The search continues
WOODLAND – Another year has come and gone without any clues to solve a mystery than spans over one-half century.
This past Friday (Jan. 11) marked the 56th anniversary of the 1963 disappearance of Phyllis Lorrain Powell. The then five-year-old was playing outside of the family’s home on Ashe Street in Woodland when she vanished.
Despite a massive search on the ground and in the air involving over 200 individuals, there were no clues discovered on the little girl’s whereabouts, other than a set of small footprints found in an area bordered by a thick woods about one mile from where she went missing.
Each Jan. 11, the Powell family gathers at a small memorial erected in Phyllis’s memory in Woodland. That day brings back painful memories.
“The first couple of weeks every January are always the hardest to get through emotionally,” said William “Buddy” Powell, the brother of Phyllis. “All we can do as a family is look to hills, which cometh our help. Knowing that our help comes from God above through Jesus Christ does help to make things a bit easier to deal with.
“All we’re seeking is the truth of what happened that day,” he added. “Every one of my mom and dad’s children are still alive and we will never give up the search for our missing sister.”
Joyce Powell Parker, who now resides in Ahoskie, was washing clothes at the home of a Woodland neighbor, Molly Lassiter, when little Phyllis asked her older sibling for permission to go outside and play at around 12 noon that fateful day in the area of NC 35 and Ashe Street.
“The street we lived on back then was where we all knew everyone by their name,” said Parker. “As a matter of fact, everyone living on that street back then was either members of our family or were close friends with our family. Phyllis would have never gotten in a car or went anywhere with a stranger, not unless she was forced to do so.”
Buddy Powell added that there wasn’t much traffic on Ashe Street back in 1963, simply due to the fact there were only two men who lived on that street who owned an automobile.
“Most of the men who lived there would walk to work at the casket companies or the basket mill that operated back then in Woodland and George,” he recalled.
Both siblings stated that despite the passage of over 50 years, they still hear from individuals who feel their pain.
“The Powell-Vinson family would like to thank all of those who keep us in their thoughts and prayers,” Buddy Powell said. “We know you care and we care for you. God bless you all.”
There remains a $10,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Phyllis Powell. That information can be shared anonymously by calling the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office at 252-534-2611. Or you can contact the CUE Center For Missing Persons at (910) 343-1131 or their 24 Hour Line at (910) 232-1687. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
The Powell case has attracted national and international attention over the years.
Betty Brown of Winston-Salem contacted the Powell family about using advanced technology to perform another ground search of the area around where Phyllis went missing.
Six years ago, on the 50th anniversary of Phyllis’s disappearance, Diana Trepkov of Canada, a Certified Forensic Artist through the International Association for Identification, became involved in the case. Based upon recollections by the family (there were no known photos of young Phyllis), Trepkov penned a likeness of Powell at age 5 and then an age progression likeness at age 55. Those two drawings were used on flyers and billboards.
In October of 2013, Community United Effort (CUE) Center for Missing Persons officials met with members of the Powell-Vinson family in Woodland at the Phyllis Powell Memorial Garden to share their memories and bring renewed attention that will hopefully shine new light on this missing person’s cold case. That event was part of the CUE’s annual “On the Road to Remember Tour.”