37 Years Later, Cops Think They Know What Happened to Missing Teen

Susan Robin Bender might have been killed, buried in Yosemite National Park
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2023 2:00 AM CDT
37 Years Later, Authorities Think They Know What Happened to Missing Teen
Susan Robin Bender.   (Modesto Police Department)

Nearly four decades after a California 15-year-old went missing, authorities may know what happened to her. The case of Susan Robin Bender, who hasn't been seen since 1986, was reopened in 2021, and earlier this month, police announced an arrest had been made. Court documents indicate the suspect may have killed Bender and buried her in Yosemite National Park, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Raymond Lewis Stafford faces a charge of murder with special circumstances, CBS News reported at the time of his arrest. Stafford was a family acquaintance Bender's mother had long suspected in her disappearance, but he had previously not been named in the press since he was not an official suspect at the time.

Stafford briefly worked with Bender's mother, Patricia Chupco, and she believed he may have gotten involved with her daughter. She later said police had found her daughter's clothes and diary in his possession. And he was also linked to the green van Bender was seen getting into before she disappeared. Now, as the court records reveal, authorities have discovered that a woman who lived with Stafford in the 1980s said he once confessed to killing a "female" and burying her at a campground near the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park. Stafford has an extensive criminal history and is on a sex offender registry for allegedly sexually abusing a California 13-year-old in 1994. (More missing teen stories.)

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