Vanished With a Killer: Judith Ann Brown

Judith Ann Brown was nineteen years old when she was last seen on April 6, 1977 with Richard E. Reisenberg, a man housed at Queens’ Creedmoor Psychiatric Center after murdering his wife and young son in 1971.

judith brown 2

At the time of the disappearance Judith lived with an aunt in Queens and received outpatient services at the Hillside Medical Center, which is not far away from Creedmoor. After the pair vanished  Detective Harold Walters described Judith as “a girlfriend” of Riesenberg’s in a newspaper article about lax security at the facility. The nature and duration of the pair’s relationship is unclear but it doesn’t appear that Riesenberg took Judith against her will.

This is one portion of the Creedmoor article with a sketch of Riesenberg. Judith is only mentioned briefly.
There is very little available media coverage about Judith and Riensenberg’s disappearance. Judith was considered an adult and technically able to do as she wished but her companion’s whereabouts should have raised more alarm, given his history and the violent nature of his crimes.

In 1973 Riesenberg was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the slayings.
Early in Riesenberg’s life a mental health provider diagnosed him as having a “schizoid personality with a possible onset of schizophrenic disorder” and by age 15 he had attempted suicide twice. The following clipping gives more insight into his illness.
From The New York Times, Nov. 1, 1977

Judith’s sister Ann was online actively searching for information until around 2014, including participation in missing persons forums, Pinterest, and the website linked in the “Sources & Additional Information” section below.

For several days I mulled around the idea of reaching out to see if she’d be interested in shedding some light on some of my questions. Ultimately I decided to send her a message through her Facebook account, but that message has not received a response.

Judith resided with an aunt in Queens while being treated at Hillside, which based on my research was a mental health center in the late 1970s. Ann’s current residence is in Lebanon, Missouri but I couldn’t determine where Judith’s parents lived in 1977. If her immediate family lived in Missouri, what precipitated Judith’s decision to move across the country to New York? Was she being treated for a mental illness at Hillside? If so, I can’t imagine that it was terribly severe because she retained enough freedom in the community to go back and forth to her appointments alone.

I’m curious about Judith’s relationship with her family and if there was any friction that could have played a role in her disappearance.

It’s possible that Judith left with Riesenberg willingly, possibly looking for a fresh start. I don’t know if completely cutting off contact with her family would be characteristic for the nineteen-year-old, but I didn’t find evidence that anyone suspected foul play in 1977.

Riesenberg’s history of poor coping mechanisms concern me. Actually “poor coping mechanisms” might be an understatement given that he murdered his wife and child in the face of possibly having to care for their medical ailments. Living in  constant fear of being discovered as an escaped psychiatric patient would probably be a huge stressor. This could strain the relationship if the two stayed together, which opens up the possibility that Judith met a fate similar to Diane Riesenberg’s.

However, it’s my hope that Judith, who’d be around age 58, is still alive and well.


Sources & Additional Information:
A Voice for Judith Brown

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