Kidnapped from her driveway? The disappearance of Georgia Weckler



Your home is supposed to be a sanctuary, a place where you’re protected from harm. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of stories of people being hurt or even killed in their own homes. Today’s case concerns an 8-year-old girl who might have been kidnapped before even making it that far. Let’s talk about Georgia Weckler, who hasn’t been seen or heard from in almost 75 years.



early life/disappearance


Georgia Weckler

Georgia Jean Weckler was born on January 28, 1939 to dad George and mom Eleanor. She was also welcomed by older brother Lavern and older sisters Joan and Catherine.


According to one of Georgia’s teachers, she was one of the sweetest students in her class, was a great artist and excelled academically. But in 1946, the elementary school student developed a new fear: Kidnapping.


Suzanne Degnan

That year, 6-year-old Suzanne Degnan was kidnapped from her home in Chicago; her body was later found in her neighborhood. A 17-year-old later pled guilty for the crime and would spend the rest of his life in prison. But for Georgia, who lived over a hundred miles away in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, this incident stuck with her.


On the morning of May 1, 1947, the rain of the previous few days had made the ground in Fort Atkinson muddy. So the Weckler children, who usually rode their bikes to school, were instead driven there by their mom. Once school got out for the day, 8-year-old Georgia caught a ride home with a neighbor, who was also picking up her own children from school. (One source said Georgia’s older siblings got out of school later than her; I’m not sure why this happened, but I assume she was the only Weckler child in the car that afternoon.)


Georgia (left) with her sister, Joan

Some time between 3;15 and 3:30 pm, Georgia was dropped off at the end of the driveway of her family’s farm house. From there, she was expected to walk the half mile up to the house. She told the neighbor who dropped her off she planned to go into the woods and pick flowers for a May Day basket before heading inside. She grabbed the mail from the mailbox and her neighbor drove off. Georgia hasn’t been seen since.

At the time, Georgia’s dad was in downtown Fort Atkinson. I’m not sure what he was doing there, or when Georgia’s mom and siblings got home — but when they did, they didn’t think much of her absence, assuming she was with him. But when he got home at 6 pm and everyone realized she wasn’t with him, they got concerned.


At first, Georgia’s dad thought she might be lost in the woods and ran out to look for her. But the police soon got involved and the official search began.



investigation


The area where Georgia was last seen on May 1, 1947

Over the next few days, hundreds of people would turn up to search for Georgia, combing the 20 acres of woods around the Weckler farm house. The day after Georgia went missing, her uncle contacted a psychic, who said Georgia was in a vacant house in the area. The house was searched, but Georgia wasn’t there.


Even though he’d initially thought his daughter was in the woods, George Weckler soon came to believe his daughter was kidnapped. Georgia’s brother, Lavern, found footprints in the road that matched her shoes, and witnesses reported seeing a dark Ford sedan in the area that afternoon, just before she disappeared — and it wasn’t seen at all after she went missing. Other witnesses saw a similar car in town and a young girl who looked like Georgia struggling with a man inside.


Not long after Georgia’s disappearance, her dad offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her kidnapper. Others in town, including some of Georgia’s classmates, added to the fund, which reached $6,000 in less than a week. Neighbors also stepped up to help on the family farm while the Wecklers focused their attention on finding Georgia.



Meanwhile, leads continued to come in but never led anywhere. Police theorized Georgia had been kidnapped for ransom, but no legitimate ransom demands were ever made. Shortly after she disappeared, someone said they’d kidnapped her and the family awaited by their mailbox for promised money from this person, but nobody ever came. I assume this was ransom money, but I didn’t find anything else about this particular incident.



Budford Sennett


Budford Sennett in 1947

But later that year, there was a huge lead. Budford Sennett, a convicted rapist and murderer, said he’d killed Georgia. He claimed he and an accomplice (who he refused to name) had kidnapped her for ransom. They didn’t mean to kill her, but she accidentally died when they gave her too many sleeping pills. Then they threw her body into the Blue River near Blue River, Wisconsin (about 100 miles west of Fort Atkinson). Sennett had gone to jail in November of that year on unrelated charges, but he would have been out when Georgia disappeared.


According to then-district attorney Francis Garity, who Sennett made his confession to, Sennett gave details that hadn’t been made public at the time and he couldn’t have known unless he’d been at the scene. A witness claimed she saw Georgia’s body being burned in the woods near Sennett’s hideout. Ashes were found in the area, but forensic tests performed on them were inconclusive. The Blue River was also searched, but Georgia wasn’t found.


Several sources I looked into said Sennett’s story changed several times, but none of them gave specifics. He was never charged in connection with Georgia’s disappearance, and later recanted his confession. After being in and out of prison on various charges, he died there in 2008.



other leads/suspects


In 1954, another criminal confessed to killing Georgia, using a pretty similar story as Sennett had. Charles McClleland was in prison in Nebraska when he said he and an accomplice named George had killed Georgia in a kidnapping gone wrong. He said he buried her in a creek; I don’t know exactly which creek, but it was searched and Georgia wasn’t found.


