LOWELL, Mass. — Massachusetts teen Judith Chartier and her boyfriend got into an argument at a house party one summer night in 1982.
Chartier, 17, of Chelmsford, drove her boyfriend home the night of June 4 before returning to the party in nearby Billerica. Friends would later tell police that Chartier left for home around 2 a.m. on June 5.
The teen was never seen alive again.
On Tuesday, authorities confirmed that “significant portions” of a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger found in the Concord River near Billerica belong to the car Chartier was driving when she vanished. Divers found human remains near the vehicle the next day, according to Boston 25 News.
“They did recover a variety of human remains,” Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said, according to the station. “In addition to those remains, they were able to find other items, including a few pieces of clothing and a purse or card case that contained a work ID that belonged to Judy Chartier.”
It will take several weeks to confirm whether the remains are those of the missing teen.
A Massachusetts State Police dive team and civilian searchers armed with sonar technology made the discovery, Billerica police officials said. Authorities said the searchers determined the search area through information from a cold case detective who “painstakingly” reviewed and computerized Chartier’s case file.
Authorities are still working to determine if the deceased was the victim of foul play or if she died in an accident.
In a written announcement, Ryan called the discovery a “very significant development” in the long-unsolved case. She said the vehicle was beneath at least 8 feet of water about 50 to 75 yards from the riverbank.
“Sadly, this discovery comes after nearly 40 heartbreaking years of Judith’s friends and family missing her and wondering about what happened that day,” Ryan said. “We are committed to continuing the search for those answers.”
Chartier’s parents did not live to see the day she was found. Her brother, Joe Chartier, told Boston 25 News that he felt a sense of relief upon learning of the discovery.
“When I first learned her car was found, every emotion hit me at the same time,” Chartier said. “I felt like a weight was taken off my shoulders.”
Judy Chartier was one of seven siblings. Like her parents, five of them have died while awaiting word on her fate.
“We have never stopped looking for Judy and will not stop working this case until we find justice for her family,” Chelmsford police Chief James Spinney said on the department’s Facebook page. “If you have information as to her disappearance or may have been at the same party she was at that night, we ask you to reach out to the detective bureau of the Chelmsford Police Department.”
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