Anna Marie Zirkle didn’t have the easiest childhood in Ashtabula County, Ohio. Her father passed away when she was a young girl and she lived in foster care for quite some time before she was adopted by a family in Saybrook Township, Ohio.
After graduating from high school, Anna moved in with her partner, Derrin D. Williams. The pair shared a home in Warren, Ohio and welcomed two children together. The couple decided to leave Warren to start afresh in a new city, so they packed up their lives and traveled to Columbus, Ohio, about 170 miles away. Williams’s cousin, Troy Austin, moved in with them and their sons.
On February 1, 1997, Williams was back in Warren visiting friends, leaving Austin, 22-year-old Anna Marie Zirkle, and his two toddler sons home in Columbus. Per Austin, Anna told him that she was “tired of everything and that she had to get away.” He claims Anna gave him money to purchase bus tickets for Austin to take the kids to Warren to be with Williams. She was reportedly last seen walking away from her home and Austin later took the kids to meet up with their father.
Anna has never been seen or heard from again.
She wasn’t reported missing until five days later when a neighbor filed a report with the police. When confronted with Austin’s story, Anna’s friends and family told detectives that she would never abandon her children. Foul play is suspected as her identification and personal items—including an uncashed check for $388—was left behind.
In 2011, The Columbus Dispatch reported that a home in the northeastern area of Ohio was searched as police were hoping to find Anna’s remains because they believe she was murdered. “Police now think that she was a victim of foul play and that she might be buried at 4507 Old Plank Rd. in Orwell, in Ashtabula County,” The Columbus Dispatch wrote.
The continued, “The tip about Zirkle’s body possibly being on the property came through the U.S. marshal’s office, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, Columbus police spokesman. More information about how the marshal’s office was involved wasn’t available.”
Anna’s case is unsolved.
Investigators examined the property for two days, but they found nothing. “No remains were found, and no evidence was removed from this site,” said Kathie Justice, of the Columbus Division of Police’s homicide squad.
“It was pretty rough (emotionally) when I first got here,” said LuAnn Zirkle, Anna’s birth mother, according to the Star Beacon. “We want her children to know their mother did not walk away from them.” When police searched the nine-acre wooded area back in 2011, Anna’s children were 16 and 17-years-old.
“These past 14 years have been a roller-coaster of emotions, and it is very hard at times,” LuAnn said. “I have a thing about butterflies; when I see one, I think of Anna.”
At the time of her disappearance, Anna was 5 foot 5 inches tall and weighed 135 pounds. She had black hair and brown eyes. Both of her ears were pierced. She would be 45-years-old today.
Anyone with any information regarding this case is urged to contact the Columbus Police Department at 614-645-4860 or their local authorities.
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