"Some Who Knew Her" - Mount Vernon Theatre Looking at 1959 Cold Case
MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - Say "February of 1959" in Iowa and the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson near Clear Lake usually comes up.
A Lisbon girl also disappeared that month, 55 years ago, when she simply vanished before a farmer found her skeleton in April 1959.
Only about 15 people attended the funeral for Marlene "Micky" Padfield, 17, in Cedar Rapids that followed. Yet hundreds will know her story by the end of the weekend.
"We know she disappeared and was found dead," said Amy White, the writer of "Someone Who Knew Her", which will start a sold-out, two-night run at the Uptown Theatre at the First Street Community Center in Mount Vernon on Saturday night. "There's no real mystery element of it but a memory play told from the standpoint of someone who knew her."
Padfield was an aspiring actress when she left school in Lisbon after what White said was a struggle to fit in after moving from Mount Vernon High School.
"She very much wanted to be popular but had difficulty with that," said White.
Padfield was reported missing on February 19, 1959. Two months later, a farmer discovered a skeleton between Mount Vernon and Cedar Rapids. Investigators ruled her death a homicide but the case remains unsolved.
Yet it was the lack of response to her killing that is stunning to some, even 55 years later.
"People just kind of shunned the girl," said Lisbon Mayor Beryl O'Connor, who was the same age at Padfield. "I just can't believe people do that."
White said her play will include at least a dozen actors from around the area to look inside Padfield's brief and troubled life, focusing on her love of acting but also the loneliness of not fitting in.
Bob Hill, of Lisbon, began researching the Padfield case a few years ago. He has been drawn to cold cases but also found the human element within, of treating people who may be new to a community with a higher level of respect.
"We decided this story would fit into that of a teaching tool," said Hill. "The behavior is nothing new. It goes on in schools, communities and neighborhoods and we need to talk about it. It's an issue that nobody wants to talk about."
Dave Morris of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun has written extensive and detailed articles about the Padfield case through the years. A 2012 report from Morris said that both Hill and O'Connor believe how Padfield was treated "would be called bullying".