17-year-old mary Opitz beside the age progression phoito compiled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Credit: SWFL Crime Stoppers

SWFL Crime Stoppers asks for tips near 40th anniversary of teenager’s disappearance

Jan. 16 will mark 40 years since a Lee County teenager went missing after a trip to the Edison Mall with her family.

Mary Opitz, 17, was last seen on Jan. 16, 1981, heading towards the mall parking lot. She was with her mother and brother and told them she was tired and was going to wait in the car for them. An hour later, her family returned to find Mary’s pretzels and packages left on top of the car’s trunk, but no Mary.

The teenager was initially believed to be a runaway, as there was no evidence of a crime in her case. Her family, however, never thought that to be the case.

Roughly a month after Mary went missing, an 18-year-old named Mary Elizabeth Hare, who physically resembled Mary Optiz, disappeared from the same parking lot. Sadly, Mary Hare’s body was found in a field near Alabama Road in Lehigh Acres four months later. To date, there is no concrete evidence to link the two cases together, but there are close similarities between the two incidents.

The biggest difference is that 40 years later, Mary Opitz has never been found. Investigators and family members are hoping for clues four decades later that can lead to answers in Mary’s case. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has compiled an age progression photo of what Mary might look like today.

Anyone with information on the disappearance of Mary Opitz is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477 or submit a tip online at the website or on the P3Tips mobile app. All callers will remain anonymous and will be eligible for a cash reward of up to $3,000.

Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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