“Two Desperate Housewives” Who Formed the First Support Group in the Country
Lola Linstad and Linda Barker were your typical housewives in 1975 from Washington State. These two women were thrown together by life circumstance and the tragedy of those gone missing and murdered. Lolah’s 19 year old daughter, Vonnie Stuth was abducted and murdered from her home on Thanksgiving, 1974. At the time, Linda Barker Lowrance was a 25 year old mother in need of a babysitter, who procured the day care services of Lola Linsted, 42. In the fall of 1974 a Lola, a woman of quiet demeanor said, “Please forgive my house, my daughter is missing.” This statement changed their respective lives forever…. From that point on, they realized that they just had to form a support and advocacy group for the missing…even of they had no idea how to do it! And… they were “joined at the hip” forever in friendship, advocacy and justice for crime victims.
According to a report by the National Center for Victims of Crime, there were several disappearances of young women and children in the area at the time. Some of those were linked to serial killer Ted Bundy, while others were killed by different serial killers. At that time, well before social media, organizations like the CUE Center for Missing Persons, cell phones or e-mail, a newspaper reporter was able to assist in contacting the families of other missing women. Thus, on February 25, 1975, “Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims “was born with 25 people comprised of 13 families. In November, 2010, the Washington State Herald reported during the 35th anniversary of the organization, that both women were honored by peers including prosecutors, police chiefs, legislators and survivors gathered at their agency’s annual fundraising breakfast.
They learned through trial and error…but most importantly they gave victims a voice, they changed the landscape of Washington State and how crime victims were treated. The current Executive Director is Jenny Wieland-Ward, whose daughter was murdered in 1992. In 2010, “Family and Friends…” assisted 400 new homicide families from all over Washington State.
What Happened to Vonnie?
Reportedly, Vonnie was abducted from her Burien home on Thanksgiving in 1974 and shot twice in the head in a desperate attempt to escape her killer.
Vonnie Stuth was initially thought to be a Bundy victim. Her husband, Todd Stuth attempted to report Vonnie missing almost immediately after she disappeared, only to be rebuffed by a dispatcher citing a 48-hour waiting period which was required by state law.
Six months later, Gary Addison Taylor was determined to be Vonnie’s killer. At 40, he was an escaped Michigan mental patient suspected in the murders of four women, and several sexual assaults in the states of Michigan and Texas, occurring as early as 1957. Taylor’s “resume” also included freeway sniper attacks. He was arrested in Houston. His lengthy confession led authorities to Vonnie’s grave near his newly occupied house in Enumclaw.
As the public outcry over Taylor and Ted Bundy heightened, and the fact that the victims were, in the majority, young college students or middle-class women, the impetus for change was ripe. Washington State reforms included the return of the death penalty and changes in the manner of reporting missing persons.
At this time, Vonnie Stuth’s family, along with Linda Barker Lowrance founded the non-profit “Families and Friends of Missing Persons and Violent Crime Victims” in Seattle, one of the first victim advocate groups in the nation.
For a moving and detailed historical timeline of the evolution of “Friends and Family…” chuck full with public awareness information, victim info, newspaper clippings, detailed captions, photos and touching musical vignettes, view the YouTube video entitled, “Family and Friends Historical Timeline Project 2010.” It’s well worth the 30 minutes…and will touch your heart in new ways!
Former Board Member and Officer of Survivors of Homicide. Inc. (Connecticut) http://www.survivorsofhomicide.com/Website/Home.htm
Donna Gore is a champion of victims rights and justice. She is a survivor of homicide and has turned her personal situations into a positive approach to life by participating in several areas of victim services. www.donnagore.com If you would like to schedule Donna for your next event, contact ImaginePublicity at 843.808.0859 or email: email@example.com
Originally published January 6, 2012