Jean McDonald - Strange disappearances from U.S. state parks

Jean McDonald - Strange disappearances from U.S. state parks

Gloria White Moore McDonald, disappeared 26th January 2001, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Polk County, Arkansas.

Gloria mcdonald

On Friday, January 26, 2001, Gloria White Moore McDonald (Mena, Arkansas), aged 68, her husband Daniel, her husband's son, and the son's girlfriend, went for a hike on the Lover’s Leap trail in Queen Wilhelmina State Park, in Polk County, Arkansas, arriving at around 12.25 pm. Daniel McDoanld’s son from a past marriage, Sean McDonald, was visiting from Florida with his girlfriend, Erin Jemmott.

Located on top of Rich Mountain, Arkansas’s second highest peak, Queen Wilhelmina offers some of the most breathtaking views in the state from the fully renovated lodge. The original lodge was built in the late 1800s as a Victorian resort named Wilhelmina Inn to honor the young Queen of the Netherlands. The park is located 13 miles west of Mena.

The hike along Lover’s Leap trail was along one of the nature trails that borders the lodge property near Rich Mountain. The attraction of this loop trail is an overlook on a high rock bluff with a sweeping view of the surrounding Ouachita National Forest. It is described as moderate difficulty, and with a 1.3 mile, 1 hour duration.

Queen wilhelmina state park.jpeg

About 150-250 yards down the trail the group found several tree limbs and debris blocking it, caused by a recent winter storm, and Gloria decided she did not wish to walk any further as she wasn’t a “woodsy” person (according to her husband) and returned to the park's gift shop and restaurant whilst the others continued onwards. Around a half hour later, when the group returned and went to the lodge they could not find Gloria, she had disappeared without a trace. To this day, no sign of her has ever been found.

Lovers leap trail arkansas

The car the group had used was parked where it had been originally left and the possessions were all locked inside. A search of the car indicated none of Gloria’s personal belongings were missing.

A red head, she was wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt, a glossy bright yellow hooded jacket, blue jeans, sneakers, rose-tinted sunglasses, a plain gold wedding band, a platinum ring resembling two balls intersecting one another, a three-and -a-half carat sapphire ring, a necklace with a cross pendant and possibly a small-sized gold filigree ring. She weighed about 120 pounds and was 5 feet, 6 inches tall. She was also carrying a Minolta Riva Zoom 90 camera (serial number 40907425).

Lovers leap train arkansas
Lovers leap trail, arkansas

On January 27th, Arkansas State Police Special Agents were contacted by Polk County Sheriff's Deputies at Mena after a search of the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge area failed to turn up any sign of Gloria. A thorough search of the area was done using sniffer dogs, helicopters and search and rescue teams.

McDonald was a court reporter for the Mena Star newspaper and there was a theory that someone she had written about had abducted her. But some friends reviewed her notes and articles to see if a clue might exist about her disappearance and found nothing. The family had the theory that she may have “walked up on something” involving illegal drug activities and been killed to silence her.

Gloria was born in New York and raised in the Texarkana, Texas area. McDonald led an active lifestyle and enjoyed aerobics. She graduated from Texas High School and attended Beech Street Baptist Church.

Arkansas State Police senior special agents Lynn Benedict and Hays McWhirter conducted the state police investigation along with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department the Polk County Sheriff at the time. Mike Oglesby, said only one room at the lodge had been rented and “There were about six guys there who work for the state park, the kitchen help and waitresses. Add to that a few men who were piling brush and cleaning up after the storm and that’s it.” , "This woman disappeared without a trace in 30 minutes. We have no motive, no evidence of any kind. We've got nothing."

McWhirter said during the same time period bloodhounds searched “all over the mountain” and no remains were ever found, “The bloodhounds followed a scent which led down to a paved road below the lodge, but they lost the scent at the road. There are no suspects and we don’t know what happened to her. “

What happened on January 26th, 2001, has baffled authorities and there are many theories online about kidnapping, murder and even a Big Foot attack. Some believe she just got lost and fell somewhere, others that she ran away intentionally given her husbands behaviour after her disappearance and was picked up an accomplice/friend. Police even wondered if she ever was in the 460-acre park.

Daniel McDonald, 63, Gloria’s husband said at the time, "I was the No. 1 suspect. I demanded to take a polygraph test.” State police investigator Lynn Benedict confirmed that Daniel passed this. Daniel complained that authorities spent too much time questioning him before bringing out search dogs the next day.

Gloria’s family were certain she was dead at the time, speculation that disturbed investigators who say they can't link anyone to a crime. "In my mind, she's dead," Daniel said. "I think she saw something she shouldn't have seen ... so they took her. Or maybe she was snatched up by someone and tossed in one of these buildings."

Less than a week after his wife's disappearance, Daniel said he would move back to Florida. "I don't want to be the guy in Mena whose wife was killed on the mountain," he said. The sheriff says he hasn't ruled out Daniel as a suspect, but authorities didn't have any evidence against him. In an interview, Daniel said he couldn't imagine anyone abducting his wife "for her body" because she could not be considered pretty. Gloria was Daniel's second wife and they had been married around a year. His first wife died in her home of natural causes, according to a funeral home in Chiefland, Florida. Sean McDonald said in a telephone interview from Florida that sometimes his father can come across the wrong way: "He's a great man, but he'll say whatever's on his mind and he doesn't care what anyone thinks." Still Daniel’s comments and his fast departure to Floria were baffling and somewhat suspicious.

Sean said all three family members were interrogated separately the day after Gloria disappeared. Police seized his camera and found pictures taken the day of the hike, but there were no shots of Gloria. "They were so focused on us but we didn't have anything to do with this. You see this stuff in the movies and on the news, but this one hit home."

A maintenance worker says he may have spotted a woman in a yellow jacket but can't be sure. Authorities said the worker was the only person who was able to place Gloria in the park, except for Daniel, Sean and Erin.

The scent trail detected by the sniffer dogs indicated that Gloria may have been taken off in a car, either intentionally or by force but no firm evidence supports this theory.

Kerri, Gloria's daughter from a previous marriage said, "The first thing I think is that more than likely, she's dead. I know my mom. If someone did get her into a car, she would've mouthed off so much they would've had to kill her."

If she was lost on the mountain in a bright yellow jacket and fell, it seems she might have been fairly easy to see from the air since the forest is primarily deciduous and it was January. But no sign was ever found, even 18 years on. Authorities did not find any clues relating to foul play or that she had intentionally disappeared. If she was never in the area in the first place, then where could she be? A baffling, strange case from Arkansas.