(VitalNews.org) – 15-year-old Susan Robin Bender was last seen alive at the Modesto Greyhound Station in California on April 25, 1986. She has never been found, but authorities believe that they may now have a clue as to where her body was allegedly buried by the prime suspect in the nearly forty-year-old cold case.
Police suspected Raymond Lewis Stafford of being involved in the girl’s disappearance at the time, but no charges were brought against him until August 15, 2023, when he was finally arrested by police in Texas after Modesto detectives secured a warrant for his arrest.
While investigating the girl’s disappearance at the time, detectives found a witness who claimed to see her getting into a green van, apparently without being forced, at the Modesto Greyhound Station. This was the last known sighting of the teen. Police established that Stafford had rented a green van on the day she was seen, and that he was known to the girl as he worked for her mother, Patricia Cupco. Cupco believes that the pair may have established some form of relationship after he telephoned their home and had his call answered by Bender. Stafford appeared on the police’s radar when he was arrested on suspicion of burglary a month after Bender went missing.
Stafford did not make any attempts to lay low after his brush with the law, running for city council less than a year later in Modesto. When questioned about his criminal history, including an arrest for soliciting an undercover police officer, he replied that he had simply been in the wrong place and the wrong time, and that people should focus on catching child sex offenders. He was unsuccessful in his political bid, and in December 1986 he was convicted of setting a business on fire and filing a false police report. He was later put on the sex offenders’ register for abusing a 13-year-old girl while living under the alias of Gregg Tunningley in 1994.
According to court documents, a woman has stated that Stafford told her not long after Bender’s disappearance that he strangled “a female” for up to 45 minutes with either a wire or a cord, and then dumped her body in a camping ground near the Yosemite National Park Big Oak Flat entrance. He has been charged with murder and it is thought to be likely that he will be extradited to California to face trial.
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