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Former Colfax resident’s missing children case revisited

by Marlys Kruger

COLFAX — For those of you have been reading The Messenger for more than 25 years, you may remember a story that was printed in the Oct. 6, 1988 issue concerning two children who were stolen from their mother Ruth Vosseler (formerly Gotliebson) a 1966 graduate of Colfax High School. Ruth’s ex-husband, Charles Vosseler picked their two boys up from their babysitter for what was supposed to be a weekend visit and disappeared with them. To this day, nobody knows the where abouts of the two boys, or her ex-husband. A recent television show on the “Investigation Discovery” channel on cable and satellite networks called “Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall” was aired several times last month which brought the case back to light in hopes of finding new information on the boys.

After Ruth left Colfax a year after graduation to attend college in Madison, she met her future husband Charles after earning a degree, and they moved to New Hampshire where his parents were from. Two little boys were born to the couple, C.J. and Billy.When C.J. was three years old and Billy two, Ruth and Charles split up and the kids were living with Ruth. On Oct. 9, 1986, five days before the final divorce hearing, Charles, who had asked for a weekend visit which he had done several times before, picked them up. That was the last day Ruth saw her boys and she continues to search for them. C.J. would now be 31 and Billy 30 and there are hopes that with the airing of the show, someone will recognize them or their father by the enhanced photos new technology has created.

When Charles took the boys, he apparently had been planning it for quite a while as he wiped out all of their bank accounts and failed to make car or house payments, leaving Ruth with nothing. But the worst thing he did was go through the house and take every picture of the boys he could find. The only photos Ruth had to give to the police came from a short VCR tape someone else had recorded from a picnic. On the morning he left with the boys, he went to the real estate office he owned and told his employees he was closing the office up for good in 15 minutes and made them all leave. Ruth believes nobody from the office thought of calling her to tell her because they didn’t realize what the family situation was.

“At that time, nobody thought about someone taking your children,” Ruth said in a phone interview from her home in North Carolina. “If someone had let me know he shut down the office that fast, I might have wondered what was going on. But I had no reason to believe he would take the boys and disappear.”

Although there were over 30 leads on their location in the next year, the closest authorities came to finding the boys was the following August when a government worker reported seeing a man with two boys fitting their description in Stillwell, Oklahoma. But the FBI did not get down there for over four days and Charles was tipped off somehow. By the time the authorities arrived, the house they were living in had been burned to the ground and there was no trace of any of them. There have been no real leads since. It is believed Charles’ mom and dad who were somewhat wealthy, knew where they were and were helping Charles financially to stay hidden.

The main problem at the time of the abduction was the lack of any national organization set up to find missing children. And laws were different from state to state with very poor communication between law enforcement. When Ruth first reported the abduction, she was told it would be easier finding a stolen car than finding her children. Ruth moved back to Wisconsin for family support, and received help from Missing Children of Minnesota that helped her distribute posters while offering her moral support. (Wisconsin did not have a missing childrens’ organization at the time). Another problem was the attitude law enforcement had when a child was taken by a legal parent. They tended to believe the child would be safe and were taken out of love. But Ruth believed her boys were taken out of revenge and she did not think they would be safe with Charles.

Since this has all happened, there have been a lot of changes in the system both statewide and nationwide dealing with missing children. An Amber Alert, which instantly notifies law enforcement agencies, broadcasters and transportation agencies and activates urgent bulletins in all serious child abductions can be used, as well as social media where photos can be instantly posted allowing millions of people to see them. Ruth hopes with the airing of the show, someone who knows something will come forward and notify authorities, or even her boys will recognize themselves.

“I have never stopped looking for my children and I never will,” she said. “ A friend of mine knew someone who worked on the Tamron Hall show and contacted her about my story. When they called me to ask about doing an episode on it, I was very excited. Anything that keeps their memory alive and brings new eyes and ears to the situation can only help find them. I have been informed the FBI is checking on some leads they have received but they can’t tell me anymore right now.”

After living in Wisconsin for several years after the abduction, Ruth moved to North Carolina about 20 years ago and remarried a man who had children. Her husband passed away over a year ago, but she remains close to her stepchildren and stepgrandchildren. She retired as a social worker 18 months ago, and has been asked to work with the National Support Group for Missing and Exploited Children.

“This is something a mother never stops thinking about,” Ruth said. “Sometimes it feels like they were taken just yesterday, and sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago. To me, they are still three and two years old but then I remember they are grown men now. I hope and pray every day someone sees the new photos and comes forward with information. Not knowing what happened to my children is the worse feeling in the world and I need to know where they are,” she concluded.

For more information on Ruth’s story, you may go to the web page “neverstoplooking.org” or go to her Facebook page. There is a $25,000 reward from the FBI for information leading to the location of the two boys or their father.