FARRELL— An excavation at a property on Memorial Drive this month may shed light on the decades-old case of a Farrell High School graduate last seen in 1977.
According to Mercer County District Attorney Peter Acker, the excavation, which involved officers from both the Hubbard, Ohio and Farrell police departments, commenced on Tuesday, July 5.
“It has been 45 years since Billie Lynn Groff went missing on July 4, 1977,” a press release issued by Hubbard police chief Robert D. Thompson on Saturday reads. Hubbard Police have continued to investigate the case, according to Thompson.
The press release further states that the excavation was done with the consent of the landowner.
Groff, 28, was born Billie Lynn Ciancolo in 1948 and graduated from Farrell in 1966. She was studying piano and minoring in voice at Youngstown State University at the time of her disappearance.
She was last seen by her husband near Westview Avenue in Hubbard, according to information on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. She and her family reportedly lived at 321 Westview.
Groff was speaking to a friend on the phone about 10 p.m. when she ended the conversation abruptly, saying, “They are coming up the driveway. I have to go.”
When Groff’s husband and their two children, who were attending the city’s Independence Day celebration at the time, returned home at 11 p.m. Groff was nowhere to be found. She reportedly left all of her clothing and belongings behind. When she hadn’t returned after two days, her husband filed a missing persons report.
According to an issue of The Hubbard News dated Aug. 1, 1979, Hubbard police “[had] investigated numerous tips in an unsuccessful effort to locate Mrs. Groff,” but remained hopeful that “something [would] turn up” in the case.
Groff’s last words to her friend were all police had to go on in 1979, according to former Hubbard police chief Ernest DeMatteo.
“We don’t know who was coming up the driveway,” DeMatteo told The Hubbard News. Neither do we know if the words ‘to go’ meant she was going somewhere or she was simply ending the telephone conversation.”
Police reportedly searched wooded areas, “lonely country roads,” and abandoned railroad tracks near Hubbard, as well as nearby Liberty Lake, after receiving reports that Groff was seen “wandering, in a daze” in a field near Westview Avenue, all to no avail.
DeMatteo reportedly believed she had met with foul play or “joined some cult movement,” going so far as to speak with psychics and seek out information on victims of the Jonestown massacre.
Investigators uncovered “several items of interest” during the dig in Farrell, said Acker. Those items have been sent to a crime lab for further processing.