More Than Meets the Eye
The ticking of the clock was the only sound in the interrogation room as a Florida man, David Lambert sat nervously waiting for the police officer to return. It had been 24 years since his sister’s disappearance and the officers assigned to the case were determined to finally have it come to a close. And David harbored a secret that could crack the case wide open; however, he didn’t know if he had the strength to reveal the truth.
Growing Up in Florida
David and his sister Martha lived with their parents in St. Augustine, Florida. A quaint city on the northeastern coast, the family lived in a more rural part of the community just a few miles away from the beach. While they lived in a trailer and didn’t have much, they were a close-knit group and worked hard to improve their quality of life.
Back in November of 1985, David was 14-years-old while Martha was 12. She attended Ketterlinus Junior High School and despite being only 70 pounds, had a very feisty spirit. According to David, the two had an ongoing rivalry and often would get into fights like siblings normally do.
A Not-So-Happy Thanksgiving
On Thanksgiving 1985, the Lambert family came together to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Sadly, the meal was not all they had hoped for…they burned the turkey. David’s father was furious and began to verbally abuse the rest of the family. Hoping to escape the stress of the situation, both David and Martha left the trailer and decided to take a walk around the neighborhood.
An Abandoned College
As the kids wandered around town, they stumbled upon the abandoned campus of the Florida Memorial College. It was a popular area for the kids to play, despite it being in very poor shape, but for the kids in the area living in poverty, it was like their own personal playground.
A Tragic Turn
Unfortunately, this would be the last time anyone saw Martha alive. As the siblings left the abandoned college campus, Martha vanished without a trace. This would be the beginning of a brutal investigation that would last over two decades.
He Knows Something
In the initial stages of the investigation, the detectives had very little to go on. There were no signs of a struggle and no one had seen Martha that fateful day. Well, no one except her brother. The police believed he knew something, but there was not enough evidence to prove he had committed a crime.
Life Goes On
The disappearance of Martha had a devastating effect on the Lambert family. David’s parents separated, unable to cope with the loss of their daughter, and he struggled emotionally and financially for years. In 2000, David was picked up by the police for writing a bad check. It was then he made a strange confession that would alter the course of the investigation.
Detectives associated with the case revealed that David admitted to the detectives that he was the one who had been responsible for his sister’s death. The guilt had been eating him alive for 24 years and he needed to finally come clean. According to him, he had buried Martha in the coquina mine decades earlier.
Where’s the Body?
The detectives immediately launched a search of the coquina mine, but Martha’s remains were not found in the area. Since there was no concrete evidence, David couldn’t be charged with a crime and was eventually released. It would be ten years later when detective Howard Cole led the charge to bring an end to the case that had been baffling the local community for so long.
Time for Questioning
Cole decided to re-interview family and friends who knew the Lambert family at the time of Martha’s disappearance. While they didn’t have any new information to add, most of them believed all the signs pointed to David. Cole decided it was time to take a second look at the brother’s bizarre story.
The Truth Unfolds
Detective Cole decided to bring David back in for questioning and after a grueling interview process, he slowly began to reveal what really happened on that afternoon on Thanksgiving 1985. According to David, Martha asked for some money when they were hanging out at the abandoned college campus. However, David refused to fork over the cash. Then things took a turn for the worse.
A Horrible Accident
David revealed that Martha became very belligerent and hit him in retaliation. Not wanting to get into a fight with his sister, David pushed Martha away and she stumbled and fell backward. Unfortunately, a jagged piece of metal was jutting out of the ground and pierced her skill when she hit the ground. The injury proved to be fatal and since then David believed he had been the one who had killed his sister.
Trying to Help
According to Cole’s report on the confession, David initially attempted to help his sister. “David stated when he lifted Martha up that there was a large hole in the back of her head and blood was pouring out,” he wrote. “He stated he initially called out for help, hoping that someone would be walking by and hear his cries.”
Taking Matters into His Own Hands
Realizing that no one was coming to help, David used a piece of a broken sign to dig a shallow grave for his sister. The detectives questioned why he didn’t tell his parents the truth, but David revealed he was terrified of his parents and how they would react.
Living in Fear
David revealed that he and his sister lived in fear of their mother Margaret who was known for her horrible temper and abuse. Their father wasn’t much better either. So, instead of confessing to his sister’s death, he fabricated the story that she had disappeared. Now with the truth on the table, David signed an official affidavit, confirming his role in Martha’s tragic disappearance.
A Map to the Body
Hoping to make up for the time he spent keeping the police department running in circles, David drew a map to the location of where he buried Martha’s body. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, they were unable to locate her remains.
The Mystery Continues
Despite his confession, David’s mother revealed that he was known to make up stories. She believes he lied about Martha’s death and that she was kidnapped. The situation was made even murkier when David withdrew his statement, saying he only told the detectives what they wanted to hear. So, what REALLY happened to Martha?
Even though David and Martha’s mother protested, the police department officially closed the case in 2010. They believed that David’s confession had been the truth, but due to changes in the law, he wouldn’t be facing charges. A press release from the sheriff’s office revealed, “Changes in the law since 1985 (statute of limitations), the suspect’s age at the time and other mitigating circumstances would preclude charges from being filed.”
Sadly, we may never know what happened to Martha, only David knows what really happened that day in 1985, and the truth is something he may take with him to the grave.