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Searching for Anna

After all this time? Always.

The story of Anna

The story of Anna (pronounced AHN' ah) Waters is one of the oldest cases on the records of the NCMEC. An intelligent and effervescent five-year-old, Anna lived in a rural area 45 miles south of San Francisco with her mother, stepfather, and two half-brothers.

She began kindergarten in Half Moon Bay in September, 1972. Her mother was an aide in the kindergarten class. On Tuesday, January 16, the school bus dropped her off in front of her house in the early afternoon. Her mother, stepfather and two friends were conversing in the living room. Anna changed into play clothes and went out the back door and into the back yard to play.

About fifteen minutes later, her mother became uneasy because she heard no sounds from the yard. She went outside and called, and when she got no answer, she called the other adults, who began looking around the farm and calling for Anna. They became alarmed and called the San Mateo Sheriff’s Office, who immediately sent a car, sounded their siren, and joined the search.

A visitor who said he had greeted Anna as he approached the front of the house was questioned and said he had seen nothing suspicious except a white van carrying an old man and a young man who seemed overly friendly. This visitor joined the search.

A helicopter crew and divers were called. The divers searched Purisima Creek, which ran behind the property nearby. The family and the deputies continued the search of the grounds and creek until nightfall and posted a watch overnight. In the days following, friends, neighbors, crews from the honor camp, Explorer Scouts and professional fishermen continued the search. The local newspaper called the case “the greatest search in Coastside history.”

Anna’s father, a physician practicing in San Francisco, was questioned and investigated regarding her disappearance, but nothing was found connecting him to the case. Kidnapping for ransom was ruled out when no demands were made.

After divers had explored the three-mile length of Purisima Creek, pulling out and examining every log-jam and barrier, officials stated that they were “ninety percent sure” that they had not missed her, had she gone into the creek. A geologist issued a report on silting and tide patterns, showing that it was next to impossible that no body would be recovered had it gone into the creek.

Not the slightest clue has ever been found to Anna’s disappearance — no article of clothing, no sighting, nothing. In 2005, a family friend decided to take some approaches to the investigation which had not been tried in the days before the Internet. A crime-solving Web site, Websleuths, opened a Spotlight Case forum which at present has more than five thousand posts with almost a quarter of a million page views.