5 years later, woman's disappearance still a mystery

5 years later, woman’s disappearance still a mystery

Julia Madsen is shown in this photo displayed outside the family's home in South Seaside Park shortly after she disappeared in 2009.

BERKELEY, N.J. — On a warm, summer evening five years ago, Julia “Julie” Madsen gave her husband of 50 years a kiss, told him she loved him, and then she left their son’s summer home in South Seaside Park to take a stroll on the beach.

She hasn’t been seen since.

For her grieving family, it’s as if the 72-year-old grandmother literally walked off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard from again.

In the weeks that followed, search parties of hundreds would walk the beach, go door-to-door on the barrier peninsula and comb through the vegetation in the wilderness of Island Beach State Park, looking for the woman who was last seen wearing a pink shirt and white pants. But even with the assistance of tracking dogs, helicopters, boats and drones, there was no trace of Julia Madsen on land or in the sea.

“I thought after Hurricane Sandy, if she was over there, she’d be discovered,” said Berkeley Detective Joseph Santoro, who has been looking for Madsen for five years. “That storm washed out everything.”.

But five years later, investigators are no closer to finding Madsen than they were the night she went missing.

“My nephew said it best — she kind of walked off into the sunset,” said Guy Madsen, 52, of Clifton, the missing woman’s son.

Now, with virtually no hope that Julia Madsen still could be alive, her family plans to attend a Mass for her soul Wednesday at St. Catharine of Siena Church in Seaside Park to mark the fifth anniversary of her disappearance, Guy Madsen said. And, the family’s attorney is filing papers to have Julia declared dead, he said.

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While that may bring Julia’s relatives a little bit of closure, they still are tormented by the disappearance.

“It remains a mystery,” said Bernice Madsen, 84, Julia Madsen’s sister-in-law, who knew Julia for more than 60 years, since the time the two women were dating the brothers they eventually would marry.

“I don’t know how someone can disappear off the face of the Earth without somebody seeing something,” Madsen said. “There are no answers for us.”.

Relatives say Julia was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mass is scheduled for 7 p.M., Which is the approximate time Julia Madsen walked out the door on Thursday, June 25, 2009, Guy Madsen said.

First, she told her husband, Edward, she was going for a walk on the beach.

“She kissed me. We said, ‘I love you,’ like we always did, and then she took a walk,” Edward Madsen said.

High school sweethearts, the couple had just marked their 50th wedding anniversary five days earlier. They had raised two children, son Guy and daughter Eileen Tummino, and operated restaurants in North Jersey and the Jersey Shore.

On June 21, the family celebrated Julia’s 72nd birthday and Father’s Day before heading down the Shore to spend a week alone at Guy Madsen’s summer home More festivities were anticipated for Edward’s 74th birthday on June 26 but they never came to fruition.

“It used to be the happiest place in the world for me,” Edward Madsen said of the Shore house. “June used to be the happiest month. Now it’s like the plague.”.

When Julia didn’t return from her walk by 8:20 p.M. On June 25, Edward went outside to look for her, first in the backyard, by the swimming pool and then up to the beach. When he didn’t find her, he got in his car and began driving around, he said. Just before 9 p.M., He called the police.

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That night, a Thursday, there were several police officers searching the streets and the beach, Santoro said. By the next morning, a command post was set up and the search was expanded to include more officers, canines and a helicopter, he said.

“We had probably 15 to 20 police officers combing the streets from South Seaside Park to Seaside Heights, checking for her,” Santoro said.

By Saturday, the effort expanded further, with investigators from the State Police, firefighters from throughout Ocean County and a volunteer search-and-rescue team with members from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania going door-to-door, checking backyards, garages, sheds and outdoor showers. They checked out area motels for suspicious persons and known sex offenders.

State Police combed the beach on horseback. With assistance from the Coast Guard, they searched the ocean and the bay by helicopter and boat.

Investigators initially thought Julia Madsen went in the water, but her family told them she wasn’t one to go swimming, Santoro said. Plus, she was fully clothed and her body never washed up, he said.

Reverse 911 calls seeking information on a missing woman with the onset of dementia brought a tip that Julia Madsen was spotted on foot in Brick, but that didn’t pan out, Santoro said.

Meanwhile, Guy and Edward Madsen endured a battery of tests to rule them out as suspects, the detective said.

About a week later, the search effort was still going strong. Teams fanned out all over Island Beach State Park, searching its 8 1/2 miles of thick vegetation sector-by-sector, to no avail, Santoro said.

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“By six weeks, we were pretty much done,” Santoro said.

About six months after Julia Madsen’s disappearance, police received an anonymous call from someone who reported frequently seeing someone matching her description in Newark.

“We located the woman, who looked remarkably like Mrs. Madsen,” Santoro said. “She was living in a homeless shelter. It wasn’t her.”.

With the anniversary of her mother’s disappearance, Eileen Tummino says she plans to consult a psychic, as she does every year, because it gives her some solace. Even though she admits what one psychic told her — that her mother was murdered and stuffed in a trash bin — was not exactly comforting.

“Not knowing is so hard, and it eats at you like a cancer,” she said.

Guy Madsen believes his mother stumbled onto something she shouldn’t have and met with foul play.

“There was an amazing outpouring from many but we never got the results you would expect,” he said. “That only leads me to believe she was already off that island against her will.”.

Santoro thinks someone would have seen something, if that was the case.

“I think about it every day,” he said. “That’s a very secluded, small island with one roadway in and one roadway out and no one saw anything. It just doesn’t make any sense.”.

Meanwhile, Bernice Madsen sits in her living room, where Julia is pictured in a family portrait that hangs there.

“I look at her smiling down from the picture and I think: Julie, what happened to you? And I start to weep,” Bernice Madsen said.

Edward Madsen rarely goes down the Shore anymore because when he does, he says, all he does is look up and down the street for his wife.

“I never told her I loved her enough,” he said. “I wish I had that opportunity one more time.”.