It happens far too often, a child goes missing and despite the best efforts of the police, neighbors, and sometimes even the nation at large, he or she is never found. Such was the case for poor Martha Jean Lambert.
Martha Jean disappeared in November of 1985, and for decades, her mother, brother, and their community wondered what had happened to her. Recently, however, some new evidence has come to light that may finally reveal what happened to Martha Jean once and for all…
Normal Seventh Grader
Martha Jean Lambert was just like every middle-American seventh-grader. Blonde, short for her age, and reportedly feisty beyond her size, Martha Jean seemed ready for anything. Her parents struggled with money and often fought, leaving Martha and her brother David to seek solace in one another.
Take a Breather
Thanksgiving Day, 1985 was starting out to be another one of those days. The siblings’ mother had burned the Thanksgiving turkey, which had sent their father into a rage. David, the older but more sensitive of the two, wanted to get out of the house and get away from the yelling for a bit, so he suggested the two head over to the abandoned college to hang out…
Poor Kid’s Disney
David and Martha Jean walked to the corner of King Street and Holmes Boulevard where the abandoned Florida Memorial College sat. It was a poor kid’s Disneyland, all broken windows, empty buildings, and had a king’s ransom in fun but dangerous debris strewn about its grounds. It also happened to be the place that the Lambert siblings went to get away from it all.
What happened next is unknown. According to 15-year-old David, the two split up at some point to explore the ruined college. But when David went to find Martha Jean, she was nowhere in sight. He searched the entire campus, returning home late in the evening. He hadn’t been able to find her. Martha Jean was missing…
Gotta Find Martha
By the time David came home, the Lamberts had completely forgotten about the ruined turkey. They scoured the neighborhood and called the cops. Before long, the Lambert’s neighbors and friends were on the case as well. Yet, try as they might, they couldn’t find the girl anywhere.
She was Kidnapped
Martha Jean’s mother, Margaret, was convinced that the 12-year-old daughter had been kidnapped. Nevertheless, the police talked to everyone who had been in the area that night. Friends, neighbors, family members who lived near the Lamberts trailer. None of them had seen her after she left. Had her mother been right?
Despite an exhaustive search, the police were unable to track down Martha Jean Lambert or her supposed abductor. To this day, the disappearance remains the county’s longest-running missing person investigation. Twenty five years passed and the Lamberts lives’ changed dramatically. Margaret and her husband divorced, and David grew up and moved on, though he was never the same.
The one day, David Lambert showed up at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office with a startling bit of news. He had seen what happened to his Martha Jean that night but had been afraid to come forward to discuss it for the past two decades. Now 38 years old, David had gone through life holding onto a terrible secret: a secret that no one had expected…
The Real Story
As he sat down to tell the story and the detectives opened up Martha Jean’s folder, her picture stared up at him. Overcome with grief, David Lambert began to bawl and explain the true events of that fateful Thanksgiving. He and Martha Jean had indeed gone out to get some air. They’d gone to a store, bought some candy, and went to play at the old college.
Brother and Sister
David Lambert then told them he and Martha Jean had taken to arguing while on the campus. Though he had already given her $20 to spend, she wanted more and he refused to give it. The 12-year-old, overcome by hormones, disappointment and stress, lashed out and punched her brother in the face…
David too had been overcome that day and shoved his sister backward in response. Before he could reach out to catch her, Martha Jean fell down, hitting her head on a jagged piece of rusty metal sticking out of the ground behind her. In an instant, David knew what had happened. His sister’s skull had become impaled by the metal spike. Martha Jean Lambert was dead.
Call for Help
He pulled her up and blood came pouring out the back of her head. David screamed, calling out for someone to help him, to help Martha. But no one was out on Thanksgiving besides them. Using a broken piece of sign David dug a three-foot hole not far from where she had fallen. He gently laid her on her back in the shallow grave, then made his way home…
Despite his assertion that the confession is the whole truth, authorities have had no success in locating Martha Jean’s remains anywhere near the old college campus. The site has of course been demolished more than once over the past 25 years, on account of it being unsafe for neighborhood children to play in…so it’s unlikely they will find any remains.
He’s a Liar
Meanwhile, Margaret Pichon (her new name), David’s mother, remains unconvinced by the alarming confession. According to her, David is known for “making up tales” in order to get attention and has been doing so since his sister’s disappearance all those years ago. The police investigators, however, believe that David is telling the truth at last…
Eight Years Ago…
David Lambert was only 15 when his sister disappeared, but as the last person to have seen her alive, was always a prime suspect. When the officers looked back into some of the old case files, they found what may have been a confession from about eight years prior to the 2010 confession. Unfortunately, there was no hard evidence, so no arrest could be made.
Afraid of Mom
As it turns out, it wasn’t the detectives or the consequences that had kept David silent all these years, but rather his mother’s rage. If he had admitted to accidentally killing his sister at the tender age of 15, he was certain his mother would kill him too. That she would never forgive him. Now that he had come clean, though, there would have to be consequences…
After some careful deliberation, the State Attorney’s Office decided not charge David Lambert with manslaughter. There were a number of factors based on mitigating circumstances that were present at the time: his age and the statute of limitations on a manslaughter charge were among them. Besides, there was still no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Regardless of his signed and witnessed confession, there was no evidence that the boy had actually killed his sister. This may have also been the fault of the investigators on the scene, who failed to properly examine every inch of the college campus at the time. Still, there is no denying that the police department and attorney consider David Lambert to be his sister’s killer…
Over the course of the 25-year investigation, the police had spent a total of 20 hours interviewing David Lambert and had simply been unable to get him to crack. It speaks to the young man’s resolve, but also to his guilt over what he had done. It couldn’t have been easy living with that knowledge for over two decades.
Lifetime of Suffering
By all accounts, David hasn’t really developed emotionally or psychologically since that terrible day. Today, David Lambert is getting the help he needs. Despite everything, his mother still believes that her daughter is out there somewhere, having been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. But most believe that Martha Jean can finally rest in peace.