Ed Gein

In 1957, about 100 miles north of Fort Atkinson, a man named Ed Gein confessed to murdering two women. Ed Gein barely needs an introduction; known as the Butcher of Plainfield, his most famous crime is grave robbing, and the many bizarre items he acquired from doing so.


Evelyn Hartley disappeared while babysitting in 1953.

Because Gein drove a car similar to the one spotted before Georgia’s disappearance (and presumably because he didn’t live that far away from her), police wondered if he might have been involved. His house was searched for clues but, other than the car, nothing was found. Gein is also suspected in the death of his brother, Henry, and in the disappearance of a teenager named Evelyn Hartley who was last seen while babysitting in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1953.


Concerning Georgia’s case, there have been a few other leads over the years. In 1958, an unnamed man from Madison, Wisconsin said her body was in a sexton’s house at a cemetery there. Investigators dug, but found nothing. In 1996, there was a tip that her body might be buried under a greenhouse, but this again led to nothing. The case was closed in 1999.



In 2013, the case was revisited when investigators got a tip that Georgia’s body might be in a rural area in Janesville, Wisconsin, about 20 miles south of Fort Atkinson. The man who gave the tip was a kid in 1947 and had seen what looked like a newly dug grave while picking berries with a friend in the area in July. After they saw this grave-shaped hole, a man came out of the bushes and scared them off. According to the sheriff’s captain, the man waited so long to come forward with this information because he didn’t think much of it at the time but finally “just put two and two together.” Investigators searched over 1,000 square feet in the area for five days, but again found nothing.


The latest update I could find in this case was from 2017. By this time, Detective Leah Meyer had taken over the case and had several suspects in mind — but the one she was looking at most (and presumably still is today) was Budford Sennett. According to an article from June 2017, Meyer had recently found Sennett’s old hideout and wanted to look for new evidence in the area using modern technology.


Not much remains of Sennett's hideout today.

From everything I read, Meyer doesn’t seem too optimistic about Georgia’s case being solved. All her main suspects are dead, as well as a lot of other people involved in the case — including Georgia’s parents and all of her siblings. Said Meyer:

“For me, it is really mostly about the identification of her remains and getting them back home where they belong.”

Meyer also doesn’t believe it’s “that there is a suspect out there who is alive that will be prosecuted for this case.”


Still, not all hope is lost. Meyer also says there are plenty of people in the area who could be willing and able to help:

“There are still plenty of community members still alive who know about the case that have plenty of interest in it. I am always surprised when I do receive calls from older people who have such a clear recollection of what happened. They have their own personal and vested interest in trying to see a positive outcome, as well.”


other theories


A young Georgia (far right) with her older siblings

There are a couple of other theories, or at least points I want to mention. A few people speculating about this caseonline have questioned why Georgia’s neighbor who drove her home wasn’t looked into more. This neighbor claimed Georgia made it home safely and she saw her walking up her driveway. At the time, she was taken at her word, and it might seem weird, especially from a modern perspective. On the other hand, this neighbor doesn’t seem to have much motivation to hurt Georgia, there’s no evidence she was involved and she might have actually been questioned and cleared and there wasn’t much publicity around it.


There’s also the fact that Georgia’s house was surrounded by woods, and even her dad initially thought she’d gotten lost. Georgia was a 4H member, which is similar to Girl Scouts; I assume they would have learned at least some wilderness training here. According to The Doe Network, her getting lost in the woods is pretty unlikely. I don’t really have any evidence to support or refute this theory but, anecdotally, I have read about plenty of cases of people getting lost in the woods and their bodies not being found for years. This also reminds me a bit of the disappearance of Kurt Newton, which I covered in another video — you can watch that one here.



final details



Georgia Jean Weckler was 8 years old when she was last seen at her home in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin on the afternoon of May 1, 1947. Her case is classified as a non family abduction, and police now believe she was taken by a sexual predator.


At the time of her disappearance, Georgia was 4 feet 3 inches tall and 75 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes. She had a growth of one of her heels and was last seen wearing a blue t-shirt, a pink sweater, a blue skirt with flowers on it, jeans, rubber shoes and a brown head scarf. She’s no longer believed to be alive, but would be 82 years old if she was.



website


Before we go, I do want to mention the Georgia Weckler website. It was started by her cousin, John Weckler, and contains over 200 pages of newspaper articles on the case, from the very first days all the way up to the late 2010’s. You can check it out here.



conclusion


I don’t think many people expect to find her alive, but there is DNA on file that was taken from her mom and one of her sisters before they died. With modern technology, hopefully her remains can one day be found and identified.



If you have any information about the disappearance of Georgia Weckler, you can contact Detective Leah Meyer at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department at 920-674-7365.

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