Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on April 14, 1995 · Page 142
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 142

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Phoenix, Arizona
Issue Date:
Friday, April 14, 1995
Page:
Page 142
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8 Mother yearns for daughter to return home 'jrji nzu vlm .nil tauuzh SELECTED ITEMS ONLY FRI., SAT., SUN. ONLY RECEIVE 10 OFF ON ALL OTHER MERCHANDISE, Willi WIS AU. FOUNTAINS, BIRD BATH & CAGES, INDIAN POTTERY. Serving 10am " 5Pm Except Tuesday 10 The Arizona RepublfrTHE PHOENIX GAZETTE Friday, April 14, 1995 4 the area 723? 15yrs. By Clare Ulik Start writer Heather Anne Relf is a young teenager living a secret life. For nearly three years, 14-year-old Heather has been hiding, living on the run with her father, Richard Relf, a fugitive charged with stealing nearly $1 million from his Phoenix employer. No one knows where they are. Or who they may have become. Relf had legal custody of Heather when the two disappeared in 1992. Heather's mother, Penny Nickel-Relf, gained custody last summer and grows more desperate each day to find her daughter, whose face is seared in her memory as a freckled 11-year-old. "It has gotten to where focusing on other things is not easy, because all I want to do is get her back," said Nickel-Relf, a petite 39-year-old who covers up her fears by being organized and methodical in her search for her missing child. "She's getting older, and she needs her mother. And she's going to need some psychological help after living on the run and feeling like she has to defend her father for hiding her all these years." When she disappeared, Heather was about 4 feet 8 and thin, with long, strawberry blonde hair. She has freckles across her nose and cheeks, and blue eyes. Relf is 6 feet 2, about 300 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. Nickel-Relf is convinced that Relf has changed his and Heather's identities. She said he's done it before. When she met him in 1979 in Seattle, he went by the name Edward Galen Vachta. He had used a dead man's Social Security card to acquire the identity. "He told me it was because he had left an ex-wife and child back East, and he didn't want them to find him," Nickel-Relf said. Relf resumed hig given name when the couple moved to the Valley, where Relf s family lives. Relf and Heather disappeared - from their Cave Creek home on Sept. 9, 1992. He had been fired for stealing money from his employer, Brown Wholesale Electric Co., and was nervously awaiting the outcome. Relf was indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury on two counts each of fraud and theft a month after he fled. He allegedly embezzled more than $800,000 by having checks sent to fictitious suppliers and then pocketing the money. If convicted, Relf could be sentenced to a maximum 48 years in prison. Nickel-Relf learned of her ex-husband's disappearance when she received an unopened letter that she had written to Heather, along with a note from Relfs third wife, Joanne Johnston. It said: "Richard and Heather left Sept. 9th without leaving any notes or messages. This is all I know. Sorry, Joanne. , Johnston told Nickel-Relf that her husband had run up the couple's charge cards just before fleeing. She never heard from him again, and 6he divorced Relf about a year later. A reporter's attempts to locate Johnston were unsuccessful. Nickel-Relf and Richard Relf divorced in 1983, when Heather was 1. At that time, Nickel-Relf had a drinking problem that she couldn't control. She felt that Heather would have a more stable life in her father's home. She was granted "reasonable visitation" in the divorce decree. Relf married Johnston about a year later. He and Heather lived with Johnston and her daughter, Tiffany, in Phoenix and later in Cave Creek. Heather had a horse and other pets, nice clothes, dance lessons and trips to Europe. "At one point Joanne quit her job to stay home with Heather, which I really appreciated, Nick el-Relf said. Heather stayed with her mother every other weekend, and the two wrote letters between visits. Shocked by crime When the pair first disappeared, Nickel-Relf was more shocked to learn of Relfs criminal activity than she was worried about her daughter. "I thought