This Article Appeared in the Maimi Herald in June 2009 She was probably of Gerard Schaefer’s Many Victims

This article appeared in the Maimi Herald in June of this year. Peggy Rahn along with Wendy Stevenson dissappeared from Pompano Beach in 1969- Since that time it is believed that Gerard Schaefer probably took them. He knew the area he was from the area and he had just started on his path of death and destruction. Both Girls have their own chapter in my True Crime Book Silent Scream. Some body saw something that day at the beach. Someone knows something. If you do please come forward. You don’t even have to leave your name. You can leave a comment here. We would like to help these two families put closure in that part of their life. We would like to help them grieve and try to heal.        
Kay Stevenson’s daughter, Wendy, disappeared from Pompano Beach in 1969 at age 8. She has never been found. (LILLY ECHEVERRIA / MIAMI HERALD STAFF)

 

The wooden armoire greeting visitors in the doorway of Cecile Rahn’s Pompano Beach home displays framed snapshots of life’s happiest moments. A family embracing at Christmas time. A portrait of her oldest daughter. Her granddaughter’s wedding day.

   Not around are photos of Peggy — Rahn’s blonde, blue-eyed, freckle-faced daughter.

   In Davie, Kay Stevenson still keeps a school picture of her daughter, Wendy, on the wall near the doorway of her home. Some of the little’ girl’s favorite things — an old Snoopy doll, school papers and a ceramic kitten ornament — are stored in a box in a closet.

   The two mothers, who still live in Broward County, are tied by one tragedy: Peggy Rahn, then age 9, vanished on Dec. 29, 1969, along with then 8-year-old Wendy Brown Stevenson, near the Pompano Beach ûMunicipal Pier. Neither child ever returned home.

   Today, nearly four decades later, each woman has dealt with their daughter’s loss in different ways.

   Cecile Rahn has buried the memories of her youngest daughter by hiding her photos in a drawer, putting newspaper clippings in the garbage and giving away her personal items. Kay Stevenson keeps two aged photo albums in her living room as a permanent archive of her daughter’s short childhood.

   Though hurt stills roams in their hearts, both women have turned to their families to heal their souls.

   “I backed off. I stopped pushing,” Cecile Rahn said. “I had to go on with my life.”

    Said Stevenson: “You never get over it. But you survive.”

A DAY AT THE BEACH

   It was the Monday after Christmas in 1969 and Peggy wanted nothing more than to go to the beach to show off one of her gifts from Santa — a pink baby doll bikini.  

   Cecile Rahn, a single mother who managed the gourmet department at Jefferson department store in Fort Lauderdale, had to work and couldn’t take her.

   So Peggy asked Robert Hedden, a 41-year-old boat builder who rented a room in the Rahn home. Peggy’s mom gave them the OK to go.

   Because it was a holiday week and there was no school, Pompano beach was bustling with local families and vacationers.

   As Hedden set out to pick a spot on the sand to lay his blanket and radio, Peggy wandered nearby, saying “Hi” to neighbors and other familiar faces.

   “She was very friendly,” said Hedden, now 79 and a father of three girls. “It seemed like she knew everyone on the beach.”

   Though Peggy had a pail and shovel with her, she was more interested in running around with other children than playing in the sand.

   She quickly befriended Wendy, who was at the beach with her older brother, Danny, and an uncle from Delaware.

   The two girls lived in the same neighborhood, attended Palmview Elementary and shared mutual friends. But they did not know each other well.

   That day, they were inseparable.

   When the girls asked Hedden if they could walk the pier, he gave them a quarter to pay the entrance fee and watched them scurry off. But they soon ran back, after being turned away because they were not with an adult.

   At about 1 p.m., Peggy and Wendy asked if they could go down the beach where a man was giving away ice cream and cake.

   “I didn’t like the sound of it, but I let them go,” Hedden said.

   It would be the last time he’d see them.

UNANSWERED PRAYERS

   Fifteen minutes passed. Then 20. Then 30. They weren’t back.

