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From: The New York Post



Twenty-seven years ago, two teens from Brooklyn vanished without a trace on their way to an upstate rock concert.

Yesterday, the couple's former classmates at Brooklyn's John Dewey High School held a special reunion aimed at making one final attempt to jumpstart what is possibly the oldest - and most botched - missing-teens case in American history.

"Why is there such apathy towards this case?" asked a thoroughly frustrated classmate, Michelle Festa. "It's almost like the case is cursed! Nobody wants to get involved."

It was on July 27, 1973 - a brilliant summer day - when Mitch Weiser, 16, a Flatbush resident going into his senior year, and his girlfriend, Bonnie Bickwit, 15, of Borough Park, hitchhiked to Watkins Glen for an Allman Brothers-Grateful Dead concert.

They apparently never made it.

Cops in upstate Sullivan County - where they were last seen - assumed they'd run off together.

"They kept telling us, 'They'll come home,'" said Susan Leibegott, Mitch's sister.

"They wrote it off as two hippie kids who had run off to join a cult or a commune," said classmate Bonnie Shiffer.

Weiser was a free-spirited photography buff and poet who wore his hair in a ponytail and attended John Dewey High, Brooklyn's new "experimental" school for top students. Responsible but adventurous, Weiser set out from Brooklyn to hitchhike upstate with $25.

He met his girlfriend, Bonnie, at Camp Wel-Met, a summer retreat for Jewish kids about 90 minutes north of the city. She worked as a mother's helper.

Both kids were socially aware.

"They rang bells for McGovern, they were active in an ecology program and Bonnie helped out at a kindergarten," Bonnie's mother told reporters soon after her daughter's disappearance.

They set out for the largest rock concert in history on that summer afternoon in 1973 and vanished.

Now more than a quarter century later, law-enforcement efforts to solve the case are proving to be as dismal as they were that summer.

Over the years, both the New York and the upstate cops lost their case files on Mitch and Bonnie.

"It's an embarrassment for us," NYPD Missing Persons Squad commander Lt. Phillip Mahoney told Jewish Week two years ago, after the paper began a probe of the case. Mahoney didn't return calls to The Post.

Deputy Commissioner Marilyn Mode said the case remains open, though no new information has surfaced. And Sullivan County Detective Anthony Suarez, who took over the case in 1994, told The Post yesterday that the original case file was "somehow lost."

That case file included whatever potential witnesses were tracked down, notes taken by investigators at the time, and, according to the families of the missing teens, dental records - one of the only ways to identify the bodies so many years later.

Both teens' dentists are dead now, and the original dental records have been destroyed, family members said.

"Any witnesses that may have been spoken to, you'd have to go back and find them again," Suarez said, admitting that no attempts have been made to track anyone down.

Despite pressure from the families and from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, upstate cops have not even made an attempt to contact the original investigator.

"He's long since retired and living in Florida," Suarez said, acknowledging that - as lead investigator on the cold case - he hasn't even tried to reach the man. "Not yet," he said. "We haven't contacted him."

Meanwhile, Leibegott refused to say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, for her brother. "I won't do it. I won't give up hope," she said.

But even hope can wear thin at times."My father died, and the last thing that I told him was to say 'Hi' to Mitch if he sees him in heaven."

Anyone with information about the case should contact the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department at (914) 794-7100 or the N.Y.P.D. Missing Persons Squad at (212) 374-0319.

 

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