Betty Marie Roberts and The Mysterious Stranger

On November 3, 1959 29-year-old Betty Marie Roberts of Charlotte, North Carolina informed her sister Louise that she and photographer Charles Wegman were leaving town together without her two young daughters.

The last words Betty heard from her sister’s angry lips would haunt Louise Doane for the rest of her life. “If you walk out, you’re not my sister. Don’t ever come back.

In 1959 Betty was divorced from George Conrad Atwell, which is why some reports refer to her as Betty Atwell. Their daughters, Della and Nancy were ages four and three.

Betty met Charles through a classified ad he placed earlier in 1959 seeking receptionist-type assistance with his traveling photography business. Louise and Betty both responded to the ad. Louise later described Houston native Charles as “tall and thick, and pleasant-looking, in his late 30s.

The time between the job interview and November 3 wasn’t reported, nor was the precise nature of Betty’s relationship with Charles.

Despite Louise’s warning, Betty left that day. A letter postmarked from Baltimore, Maryland arrived a week later. Betty claimed that she was well and promised to keep in contact; a promise she didn’t honor.

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According to the 1994 article, “Mysterious Stranger Tears Family Apart” when Louise showed Charles’ photo to the FBI an agent told her that they knew the man as Charles Dennison, not Charles Wegman. Agents refused to share any additional information about Charles’ possible criminal history or involvement with their organization.

Betty’s daughters were reared in orphanages and fosters homes and joined the search efforts upon adulthood. This included inquiries into Social Security census, and motor vehicle records. They reached out to every Wegman, Dennison, and Atwell family member in Houston and Baltimore but came up empty-handed.

betty
Image Source: NamUs

Other Demographic Information
Date of Birth: July 16, 1930
Height & Weight: 5’6″/5’7″, 130-140 lbs.
Brown hair and hazel or blue eyes
Betty wore dentures, had the name “Jeff” tattooed on her left forearm, and a scar on her stomach.
(*Note: A post on an Ancestry messageboard claims Betty was married to Martin William Jefferson before George Atwell. This could be the “Jeff” referenced in the tattoo.)

Thoughts
After November 1959 Betty managed to completely fly off the radar, and based on her last conversation with her sister that was the goal.

Because she left voluntarily there was no large-scale police investigation.

When I first learned that she only wrote her family once I thought that something tragic might have happened which prevented her from future contact. Even though Charles’s ad was for an assistant’s position, there are plenty of murderers who used photography as bait to lure unsuspecting victims. (Examples include William Bradford, “The Lonely Hearts Killer,” Joseph Naso, and Rodney Alcala.)

On the other hand, severing all ties with relatives could be part of the plan to shed her old skin.

I was unable to find information about Charles Wegman, but there were two entries in Texas inmate records for Charles C. Dennison. While some of the demographics differ slightly, Charles was a native-born Texan serving time in the late 1940s and early 1950s for burglary and theft. He had served in the Army and/or merchant marines and at one time lived in New York. This individual likely died in 1983 according to Social Security death records.

Although Betty left Charlotte with Charles, there’s no evidence that she remained in his company or that she even planted roots in Maryland. My initial search for unidenitified bodies around the United States matching Betty’s description yielded no results.

If alive, Betty would be 86 years old this year. Perhaps she survived and found the happiness that eluded her in 1959.

Hopefully the people she left behind were able to overcome any pain caused by her disappearance despite the lack of closure in this case.

Additional Sources & Further Reading:
The Charley Project
NamUs
North American Missing Persons Network
Texas Convict and Conduct Records