Concord police turn to TV show in 1984 disappearance
ANNMARIE TIMMINS Concord Monitor September 5, 2008
Fifteen-year-old Tippy McBride left her stepsister's Concord apartment to see her boyfriend 24 years ago and never returned. The Concord police believe she was killed in Concord that night, and they think the killer isn't the only one who knows what happened.
But her body's never been found and no one's told the police enough to make an arrest.
So Detective Todd Flanagan said yes when Fox 25's New England's Most Wanted asked if they could feature the McBride case on television. The episode will air tomorrow night at 10, and Flanagan hopes the media attention will generate leads.
"In old cases, a lot of times people think time is against you," said Flanagan. "With a fresh homicide, that is true. But as years go by, what we find in old cases is that people's attitudes have changed."
What that means, Flanagan said, is that teenagers who wouldn't talk to the police 20 years ago have become adults more likely to cooperate. Or friendships have changed and people no longer want to protect a suspect. Or maybe someone in the know has kids now and feels compelled to help a 15-year-old victim.
"I can't underestimate how much value that has," said Flanagan. "I've seen it."
She had been there a few months when she left around 10:30 p.m. on July 13, 1984 to visit her 21-year-old boyfriend. He was working the night shift at Concord Litho on Old Turnpike Road, and McBride was going to see him there, Flanagan said.
Her family never saw her again. And the police have never confirmed whether McBride made it to Concord Litho or made contact with her boyfriend.
McBride's stepsister, Donna Whitcomb, reported McBride missing two days later. Flanagan said Whitcomb likely waited because it wasn't unusual for McBride to take off for a day or so, but when she didn't return home after two, Whitcomb became concerned.
Very quickly into the investigation, the police suspected McBride had been the victim of foul play, Flanagan said. McBride wasn't upset when she left her stepsister's apartment and she didn't take along extra clothes or money, Flanagan said. She didn't pack a bag.
And early leads confirmed the police's suspicions of murder, Flanagan said. He declined to be specific to protect the investigation.
The police have never identified McBride's boyfriend but said he still lives in Concord. Flanagan said the boyfriend was and remains a suspect in the case but has denied any involvement. Flanagan said the man has not been cooperative with investigators.
The boyfriend and McBride had been dating a month or two when McBride vanished, Flanagan said. The police have learned that the couple had recent arguments when McBride went missing.
Flanagan said the police interviewed friends and family when McBride didn't come home. She had been known to visit friends at the jail or prison while they were there serving time. The police talked to those people, too. And they've followed up on reported sightings in Concord, Manchester, Pittsfield and beyond.
They continue to check on all leads that come in. And Flanagan investigates the nearly 20 reports he gets annually of remains found around the country to see if they are McBride's. But Flanagan remains convinced that McBride is here in Concord.
"We have developed information that she never left Concord and may in fact have met with foul play that night," he said.
That's also the conclusion McBride's father, Jack McBride of Pittsfield, came to years ago. Tomorrow night, he'll watch the Fox 25 show with a heavy heart. It's a difficult history to relive, but McBride is afraid of dying before the police find out what happened to his daughter. His wife has already passed away without that closure.
"I'm not a religious person," Jack McBride said yesterday. "The one prayer I say is one for Tippy every night. I still have faith."
Until he stopped driving, McBride had "Tippy" on his license plate. He gave his daughter that nickname just after she was born, he said, but he's never revealed what it means. "A lot of people have asked me, but I've never told," he said.
Flanagan, a 19-year veteran of the Concord force, inherited the McBride case in 2003 after a new lead came in. That tip had the police searching an area for two weeks without finding the girl's remains, he said. Even after all this time, the police are optimistic they can identify McBride if she is found.
Flanagan is also optimistic the case can be solved. He led the investigation into the murder of Yvonne Fine, an elderly woman killed in Concord in 1981. Years later, Flanagan identified the killer and helped get the man convicted. He's seen media attention help other police investigations, and he hopes this case is no exception.
When Flanagan went on television in search of James Hall of Concord, a suspect in his mother's murder, Flanagan hadn't left the studio before a tip came in on Hall's whereabouts. Hall was arrested in Maine and later convicted.
What he needs most is people to come forward - even if they think the police already have their information. No tip is too small in a cold case. "People don't understand that it helps a lot," Flanagan said. "We want people to call."
Parents of Girl Missing 12 Years Want Her Declared Legally Dead Union Leader March 24, 1996
PITTSFIELD (AP) - Jack and Shirley McBride want to declare their daughter legally dead 12 years after she disappeared.
On a summer night in 1984, Shirley ''Tippy'' McBride, then 15, vanished from Concord. No one has heard from her or seen her. Her parents are convinced she's dead.
Over the years, the McBrides offered rewards for any information. They've granted numerous newspaper interviews. And Concord police spent months working on the case.
Jack McBride says he knew Tippy was dead a week after she disappeared.
''From the start, we never expected her to be living,'' he said. ''There's no way that Tippy would ever leave like that. We were best friends, same way with her mother.''
The McBrides, who live in Pittsfield, want to declare her dead so they can stop paying Tippy's life insurance and collect on the policy. To do so, they had to wait seven years after they first approached the Merrimack County Probate Court. The hearing will be held Friday. Jack McBride said it's a hard thing to do and hopes people don't misunderstand it.
''It doesn't sound good,'' he said. ''After six years, I knew something had to be done about the insurance. We went to the probate and they told me we had to wait. You don't like to talk about it, but many missing children had insurance.''
And while McBride is declaring Tippy dead, the family won't have any closure until her body is found.
''We'll never come to a conclusion as long as I live. That'll only be if a body is found,'' he said.
Concord police consider the case open. In the months following the disappearance they worked on it daily. Since then they've followed up every lead, said Lt. Paul Murphy. Just last week, the National Crime Information Center sent the police information on a recently discovered body that might have been her. But the body had a birthmark Tippy didn't.
''Very often there's a detail that doesn't match,'' said Murphy. The case will remain open until the police figure out what happened.
Around 9:30 p.m. on July 13, 1984, Tippy left her sister Donna Whitcomb's apartment in Concord to visit a 21-year-old boyfriend, never to return.
For about two years after her disappearance, leads came in regularly, said Murphy. Police checked with family, friends, shelters and strip joints.
Eventually the tips trickled off. Most people reported missing are found within one to three days, said Murphy. Tippy McBride's is Concord's oldest missing person case.
Tippy started getting into trouble soon after her family moved to Pittsfield from Manchester in 1983. Tippy had difficulty adjusting. She skipped school, got suspended and, according to Concord police, was involved in drugs.
On the weekends, she hitchhiked to Concord to see her stepsister. Tippy moved in with Whitcomb a few months before she disappeared. During that time she hung out with a tough crowd and visited prisoners at the state prison.
Tippy's parents will never stop wondering what happened.
Shortly after his daughter disappeared, Jack McBride put ''Tippy'' on his license plate, something he will keep on his car always.
And in the Manchester City Directory for 1978/1979, the McBrides are living at 168 Merrimack St which is .2 miles from where Laureen Rahn would go missing in 1980.
Now we know downtown Manchester is home to thousands of people but we really don't care for the fact that it was also home to so many missing girls in the early 1980s.