Age-progression image released of Massachusetts teen, missing since 1977, as 60th birthday looms

Credit: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Credit: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

A teen hitchhiking to Cape Cod to meet her family on Martha’s Vineyard would turn 60 years old Sunday, but she still hasn’t been seen since 1977.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has released a new age-progression photo of what Simone Ridinger could look like today.

In 1977 she was a frequent hitchhiker and described by her friends as ‘independent’ and a ‘free spirit’, according to NCMEC. She was last seen at the Hyannis Rotary Club at the airport and never showed up to her family vacation.

Thinking she may have decided to ditch the trip, the family wasn’t worried until they returned home on September 11, 1977, and could find no trace of Simone.

“I think about her a lot. Yeah… She’s still my sister, always will be,” said Betsy Bailey.

The Sherborn Police Department has been re-examining the case and looking into the circumstances surrounding those crucial few days in early September so many years ago.

One new perspective comes from Detective James Godinho, who took over Simone’s case in 2014.

“I decided to read some of the narratives, look at the documents that were in the case file. And honestly, after that review, I had even more questions,” says Godinho. “So I just kind of dove into it.”

On Sept. 2, Simone left her job as a waitress at the Rainbow Restaurant in Natick around 3 p.m. to head to the Cape.

“She hitchhiked everywhere. To and from work, to and from school,” Godinho explains. “However, when she was discussing her plans to hitchhike to Cape Cod with her coworkers and family, there was a little bit of concern – even though the practice was prevalent back then – because of the distance involved. Cape Cod’s probably about 60 to 70 miles from the Framingham [Sherborn] area.”

Godhino said her family blitzed the area when they returned home but could find no sign of her.

Bailey, Simone’s sister, recalled that awful time.

“I remember when my mother called and said, ‘Have you seen her?’” Bailey said.

Not knowing where Simone is has been difficult for Bailey and her family.

“I’ve lost parents. You bury them, you get on. You mourn, you do what you do. When there’s nothing, it’s just a hole,” she said.

It wasn’t until 1986 that a man recalled giving Simone a ride to the Hyannis Airport Rotary Club from Osterville at the request of a state police trooper on Route 128.

There was one more important detail: The man said the girl he picked up was wearing a blue blouse, blue jeans, white sneakers and was carrying a grayish colored duffle bag.

“Part of this investigation has been trying to pull information from people that have never come forward,” Godinho says. “In some aspects that’s been incredibly successful. We were very fortunate in collecting a lot of information about her coworkers.”

As her birthday approaches on Jan. 5, 2020, NCMEC says it has been some time since the last credible lead has come in about the Simone Ridinger case.

In Bailey’s heart, she feels her sister is no longer alive, but she always has hope someone will come forward with answers. Closure can never come too late.

"She isn’t come walking in the door. I know that. But something happened to her, and I’d like to know what, and I think we all deserve to know what,” Bailey said.

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