|11 year-old Bethany Markowski, pictured with her mother Jonnie Jo Carter|
Bethany Markowski was only 11 years old when she went missing on March 4th, 2001. Bethany’s parents had separated two months before her disappearance, and Bethany and her mother Jonnie Jo Carter had recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Bethany’s father, Larry Markowski, lived in Gleason. In the days before she vanished, Bethany spent several days with her father at his new home. She disappeared on the last day of their visit.
That day, Larry and Bethany planned to meet Bethany’s mother at the Waverly, Tennessee exit off of Interstate 40 so Bethany could return to Nashville with her. On their way there, Larry stopped his car at the Old Hickory Mall in Jackson, Tennessee around 3:30pm. According to Larry, he then took a nap in his car while Bethany went inside the mall to shop. She never returned and has never been seen or heard from again. Larry reportedly alerted authorities that his daughter was missing by 5:15pm.
Investigators immediately looked at surveillance footage from Old Hickory Mall for clues. Bethany was not captured on any of the mall’s cameras and investigators ultimately could not find any evidence that she actually entered the building at all. This made Larry’s story seem quite suspicious, and investigators have repeatedly questioned his version of events. Larry denies being involved in Bethany’s disappearance and detectives are ultimately unable to rule out a stranger abduction. Still, investigators have stated that they have not completely ruled out Larry’s involvement either—they simply do not have enough evidence to charge him with anything at this time.
Bethany’s mother Jonnie strongly suspects that Larry has the answers needed to locate Bethany. Jonnie told reporters that Larry was abusive towards both her and Bethany, and she had finally decided to leave him for good in January 2001. Larry did not take the break-up well and lashed out quite a few times after this. At one point, Larry showed up at Bethany’s new school in Nashville, marched into her classroom and began to drag her out of class. He shoved Bethany’s teacher out of the way and headed towards the hallway. Other teachers who heard Bethany’s cries were able to intervene and get Bethany away from him. Even after this incident, Larry was still granted unsupervised visitation with Bethany.
Early into the search for Bethany, police received a tip that the young girl was seen with an unkempt-looking Caucasian woman who appeared to be in her early 40s. A month later, a woman matching that description apparently tried to enroll Bethany in a school at southeastern Tennessee. A short time after that, a witness spotted Bethany and the woman boarding a Greyhound bus together. Authorities have never been able to track said woman down, but they were able to create a composite sketch of her. Jonnie looked at the sketch, and stated that the woman looks like “a family member, a distant sister-in-law that I wasn’t real close with and I only had met a few times.” This woman’s identity has not been revealed and it is unclear if Bethany and the woman were actually seen together.
Authorities have stated that Larry has not been cooperative with the investigation. He allegedly refuses to speak with detectives. Larry did speak with journalist Brandon Barnett, but he stuck to his original version of events and did not reveal any new details on what might’ve happened to Bethany. However, Brandon was also able to interview a friend of Larry’s—a man referred to by “Harold”. Harold stated that Larry and Bethany visited him at his home in Little Rock, Arkansas the night before Bethany’s disappearance. At some point during the visit, Larry apparently implied to Harold that he intended to flee to Mexico with Bethany. Although Larry obviously did not flee to Mexico himself, Harold’s version of events supports the theory that Larry wanted to keep Bethany away from her mother.
Bethany remains missing today. TBI is currently investigating her case and are asking anybody to with information on her disappearance to come forward. If you have any information that could lead to Bethany’s whereabouts, please contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at (800) TBI-FIND.
List Series: Missing Far From Home
List Series: Missing Far From Home