can remember some not so pleasant things as well.

The memory that came to mind during the movie was standing out front, holding my mothers hand while police searched our house and every other house on the block. I always second guess myself, but more times than not I second guess my memory. Did that really happen or did my imaginative mind manufacture it? So I started to dig. When is your earliest memory? Because I was three at the time this devastating, and life shattering tragedy occurred.

A small article was published in the New York Times on July 19th, 1984. It read, “An extensive search was underway yesterday for a 12-year-old Queens girl who disappeared Monday morning after going to a Flushing bank to make a deposit for her parents.

The police said the girl, Antonella Mattina of 144-47 29th Avenue in Flushing, is white, 5 feet tall, weighs 90 pounds and has brown eyes and brown hair. She was wearing blue shorts, a white top with red, white and blue stripes and white tennis shoes.

She was last seen at about 11 am at the Citibank branch in the Linden Vue Shopping Center at Willets Point Boulevard and Parsons Boulevard.”

I can attest that when I was 12 I was all over the neighborhood without my parents having any real idea of where I was or what I was doing. In this sickening world where kidnappings and abductions are occurring more frequently and more brazenly I can’t imagine letting my kids go anywhere alone. I’ve always been an anxious person and now I’m a helicopter parent. It’s heartbreaking to read about the Mattinas, Italian immigrants, who entrusted their daughter with an innocent task that altered their lives forever. How could they have known?

The self-inflicted torture must have gutted them. All those what if’s rattling around your mind. Why didn’t I go with her? Why didn’t I deposit the check myself? How could you not harbor blame? Even if it is not your fault.

The Mattina family took the papers again in ’85 begging for Antonella to be returned. Antonella never came home.

The remains of a 12-year-old girl were found on Thanksgiving in 1987, in a shallow grave, 40 feet off the Taconic State Parkway, in Yorktown, northern Westchester County. The girl was identified as Antonella Mattina according to Detective McConville, a spokesman for the NYPD. Her identity was confirmed by the braces on her teeth. She had been decapitated.

I’m sure no amount of time has eased their grief.

It is alleged by authors Kevin F. McMurray and David Paul, in their book “Unearthing a Serial Killer” that Alex Mengel, a Guyanese immigrant, who killed a Westchester police officer during a traffic stop on the Saw Mill Parkway on February 24, 1985, is responsible for Antonella’s disappearance and Murder. Mengel’s brother, Gustav, a registered sex offender residing in Florida, had owned a home a few blocks away from the Linden Vue Shopping center where she was abducted.

Mengel was arrested in Toronto after crashing during a car chase with police. He was driving a white Toyota that belonged to a woman he had carjacked and kidnapped in Dobbs Ferry. Police found her scalp in the backseat of the car. Her body would later be found in March 1985, in East Durham, Upstate New York.

Mengel’s own car was discovered in The Bronx, inside his wallet were pictures of five teenage girls.

There was no confession about Antonella from Mengel, or any other murders he may have committed, because during transport to Westchester County Jail he attacked the officer seated next to him, by biting the officer’s neck. The officer driving the unmarked car, shot and killed Mengel.

Is it likely Alex Mengel was responsible for poor Antonella’s fate? He certainly seems capable based on his behavior. The authors raise a valid question. Who are the pictures in his wallet of and what happened to those girls?

It’s estimated that between 25 and 50 serial killers are active in the US each year and apparently on average, you will walk past 36 murderers in your lifetime. And one potentially stalked a shopping center where my mother brought me to buy me G. I. Joes.

I can’t imagine the heartache and the void in the Mattinas lives after this nightmare. I would think the upcoming holiday is not an easy one for them to celebrate, but their story and others like theirs should make you thankful that the ones you love more than anything have not been taken from you. Now go check on your kids.

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