they had the perfect marriage, the perfect family. Heather was being raised so well. She was living the kind of life I couldn't give her. . men and Heather were very close, so I wasn't worried about her safety. And I wasn't really mad, not yet. I was just shocked by the crime. Relfs parents say they have no idea where their son is. "I miss my son I cry every day about it, but I can't do nothing about it," Martha Relf said. "I wonder where they are all the time." She prays that her son can stay hidden until Heather is 18 because she doesn't think Nickel-Relf is a fit mother. "When he comes back, he'll go to prison, thats for sure, and what's going to happen to Heather?" she said. "I think my granddaughter's better off with him (her father) until she comes of age." Nickel-Relf acknowledges that 6he lost many years to alcoholism and that her guilt about being less than an ideal mother is a heavy burden. But she has been sober now for several years. She does secretarial work and writes magazine articles and fiction. She has built a healthy relationship with her older daughter from a first marriage, Tammy Hughes, who is now 22 and lives in Mesa. See LOST, Page 11 In some sick, twisted way you may actually start to look forward to your utility bill. Thos who own a WCY tingle-package heal pump don'l have lo dread their ulilily bill, The unity has a 12 SI:I .U rating or higher and a 8.2 I IS 11-" the best in the industry Which means it will heat and cool your home efficiently, year after year. So you won't end up paying lower utility tmls. And what's to kick about that? Call your American Standard dealer today. Ilc'k looking forward to hearing from you. I AMERICAN. JEW QTANOAf tO HulltToAHItfier Standard, Free 5 years parts & labor Manufacturer's warranty with this ad. Applies to residential equipment, 1.5 10 5 Ions, purchased April I - May 31, IW5, RRR Refrigeration 7138 E. Earll Dr. - Scoltsdalc I 949-0388 1534 E. Main St. Mesa 962-3708 No Discount with Credit Cards. J cvsmM MMADi GINAL Sn nwhunnimg u L ,TU Sec Bring tills ai in for a FREE purse size lotion with any purchase. Exp. 43095. ItfillTAUMW. I 2 Scoitsdale Pavilions 443-4833 Indian Btnd & I'ima Rd. (South lidt clou to Marihaliij Vi Come and shop with us in the sunshine! Shopping Hours: Friday .Saturday O Sunday 7:00 am - 4:00 p.m. Office Hours 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. Have fun shopping for bargains. Enjoy great Polish sausages or charcoal broiled hamburgers for dinner. Visit with old friends and make some new ones. For More Information Call 832-3270 MOWER OF THE FUTURE FROM (El 20" Front throw self propelled Reel Mower. inu emissions. NO electric cord tangle. y Battery powered runs l ''firs, before recharging. 5 blades. Catcher included. 15634 N openuws 992-1150 t m J M 32nd St. WKf Olher Reel mowers on sale, 4050 E. Indian School Rd. 955-5100 It's Tossin' and iTurnin' Timely ,'f 1 y( BSf " ' ') r su m ft i hS y; 'v i I t V . 'J -v' - ; 1 S t -i Acrylic uUd bowl with ;.-,-7r, orvcm, 9.95. in .inif'' I :1 . ' ",",,,...ii."- If VI f mui, 12.95. VTW'l ZyliM talad jnnner, 19.95. VuuigratU iplcy talad vinegar, 7.95. Papaya aalad vinegar, 12.95. TabteTalk Britkl Registry Available! Town ft Country Shopping Center N. 20th Strmt V 381-6263 13637 N. T-um 8.E. Comer Tatum at Tbundorbird 9964)989 t fA See today's Classifieds for great buys on new and pre'Owned Dodge cars and trucks. mm0 -N rJ 1 ) Looking to buy or sell affordably-priced items like a set of nearly-new tires? Then take a look at Bargain Corner, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in The Arizona RepublicThe Phoenix Gazette Classifieds. You'll find everything from answering machines to steel belted radials, golf clubs to puppies. Bargain Corner items are priced $750 or less. Pets, $50 or less. And each two-line Bargain Corner ad runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday for just $6! Advertising is open exclusively to non-commercial, private parties. Bargain Corner is just one of the reasons Valley folks count on The Arizona RepublicThe Phoenix Gazette Classifieds for affordable buying and selling. Save money this weekend with Bargain Corner! 2 LINES - ALL WEEKEND JUST $6 i A CALLTODAY 2563111 'some mlrktiuiis may apply

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