Old Rochester teacher documents disappearances of five women in new book

Jun 5, 2024

Kathleen Brunelle was looking through old newspapers when she came across the story that would prompt her to write her most recently released book.

An English teacher at Old Rochester Regional High School, Brunelle was researching at the time for a different book, in fact, when she came across an article in a 20th century newspaper on Anna Locascio, a woman who disappeared in 1918. 

She became interested in Locascio’s case and the unsolved cases spanning decades of other women who have suddenly disappeared. 

Five of those stories, including Locascio in 1918 to the disappearance of a 17-year-old on her way to Cape Cod during Labor Day weekend in 1977, are chronicled by Brunelle in “She's Gone,” released May 21.

“The women in these stories, they lost their voice when they disappeared, and they did not have the chance to tell their story,” Brunelle said. “And this book is an effort to speak for them and what happened to them.”

While “She’s Gone” is true crime, the stories of the women, for Brunelle, aren’t just that each one of them vanished.

“You have all those traditional elements of true crime, but these are fascinating women in the sense that you have these women who are go-getters during their time,” she said.

Agnes Tufverson, for instance, was an intelligent Manhattan attorney in the 1930s. She disappeared, but that isn’t her story, Brunelle said.

What is her story is that after her mother died, Tufverson — as a young woman — dropped out of high school to care for her father and four younger siblings. She obtained a high school diploma through night school, went to law school and became a high-earning lawyer in New York, according to Brunelle.

“She had an incredible life, and that's her story,” Brunelle said.

Another woman detailed in “She’s Gone” is Simone Ridinger, a Sherborn teenager who disappeared while traveling to Cape Cod in 1977. That case is still open. 

Brunelle spoke with Ridinger’s sister and detectives on the case. Ridinger’s family is still looking to put her body to rest, according to Brunelle.  

She said it was important to include Ridinger’s story in the book. 

“There are people who are alive now that they believe have some answers,” Brunelle said.

A celebratory book launch for “She’s Gone” will be held July 18 at Highfield Hall and Gardens in Falmouth. Brunelle will also hold book signings through the summer at bookstores across the South Coast and Cape Cod.