What Happened to Laura Johnson?

Laura Johnson, a 24-year-old with two young girls, vanished in May 1990

By Rob Stafford
|  Thursday, Oct 27, 2011  |  Updated 11:06 PM CDT
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Long before Stacy Peterson and Lisa Stebic disappeared, another young suburban mother, Laura Johnson, went missing in Arlington Heights.

Long before Stacy Peterson and Lisa Stebic disappeared, another young suburban mother, Laura Johnson, went missing in Arlington Heights.

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Long before Stacy Peterson and Lisa Stebic disappeared, another young suburban mother went missing in Arlington Heights.

Laura Johnson, a 24-year-old with two young girls, vanished in 1990.

Her daughters, now adults, have a lot of questions about what really happened the night their mom was last seen.

"She's loved. She's missed. We just want to find the answers of what happened," said Ashley Johnson, adding that she looks at pictures of her mother every day.

More than two decades after Johnson went missing, a new detective is on the case with hopes of finding some answers.

"I feel this case can be solved," said Det. Joe Pinnello.

Johnson was last seen on a Friday night in May 1990. She and her husband, David, went for dinner at the Arlington Race Track has Johnson's brother watched the girls at home. Later, David Johnson dropped his wife off at a neighborhood tavern called The Billy Club and he made the two block drive back home at about 10:30 p.m.

Police say there's no doubt Laura Johnson left the bar between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. A regular, the bartender knew Laura Johnson and said he saw her leave with two men and a woman he'd never seen before.

She hasn't been seen since.

About a week later, two men came forward saying they recognized her missing person's picture and had talked with her later that same night at a club about three miles away, in Palatine. They said she left at 4 a.m. with a man who said he was a trucker from Tennessee.

Police now wonder if what the witnesses, total strangers, were mistaken.

"Why would my mom leave at four in the morning with a truck driver and not go home to her two children who were sleeping? It just doesn't make sense to me," said Ashley Johnson.

Sgt. Tom  Seleski worked the case back in 1990 after the lead investigator retired and talked with David Johnson several times.

Seleski said Johnson was a "person of interest" then and remains one now.

Police say Johnson waited more than 24 hours to report his wife missing, telling them he wasn't worried because she had stayed out overnight in the past. A month prior to the disappearance, police had responded to a domestic argument between them but found no sign of violence and filed no charges.

Laura Johnson's family said the woman's husband was a jealous man, a statement that raises even more questions for their daughter.

"Why would you let your wife, who you don't want to be talking to anyone but you and maybe her girlfriends, go out to a bar by herself?" she asked.

Although they have no way of knowing, Laura Johnson's family thinks she walked home from the bar and never went to the nightclub. Laura's brother, who was babysitting that night, said he never saw or heard anything, though police say he was asleep at the time David Johnson said he got home.

The brother told police he didn't see David Johnson until he woke up at 11 a.m., roughly nine hours after Laura Johnson left The Billy Club.

The girls' grandmother ultimately raised Ashley and her sister. David Johnson moved away and NBC Chicago's repeated attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Anyone with information about Laura Johnson or her disappearance should call Arlington Heights Police at 847-368-5300.

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