By Art Harris, The Bald Truth, (c) 2017, Baldtruthtv.com, all rights reserved
ATLANTA — The answering machine at Mark Kaplan’s house once posed this question about his missing girlfriend: “If you have any information on Julie Love, please leave your name and telephone number.”
“Have You Seen Julie Love?” ask 180,000 fliers Kaplan had printed and put up all over town to keep alive a most bizarre — and certainly the most highly publicized — missing persons case to grip this city since poor black children began disappearing in the 1979…Nine years later, a petite, aerobics teacher ran out of gas, never to be seen alive again.
She was a bubbly persona with curly black hair and brown eyes who, at five feet, stood barely taller than hundreds of young students who now pine for “Miss Julie” — the Alabama e’migre’ who had no hang-ups about hopping about like a frog to inspire laughs and demonstrate coordination.
For weeks, then months, her smile adorned billboards, car windshields, shop windows; she — and her mysterious disappearance — is a daily reminder that has forced many fast-track young professionals here to confront their own mortality for the first time.
Indeed, since her car was found abandoned almost three months ago in an exclusive neighborhood dotted with half-million-dollar homes, her saga has consumed friends and strangers alike as they seek out the latest news over Nautilus machines at such trendy haunts as the Sporting Club, where she taught and won a body-building contest after entering on a lark.
They whisper about Julie Love at Nails ‘n’ Things, a beauty shop where, on July 11, the last day she was seen, she asked her manicurist to tune in her favorite soap opera and paint her acrylic nails peach. “I hate all the gossip,” sighs owner Rema Chudnovsky, “but a lot of women tell me they are afraid to jog alone, that they are taking precautions since she disappeared.”
Last July, thousands of delegates and journalists in town for the Democratic National Convention wondered who she was, what the commotion was all about, as Love became another missing persons statistic in FBI computers, which count some 11,000 adults either kidnaped, abducted or missing under presumably questionable circumstances. Atlanta police investigated 2,663 missing persons reports last year and have made the Love case priority among some 1,500 filed so far this year.
Her red Mustang convertible had just been found out of gas, less than two miles from Kaplan’s house and her own condo. “She could have jogged to her boyfriend’s house, or a service station in less than 15 minutes, easy,” says Atlanta Police investigator C.D. Porter. “She was in excellent shape.”
There was no sign of struggle, only junk food wrappers from her habit of eating on the run between classes around town. Her keys and purse? Gone, but police report no activity on her credit cards. Nor do they report any suspects, no clue at all except that no one believes Julie Love would have climbed into a car with a stranger or walked out on life.
By all accounts, she was on the verge of achieving her dreams: making a success of her children’s aerobics program in schools all over town and getting a marriage commitment from Kaplan, a marketing whiz with his own snack shop chain. “All she wanted was to marry Mark,” says a friend, “and when it looked like she was finally going to get what she wanted, she disappeared.”
Since then, Kaplan has become a lover obsessed. He’s launched a blitz of posters, rallies, dog trackers, manhunts, all blessed by law enforcement and backed by friends, and even strangers. In the days and weeks after her car was found, he dropped 15 pounds — “my mother came over and made me eat” — as hordes eager to help poured through the front door.
Strangers spent nights and weekends canvassing the neighborhood to ask if anyone had seen her walking or stop to use a phone….
–The Washington Post, by Art Harris.
Producers used my research in scripting the well-done Docudrama, and cast me as an expert to talk about the Jewish American Princess, and how Julie Love represents every woman’s fear and vulnerability to random violence in a big city after dark.
The Julie Love murder mystery will air again on Discovery ID Aug. 20.