Cold Case Explorations

Researching Cold and Unsolved Cases from the US and Beyond

The Abrupt Disappearance of Cynthia Anderson

This case has remained unsolved for 42 years, 4 months, and 3 days.

Cynthia Anderson was a 20-year-old legal secretary working in Toledo, Ohio (OH) in 1981. She had put in her two weeks’ notice at her job and was planning on attending a Bible college with her boyfriend. However, she never got the chance. 

Prior to her disappearance, Anderson had been having strange dreams about being abducted and murdered. Then, on August 4, 1981, she vanished from her place of work and has never been seen again. Theories range from her being abducted and murdered by a serial killer to her starting a new life elsewhere. And yet, 40 years later, no arrests have been made, and no justice served. What happened to Cynthia Anderson?

A photograph of Toledo, OH, the city where Cynthia Anderson disappeared.
A photograph of Toledo, OH, the city where Cynthia Anderson disappeared (

Table of Contents

About Cynthia “Cindy” Anderson

Cynthia “Cindy” Anderson was born on February 4, 1961 to parents Margaret and Michael Anderson. She was raised in a devout Christian fundamentalist home and religion was very important to her. In fact, she was planning to attend a Bible college — until she went missing. Her father said of her: 

“She was a very quiet, obedient type of a girl. She never made waves with either myself or her mother. And she had lots of friends. She was the type of daughter that you just enjoy, I mean, just a beautiful young girl.”

Michael Anderson (Source: Unsolved)
A photograph of Cynthia Anderson.
A photograph of Cynthia Anderson (Timber Creek Talon).

In the days and months leading up to her disappearance, Anderson complained about nightmares that she was having. A recurring one was a dream in which someone would knock on her door, abduct her, then murder her. She told her mother about the nightmares, but her mother dismissed them and didn’t take them seriously. Perhaps she should have.

The Day of the Disappearance

It was August 4, 1981 and 20-year-old Cynthia Anderson was working as a legal secretary at a law office on East Manhattan Boulevard in Toledo, OH. She’d put in her two weeks’ notice as she was planning to go off to a Bible college with her boyfriend. 

During the mornings at her job, Anderson was often in the office alone, so she kept the door locked. On the day of her disappearance, a janitor confirmed that he’d seen her working in her office earlier that morning, around 9:45 AM.

Another photograph of Cynthia Anderson.
Another photograph of Cynthia Anderson (Ohio AG).

Coworkers Arrive

Around 12 PM, two of her coworkers showed up to work, but they found the office empty. This was unusual as Anderson should have been there, as she was any other day, and if she did step out for a moment, she typically left a note saying that she’d be right back. There was no note this time.

Upon further investigation, it seemed that Anderson had been in the office due to the air conditioning, radio, and lights being on, as well as an open book left on her desk. When one of the coworkers took a look at the novel, it was ominously opened to the only violent scene in the book

There was also an emergency button on Anderson’s desk, one she could press and alert nearby stores in the strip mall that she needed help. This button wasn’t pushed on the day she disappeared. Concerned that something had happened, her coworkers immediately contacted authorities to come and check out the situation.

The Investigation

In the summer of 1981, several people in Toledo ended up dead, including some who worked in the same shopping center where Anderson was employed. Authorities weren’t sure if these killings were related to her disappearance, but they wanted to investigate fully to be sure.

Items Missing

Investigators found that the only items missing were Anderson’s car keys and purse. However, her 1980 Chevrolet Citation was still in the parking lot, so it was clear that she hadn’t driven off somewhere. Additionally, authorities reported “no signs of a struggle” in the law office.

Another photograph of Cynthia Anderson.
Another photograph of Cynthia Anderson (International Missing).

No Calls Taken After 10 AM

During the course of the investigation, authorities found that Anderson hadn’t answered any calls after 10 AM. It’s believed that she left or was abducted sometime before then.

