Parents talk of missing W.Va. teenager

November 07, 1997

Parents talk of missing W.Va. teenager


Staff Writer, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Susan Capino liked reading mysteries. Now her family has become embroiled in one in the wake of the teenager's disappearance.

On Aug. 19, Joyce Lonas reported to West Virginia State Police that her 17-year-old daughter had run away from home two nights earlier.

Since then, state police and the FBI have combed the woods around the family's house and talked to family members and neighbors.


Capino's stepfather, Richard Lonas, 48, said Thursday he believes the family has unfairly become the target of the state police and FBI investigation into his stepdaughter's disappearance.

"I think the FBI is trying to do their job, but they're looking in the wrong direction," Richard Lonas said.

"I've tried to cooperate with them. I took a lie detector test and it came back inconclusive. They asked me to take another one, but they got the whole family upset so I didn't," Richard Lonas said.

West Virginia State Police said Wednesday they cannot rule out that Capino has been the victim of foul play.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and state police troopers searched the thickly wooded neighborhood situated along a mountain last weekend.

They also executed a search warrant at Capino's parents' home and impounded two of their vehicles, her parents said.

State police said Wednesday that possible evidence had been seized from several locations. Investigators would not comment on what might have been found or where they found it.

Richard and Joyce Lonas said that about 70 FBI agents and state troopers showed up at their house last Saturday morning with a search warrant.

"They upset our kids. They could have used more tact," Joyce Lonas, 39, said.

"The FBI didn't need to bring that many into our home," Richard Lonas said.

A night in August

On the night of Aug. 17, Richard Lonas said he asked Capino to do the dishes and she refused and went to her bedroom. A short time later, he heard her leave the house, he said.

Richard Lonas said he looked in the yard for her and saw a shadowy figure in the light from a car door opening.

"All I saw was the back tail lights of a vehicle. I hollered for her to come back," Richard Lonas said.

He said he believes his stepdaughter may have made plans with someone to meet her on the lane and take her away.

Joyce Lonas said she was at work at the Sheetz convenience store in Brunswick, Md., that day.

Joyce Lonas said they did not report her daughter missing immediately because they thought she would return.

"With a 17-year-old - I figured she went out to go with friends," she said.

She said her daughter has a boyfriend, but they do not believe she is with him. She said the boyfriend does not have a car and lives in a homeless shelter for children.

Joyce Lonas said her daughter had run away a couple of times when she was 14 years old, but had returned right away.

Joyce Lonas spoke to a state police trooper on Aug. 19 to report her daughter as a runaway, she said. She put up posters with her daughter's picture and description throughout the community.

"She could have run off with some boy," Joyce Lonas said.

The couple said their daughter has epilepsy and needs medication. Richard Lonas said Susan had brain surgery in January to try to stop her seizures.

"Susan tended to have more adult friends than kids her own age because they'd tease her about her seizures," Joyce Lonas said.

`A bit of a loner'

"She was a bit of a loner," her mother said. "She liked to read - mysteries and romance - and write poems. She would write poems about things happening in the world. She wrote a poem about the bombing in Oklahoma."

"We hope to God they find her soon," Joyce Lonas said.

Joyce Lonas said her daughter left with only the clothes she was wearing.

Police said Susan was wearing a pink and orange swimsuit top, green denim shorts and black slip-on shoes.

Richard Lonas said that he had told Susan she could not wear an outfit like that outside because the world is not a safe place. "You never know when someone is going to do something," he said.

The Lonases live in the Westridge Hills subdivision off Chestnut Hill Road, a Blue Ridge Mountain neighborhood along the Virginia state line.

Narrow dirt and gravel roads wind their way up the hillside through a community of trailer homes and wood A-frames surrounded by trees, junked cars, trash bags and large, barking dogs.

The woods are so thick that several residents said they cannot see their neighbors' homes until the leaves fall from the trees in winter.

"Susan liked going in the woods, and any type of animals, any kind of snakes," Richard Lonas said.

The area is marked by vacant houses, their windows shattered and doors missing.

About 60 families live in the neighborhood.

Several residents said they learned the girl was missing when they saw a flier posted at the bottom of the hill where the community's mailboxes are located. About two weeks ago, the flier disappeared.

Residents said they were surprised to see so many FBI agents and state troopers going through the woods last weekend in the rain. The investigators also went door to door, asking questions.

"There's so much woods to cover. It'd be almost impossible to try to cover it all," said Jennifer Migliaccio, 23.

Migliaccio, her husband and their children moved to the hill from the Washington, D.C., area. She said she had grandparents who lived at Westridge and she remembers the neighborhood used to be one in which close-knit families looked out for each other.

They left Washington to get away from crime, she said.

"It bothers me that it happened that close. It's a fact of life we've had to get accustomed to that no matter where we'll go, we'll never get away from it," Migliaccio said.

"I'd like to believe she's a runaway," said Michael Migliaccio.

"I think she's alive," said neighbor Scott Longerbeam, 31, who said he occasionally saw the teenager walking through the woods.

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