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Michael, circa 1989; Age progression forensics photo to age 37 (circa 2012)
Missing Since 06/21/1989
Classification Endangered Missing
Date of Birth Used 05/14/1975 (45)
Age 14 years old
Height and Weight 5'7, 125 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics African-American male. Black hair, brown eyes. Michael has a scar on his left knee.
Monica was very close to her oldest sister, Shelia Wigfall. By 1989, Wigfall was no longer living at home, although she was still in high school at Glynn Academy, which Michael and Monica also attended. Wigfall was married, pregnant with her first child and living with her in-laws, but she and Monica spoke to each other every day at school.
Early in 1989, Monica had gone to Wigfall at school and said Robert had been sexually abusing her and she didn't want to go home. Wigfall took her to the school guidance counselor's office, and the guidance counselor took them to the police. When Deborah found out about her daughter's allegations, she told the police she didn't believe them and thought Monica was just making the stories up because she didn't want to live at home anymore. The matter was dropped without any follow-up from the authorities.
Even though years earlier Deborah had walked in on Robert sexually abusing her then thirteen-year-old sister, and even after one of Monica's sisters caught Robert trying to sneak into her room at night, Deborah refused to believe Robert was abusing Monica. Michael was very close to Robert and didn't believe Monica's allegations either, until late spring, he walked in on Robert molesting his sister.
Michael told Deborah what he'd seen, and this is when Deborah and Robert separated, Michael moved in with Robert's first wife, and Monica moved in with her biological father. (Little is known about Monica's father, but her family stated she would not have chosen to live with him except for lack of better options.) Robert and Deborah's other children stayed with Deborah and saw their father on weekends.
Michael and Monica disappeared weeks after Robert and Deborah's separation. Although he'd just gotten an apartment in Brunswick, Robert decided to move back to his home state of Alabama. By the day of Michael and Monica's disappearance, Robert's apartment was almost entirely packed up, with only some bedding and essentials still unpacked.
Robert later gave two different stories about his son and stepdaughter's disappearances: one was that they ran out of his apartment while he was there and never came back, and the second was that he dropped them off at the apartment and went away to run some errands, and when he returned they were gone.
(Curiously, the police report about Michael and Monica's disappearance said that Robert called Deborah at 8:30 p.m. to say the children were missing. Robert was speaking to Deborah on the phone at about that time, according to the children's aunt, but Monica and Michael were still within eyesight.)
Many of Monica and Michael's relatives believe Robert was involved in their disappearances. Deborah's mother described him as a controlling, manipulative and violent husband who occasionally beat Deborah, and Michael and Monica's younger siblings also remember episodes of violent behavior by their father. After the move to Alabama, Deborah would occasionally leave her husband, but would always return to him. Often when she left, she would leave their children behind in his care.
Robert's brother has also been mentioned as possibly having been involved in Michael and Monica's cases, or at least knowing what happened to them. He had lived with the family off and on for years, and Robert had also lent him money. Wigfall stated he sexually abused her when she was young, and Deborah had warned the other children to stay away from him.
For decades after Michael and Monica disappeared, the police wrote them off as runaways; both Robert and Deborah said they had run away, and that Monica had a boyfriend who was involved with drugs. The police took reports for their disappearances but didn't actually investigate until the early 2000s, when the children were reclassified as "endangered missing."