Family Interviewed

When Anderson’s family was interviewed to ask if there were any signs of trouble or indications why she might’ve left, her father, Michael, said that she’d been more focused on her appearance lately and had been on a diet. He also seemed to think that something nefarious had happened to his daughter:

“There are a lot of spooky people around that shopping center. They drive by real slowly and Cynthia sits just behind a glass window on the main floor.”

Michael Anderson (Source: The News-Messenger)

Anderson’s sister, Christine Savidge, also didn’t have any idea why she’d run away. “There were no circumstances in her life that any of us were aware of that would’ve caused her to have run away,” she explained.

Strange Phone Calls

A client of Anderson’s told police that the day before her disappearance, Anderson received a strange call from someone. This unidentified person scared and threatened her, and even called back a second time. 

The client asked Anderson if something was wrong as he could tell that she was upset by these calls, but she didn’t tell him what the calls were about or who had called. It’s not clear if these calls are related to Anderson’s disappearance, although the client described the look on her face as “someone scared the hell out of her.”

Strange Graffiti 

Police also learned that someone had written “I Love You Cindy — By GW” on a wall near the office where Anderson worked. It remained visible for six months before it was painted over. However, just a few weeks after it was painted over, it was written again on the same wall

Because of this, authorities interviewed several people with the initials GW, including a maintenance man who had keys to the office where Anderson worked. However, they found no evidence tying this man to her disappearance. 

Michael Anderson holding a photograph of his missing daughter, Cynthia Anderson.
Michael Anderson holding a photograph of his missing daughter, Cynthia Anderson (The Blade).

Anonymous Tip

A month after Anderson went missing, police received an anonymous tip that claimed she was being held against her will in a basement of a white house and that there were two houses next to each other that were owned by the same family. According to the caller, the parents who owned these houses were out of town and it was their son who was holding Anderson captive there.

Before police could get more information, the caller hung up. They called back again, but no more details were provided. Police weren’t sure if this was a legitimate tip or if it was a prank call, and there wasn’t enough information provided to find the white houses.

Case Goes Cold

For years, there were no advancement in Anderson’s case. “She just vanished, and we’ve checked the rumors that developed, but they turned out to be groundless,” said Sergeant Sam Mihailoff of the Toledo Police Department. Her family held onto hope that she was alive, although both her parents ended up passing away without finding out what happened to their daughter. Anderson’s case has never been solved.

In November 1995, Anderson’s employer, Richard Neller, and one of his friends, Jose Rodriguez Jr., were indicted on running a drug distribution ring in Toledo. Police also announced that they believed that Anderson had been killed by Neller because she’d heard too much about the drug ring while working for him.

While Rodriguez was on trial, a witness testified that he’d confessed to killing Anderson. The reason was supposedly to “send a message” to Neller — a lawyer — for not representing him properly during a previous trial. However, authorities were unable to confirm if this confession was legitimate and neither Rodrigues nor Neller have ever been charged in connection to Anderson’s death.

Theories on What Happened

Given that it’s been over 40 years since Anderson’s disappearance, there are a number of theories that have surfaced in this case. Most focus on the idea that Anderson was abducted and murdered, although some suggest that she ran away and started a new life elsewhere.

Rodriguez Killed Anderson

As stated before, there were allegations that Jose Rodriguez Jr. confessed to the killing of Anderson at some point, although there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute him for it. The alleged motive was that Anderson had heard too much about the drug business that Rodriguez and her boss, Richard Neller, were involved in. 

Age progression drawings for Cynthia Anderson.
Age progression drawings for Cynthia Anderson (Unsolved Mysteries).

Anderson Ran Away

Some have suggested that Anderson up and left to start a new life elsewhere, and there were some unconfirmed reports that she was seen in Texas. However, there is little to no evidence to support this theory. The fact that she had plans to attend a Bible college with her boyfriend shortly indicates that she had made plans for the future. 

Additionally, Anderson went missing from her place of work, apparently taking only her car keys and her purse and leaving even her car behind. Authorities have also stated that they don’t believe she ran away. “Everything we know, everything we’ve found out leads us to believe she wouldn’t do that,” said a detective working on her case.

