There are a number of rumors about Jennifer Joyce “J.J.” Barton. In 1976, the 20-year-old was a high school dropout with a string of prostitution arrests on her record. There was talk that she had stolen from drug dealers in her area of Austin, Texas, and in February of that year, a friend of hers was murdered. Soon after, someone broke into her apartment. Was someone trying to deliver a warning?
We’ll never know because Jennifer disappeared just a few months later.
On May 16, 1976, Jennifer and a friend went to see a movie at the theater. After the movie was over, the two were spotted walking in the area of 11th St. and Waller Street with an unknown male. The very last time anyone saw Jennifer, she was leaving a bar in that same area and getting into a tan or brown van with California license plates. Two men, described as African-American, were inside of the vehicle.
Around that same time, police were also investigating the disappearances of two other women, Debra Stewart and Brenda Moore. Investigators believe that all three of these cases are connected, considering Brenda disappeared a week prior to Jennifer, and days later Brenda’s car was found abandoned at the same place where Debra’s vehicle was later located with the keys still inside. However, there is no concrete evidence that any of these cases are linked.
Brenda Moore, 20
- Last seen by co-workers on March 7, 1976 around 3:15 p.m.
- Car was found by her co-workers on March 12, 1976 in the 1900 block of Coleto St. The keys were left inside the car.
- Moore was married to Willie P. Moore and according to her husband, he and Brenda had been separated for about four months.
- Moore’s husband thinks she skipped town with another man.
- Moore had a new boyfriend who drove a blue Chevy pickup truck.
Jennifer Joyce Barton, 20
- Last seen by a friend on May 16, 1976 getting into a van described as a “Good Times Van”
- Van was tan or brown in color with California license plates
- Witnesses say there were two black males inside
- Barton was a known prostitute and frequented the area near 11th Street at Waller and 7th Street at Congress Avenue
- Rumors indicated Barton had stolen from drug dealers who were never positively identified
- Witnesses also said Barton made comments about going to California
- Investigators made efforts to check in Los Angeles for Barton, but no one ever came up
Debra Kay Stewart, 19
- Last had contact with family May 20, 1976
- Went to work on May 21, 1976 and was not seen after leaving work
- Car was found in the 1800 Block of Ferdinand in East Austin between 8-9 p.m. Her car keys were still in the ignition.
- Two witnesses describe a black male, with a medium stock build getting out of her car.
- He was about 5’9-5’10, 190 lbs.
- He was described as neat looking with short hair wearing a long sleeved button up shirt and dark casual pants
Police spoke to friends and family members of Jennifer who stated that the young woman did make comments suggesting that she wanted to move to Southern California, but when they searched for her in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, they didn’t come up with any leads. Jennifer is considered an endangered missing person and foul play is suspected in her case.
At the time of her disappearance, Jennifer was around 5’7″ tall and approximately 130 pounds. She had light and medium brown hair with brown eyes. She had freckles on her cheeks, a small mole on the top left of her upper lip, and a scar on the calf of her right leg. She was last seen wearing a burgundy bodysuit, blue jeans, and sandals.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Austin Police Department at (512) 974-5210.
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