UNDERGROUND MYSTERIES — May 2, 2022
Frances Taylor (Shurtleff) Sessions went missing on May 20, 1946 from Ogden, Weber County, Utah, when she was 26 years old. Because this case took place prior to the existence of the internet, it has been lacking a social presence. I hope to bring more awareness to this socially-stale case.
On the day of her disappearance, Sessions had visited her parents, Noah Lee Andrus Shurtleff and Alice T. Sessions, who resided at 916 26th Street in Ogden. Sessions departed from her parents’ residence with her six-year-old son, Lee Sessions, and nephew, Donald Roberts, to go for a picnic in Bear Cave, which was nearby. Sessions’ father had planned to meet them for lunch. As he arrived, Sessions and her son and nephew saw him coming. Sessions, her son, and her nephew all started sliding in unsteady clay or sedimentary rock off the mountainside. Sessions was able to retrieve her son after he fell and tumbled for about 50 feet and became severely injured, and she carried him down the rest of the mountain. However, he tragically passed away in her arms after he made it to ground. Sessions’ nephew survived the fall, and he began walking to get help. Sessions’ father picked him up while he was walking and took him to get medical treatment.
After the accident, Sessions’ father took her back to his house to rest. She reportedly used the bathroom to wash blood off her face and hands. Her parents went to check on her, but she was nowhere to be found. They called the police, and a massive search took place in and around the Weber Canyon and Weber River area. Many of the searchers were volunteers from the community. Someone placed a tip that a woman matching Sessions’ description hitch-hiked a ride towards Evanston, Wyoming. A search was conducted, but it proved to be fruitless.
One can only imagine, after losing her son, Sessions’ state of grief and shock and immense vulnerability in both mind and body may have caused her to have a nervous breakdown or disoriented thoughts. She, too, had suffered some injuries from the fall. Also, because she was dressed in light clothing, she was not equipped to endure the drop in temperature at night.
A series of tips came through of possible sightings of Sessions, but none of them panned out to be sufficient evidence. Two people reported to have seen Sessions walking on Harrison Boulevard in Ogden.
About a month or two after Sessions’ disappearance, a tip from a woman named Ida Draayer was sent to the Ogden Police Department. Draayer believed she had seen Sessions in Los Angeles County, California at her sister’s home, at 2310 South Flower Street. Draayer had noticed that the car she was driving had a Utah license plate. She talked to the mystery woman, and she said that she was suffering from mental disorientation and possibly shock. Draayer had not seen a photo of Sessions prior to this encounter, and her tip was based on an “intuition” after hearing about her case. Draayer returned to Utah and went to the Ogden Police Department to look at her photos. After finally seeing photos of Sessions, Draayer insisted it was the same person whom she saw in Los Angeles.
In July or August of 1946, the Ogden Police Department Captain, Clifford K. Kceter, and Detective Dee T. Burke sent photos and the case description to the Los Angeles Police Department. Although this was the most promising lead in Sessions’ disappearance, the mystery woman was never identified or located.
Born on 1920 Sessions attended Ogden High School and was in the graduating class of 1937. She enjoyed sewing and spending time with her family. After high school, Sessions married Reed C. Sessions on December 11, 1939 in Idaho. They resided together at 266 Patterson Avenue in Ogden and had one other child besides Lee Sessions. In 1944, Sessions filed for divorce from her husband, citing “cruelty” as the cause, and she was granted custody of their children. Reed Sessions was ordered to pay for the home and goods for her and their children, as well as $25 alimony per month. Reed Sessions re-married after the divorce.
Physical description: Sessions is Caucasian with auburn or strawberry blonde hair and gray eyes. Her height is 5’3″, and her weight was approximately 97 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She was described by her peers as “frail” in stature and attractive. She was last seen wearing a blue shirt, brown shoes, and gray pants.
Sessions’ father passed away in 1957 in Ogden. Her mother, Alice Shurtleff, passed away in Ogden in December, 1984 at the age of 99. Sessions would be 102 years old if alive today. What became of her is a mystery, and her remaining family deserves closure to this cold case.
Personal comment in the style of “prose”: Something that struck me about this case is its antiquity. It is like going back in a time capsule to recreate the very old cases. There is an overwhelming melancholy to reporting about such an old case. It makes me sad knowing she was never located, and the clock is ticking… not necessarily to find her alive (although that would be wonderful), but more so to give her remaining family closure. I felt like this dusty case deserved a fresh publication. I had noticed this case was recently added to NamUs, the governmental national missing person database; from there, my interest in this case was sparked.
If you have any information on Sessions’ whereabouts, please contact the Ogden Police Department at 801-395-8221.
US public records
Ogden, UT tax records
Weber County property search
Ogden High School yearbook
Ogden Standard Examiner: June 15, 1944
Ogden Standard Examiner: May 21, 1946. Page 1.
Ogden Standard Examiner: May 7, 1944. Page 11.
Ogden Standard Examiner: February 8, 1953. Page 8.
Ogden Standard Examiner: August 11, 1950. Page 23.
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