Anderson Was Killed by a Serial Killer

In the summer of 1981, at least four other young people were killed in the Toledo area, and two brothers — Anthony and Nathaniel Cook — were eventually convicted of nine murders between them in the 1980s. Both brothers deny having any involvement in Anderson’s disappearance, however. It’s possible that one or both of them abducted and killed Anderson. 

Anderson was Killed by a Stalker

Recall that there was the strange graffiti written on the walls near Anderson’s place of work reading “I Love You Cindy — By GW” which was covered up and then graffitied again later. The person who wrote this strange love note was never found, and some believe that it was a stalker who had been watching Anderson for months, if not longer. 

However, authorities were never able to figure out who this GW person was, despite interviewing a number of people with those same initials. Many people have speculated that the person who did the graffiti was the same one who made threatening calls to Anderson, although this has never been confirmed.

What Do I Think Happened?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any good outcome for Anderson in this case. Although it’s possible that she ran away to start a new life, I think that’s unlikely; it seems far more probable that she was abducted from her place of work and killed.

Anderson Running Away Unlikely

I doubt that Anderson ran away, both because her car was left behind and because her bank accounts and Social Security number have remained untouched in the over 40 years since her disappearance. You’d think that if she was going to start a new life somewhere, she would have at least taken out some money until she got on her feet elsewhere.

Another photograph of Cynthia Anderson.
Another photograph of Cynthia Anderson (And Then They Were Gone).

Abduction and Murder More Likely

To me, it seems far more likely that Anderson was abducted and subsequently murdered the day she disappeared, either by Rodriguez (who allegedly confessed to killing her) or by one of the two Cook brothers (who were convicted of raping and murdering 11 people combined). Either way, she likely suffered a horrible fate.

Despite over 40 years of investigating, no evidence has been found that Anderson is still alive, aside from some unsubstantiated rumors that she was seen in Texas at some point. For this reason, I believe she is dead and has been since shortly after her abduction.

Case Outlook

Without someone coming forward with a confession or further evidence like Anderson’s remains being located, I don’t know how solvable this case is after 40 years. Both of her parents are now deceased, and although Anderson deserves justice, that will be difficult to come across without a substantial break in the case. Please, if you have any information about the disappearance of Cynthia Anderson, it’s time to come forward. 

Case Updates

There have been a number of updates in the disappearance of Cynthia Anderson, although most of them have been saddening ones.

February 1983: Anderson’s Mother Passes Away

In February 1983, about two years since her daughter’s disappearance, Margaret Anderson passed away without ever learning the truth about what happened to her daughter.

January 2008: Anderson’s Father Passes Away

In January 2008, Anderson’s last remaining parent — father Michael Anderson — also passed away. Neither of her parents ever found out what happened to their missing daughter.

November 2020: Unsolved Mysteries Episode

In November 2020, an Unsolved Mysteries episode titled “The Sudden Disappearance of Cynthia Anderson” aired, covering the details of this case.

Do You Have Information?

Cynthia Anderson was last seen wearing a white V-neck dress with pink stripes, brown pantyhose, and beige sandals. She has a chicken pox scar on her forehead and a fishhook-shaped scar on her right knee. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’4 and 115 lbs. with brown hair and brown eyes. If you have information about the disappearance of Cynthia Anderson, please contact the Toledo Police Department at (419) 245–3340.

A missing poster for Cynthia Anderson.
A missing poster for Cynthia Anderson (And Then They Were Gone).

Cold Case Questions

  • What do you make of the strange graffiti on the walls near Cynthia Anderson’s workplace? Was it related or random?
  • What do you think happened to Anderson?
  • Will this case ever be solved?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Thanks for Reading!

I greatly appreciate your support and engagement. If you enjoyed this post, consider liking and subscribing for more cold or unsolved case content. Be sure to follow me on social media to get notified when I post new stories, videos, or podcasts:

Do you have a cold or unsolved case suggestion? Reach out to me by clicking here. Want to read about other cold and unsolved cases in Ohio? Click here to see the full list.

Thank you so much, Cold Case Explorers!

Leave a Reply