Hoping for closure, family of missing woman continues search
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 11:50

Caruso vanished from Eastpoint Mall in 1986

by Nicole Rodman

    At 23, Bernadette Stevenson Caruso was getting her life back together after separating from her husband when she disappeared on Sept. 27, 1986.
    Caruso was last seen leaving her job at Shaw’s Jewelers in Eastpoint Mall at around 5:05 p.m. that day.
    Along with her car, a gray/green 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier with Maryland license tags numbered FYW-097, Caruso disappeared and was never seen or heard from again.

    According to coworkers, Caruso mentioned that she had received a call from her estranged husband, Paul Michael Caruso. She made plans to go speak with him briefly before later meeting up with a friend.
    Caruso would never make it to that friend’s house.
    According to Jill Kelley, Caruso’s friend and coworker, the two had made plans to go out, but Caruso never showed up.
    It was not until the next day that her family began to realize something was wrong.
    When Caruso’s husband showed up at her house to drop off their 3-year-old daughter, Nicole, she did not answer the door.
    After calling the police, family and friends began searching for signs of Caruso or her car.
    She was never found.
    Caruso’s case bears some similarities to the September 1989 murder of Holabird Avenue resident Teresa “Terry” Ann Schmansky.
    Also the victim of alleged domestic abuse, she was found murdered in her apartment on Sept. 23, 1989. Her murder remains unsolved.
    Since the day of Caruso’s disappearance nearly 26 years ago, her family has not given up the hope of finding out what happened that night.
    “We will never give up hope,” Susan Bowerman, Caruso’s sister, told The Eagle last September, noting, “I only pray that our mother gets some kind of closure one day soon.”
    In the more than two decades since Caruso’s disappearance, her daughter has had to grow up without a mother, never knowing what happened to her.
    Caruso’s sister, Bowerman, has become an advocate for the missing, working with the Maryland Task Force for Missing and Unidentified Adults and Children.
    For her entire family, the search for clues in Caruso’s disappearance continues, though leads are few.
    For Tracey Reitterer, a volunteer advocate with the Maryland Missing Persons Network, helping  the Caruso family find closure has been a labor of love.
    For months, Reitterer has been working to raise money for a new type of sonar device that could help searchers find Caruso’s car.
    According to Reitterer, a 2008 tip mentioned that Caruso’s car may have been dumped in a body of water in eastern Baltimore County.
    Though the site was searched by police divers at the time of Caruso’s disappearance, her car was never recovered.
    Based on the new information, and advances in technology, Caruso’s family believes the case bears reexamination.
    To that end, they are raising money to purchase a state-of-the-art side-scanning sonar.
    With this special type of sonar, acoustic signals create a panoramic picture by bouncing off objects underwater.
    This new technology is not only better at finding things underwater, it is safer for the divers as well. It has been used successfully for years.
    In 2006, divers in Danville, Ill., were practicing with the sonar when they recovered a car containing the body of 19-year-old missing student Ryan Katcher.
    The equipment detected the car after other traditional methods failed to uncover the vehicle.
    Though Baltimore County police have indicated that they cannot afford the $26,000 piece of equipment, Reitterer, on behalf of the Caruso family, has spent months trying to raise the necessary funds to purchase the sonar.
    Speaking of her dedication to the cause, Reitterer noted, “I cannot comprehend the pain this family has endured for the past two-plus decades, but I believe we are all in this world to make a difference to one another .... I will do everything in my power to help this family find answers and resolution to Bernadette’s case.”
    Unfortunately, since Reitterer’s campaign began in June, she has only raised a few hundred dollars toward the $26,000 goal.
    To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/Bring-Bernadette-Home?pc=fb_cr.
    Donations may also be sent, via check or mail order, to Tracey Reitterer, c/o Northwest Savings Bank, 1101 Maiden Choice Lane, Balto., MD 21229. “Bernadette Caruso Fundraising Effort” should be mentioned  in the memo section.
    Tracey Reitterer can be contacted directly at
mdsonarfunds@aol.com.
    For those interested in learning more about the case, visit the website maintained by Caruso’s family at www.bernadettestevensoncaruso.org/index.html.
    Though another year has passed since Bernadette Caruso vanished from the parking lot at Eastpoint Mall, her family and friends hold out hope that, someday, they will be able to learn the truth and find some measure of closure.
    This sentiment is echoed in a poem posted on the Caruso’s family website.
    It reads, “To some you may be forgotten/To others, a part of the past/But to those who love you and lost you/Your memory will always last.”