Frances Hayes Groves: The Last Picnic

In 1955 Nebraska-born Frances Blanche Hayes Groves was a divorced mother of age 39 or 40 employed as a domestic for a wealthy Palm Springs, California family. She took the position with her boyfriend Jim Phye, the last person known to have seen her before she vanished after the couple went out for a picnic.

Authorities were never able to compile enough evidence to arrest Phye or anyone else in connection with Frances’ disappearance.

Phye committed suicide in 1996 and while he left behind a suicide note, its full contents were never divulged.

frances groves
Image via Find A Grave

At age 14 Frances married Alva Groves in Colorado and by 1939 they had seven children. (If the dates in Find A Grave are accurate, Alva was about forty years Frances’ senior.)

In 1950 Alva accidentally shot and killed their 18-year-old son Donald, a likely catalyst for the Groves’ separation.

After the divorce Frances left Colorado with Jim Phye and eventually settled down in California. By this time it doesn’t appear that her children were in her custody.

There is very little public verified information to work with in this case, including media accounts of the disappearance. I was unable to pinpoint when Frances actually went missing, when the disappearance was reported to authorities, and by whom that report was created.

Some sources report that Jim moved to Las Vegas after Frances went missing and lived under an alias. While this seems suspicious it doesn’t necessarily indicate guilt. The prevailing theory was that Frances had met with foul play and it’s not unreasonable to believe he fled from public scrutiny.

On the other hand, that sort of attention is justified when two lovers go picnicking and only one returns.

Sources & Additional Reading:
The Charley Project
Find A Grave
NamUS