   Hedden grew tense. He ran to the nearest lifeguard and asked if he’d seen two little girls — one a blonde, in a pink bikini, the other, a brunette, in a blue-and-white checkered bikini.

   Nothing.

   Then Hedden spoke to another lifeguard and filed a missing persons report.

   He walked up and down the beach, stopping at every lifeguard station. He frantically asked beachgoers if they’d seen Peggy and Wendy.

   Nothing.

   For several hours, friends, neighbors, even strangers searched the beach and surrounding areas. That afternoon, both Rahn and Stevenson received phone calls at work.

   It was a call neither woman would ever forget.

   Rahn left work in a panic, driving from her job in Fort Lauderdale toward the beach.

   “I just remember praying all the way that I’d get there and they’d found her,” Rahn said.

   To Stevenson, the first minutes, hours and days are a blur. “I don’t remember how we got through it,” she said.

   Both women had so many questions.

   Did they drown? Did they wander off? Did a stranger abduct them?

   When police got involved, the entire detective bureau worked the case.

   Patrolmen carried photos of Peggy and Wendy, going door-to-door in the city.

   The community rallied behind the Rahn and Stevenson families, organizing searches — on foot, horseback, by boat and by plane — throughout Broward County.

   For a month after the disappearance, friends and strangers flocked to the Rahn home. They delivered ham and roast beef, prayers and well-wishes and shoulders to cry on.

LIVING A NIGHTMARE

   Even though feelings of grief and devastation were so raw, Cecile Rahn had to be strong for her two other daughters, Pat and Paula, who were then 23 and 16.

   Stevenson had three young sons — Brownie, 15, Danny, 12, and Joel, 2 — to care for.

   Still, their missing daughters were always in the back of their minds.

   Rahn stayed awake at night wondering where Peggy was. She prayed to God that her baby wasn’t in pain. She rarely left home, afraid she’d miss the‚ phone call.

    “I wouldn’t let anyone else answer the phone,” she said. “I just kept hoping I was going to get a ransom call or that somebody would call and tell me something.”

   Stevenson often thought of what could have happened that day on the beach — she doubted Wendy drowned because she was a good swimmer.

   But her daughter, she says, “knew better” than to walk off with a stranger.

   Rahn worked closely with police, regularly checking in with detectives on any new leads. She even did some police work of her own.

   At the beginning of the investigation, police questioned Hedden, the man who took Peggy to the beach.

   Rahn had always trusted him. But those feelings didn’t stop her from snooping in his room, taking the clothes he was wearing that day on the beach and handing them over to police.

   Hedden later passed a polygraph exam and was ruled out as a suspect.

   Rahn also became a familiar face on television news, in newspapers and on radio broadcasts, never shying away from spotlight. She hoped any exposure would bring her baby home.

   For 10 years after Peggy vanished, Rahn couldn’t shake the nightmare she was living. The holidays were especially difficult because it marked the anniversary of her disappearance.

   Each year on Oct. 21, Peggy’s birthday, Rahn calculates how old her daughter would be. This year, she’d be 48.

   Wendy’s 47th birthday was June 20.

   “I wonder what she’d be like,” Stevenson said, glancing down at a photo of her only daughter.

COPING WITH THE AFTERMATH

   Today, Stevenson, 74, works full-time as a records clerk for Plantation police, and spends much of her free time with her sons and five grandchildren. They occasionally share stories about Wendy and reminisce over old photos.

   “She’s part of our family,” Stevenson said. “She always will be.”

   For Rahn, surviving has meant putting Peggy’s memory behind her.

   Now 82, Rahn is retired and living in a cottage behind her daughter’s Pompano Beach home. Solemnly, she admits to rarely speaking about her youngest daughter. Days go by when she doesn’t think about her.

   Still, she holds on to hope that maybe, just maybe, Peggy is alive somewhere.

   “I’ve always stayed in Pompano and always kept my phone number listed,” she said. “I never wanted to get away to where she couldn’t find me if she wanted to.”


BY JENNIFER MOONEY PIEDRA , jmooney@MiamiHerald.com

Watch a video on this story at MiamiHerald.com.

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