Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on April 21, 1995 · Page 135
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 135

Phoenix, Arizona
Issue Date:
Friday, April 21, 1995
Page 135
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1 0 The Arizona RepublicTHE PHOENIX GAZETTE Friday, April 21 , 1 995 Mother prays for daughter Teenager missing almost 3 years By Clare Ullk Staff writer If Heather Anne Relf is a 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 em: ployer. No one knows where they are. Or who they may have become. Relf had lecal HEATHER 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 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 Vchta. 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 chijd back East, and fie didn't want them to find him," Nickel-Relf said. Relf resumed his given name when the couple moved to the Valley, where his 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 embez- r" i .-K; Nancy Engebretson staff photographer Penny Nickel-Relf has been hunting for her daughter, Heather, now 14, since she disappeared with her fugitive father In September 1992. zled 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 6he 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 she 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." 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," Nickel-Relf said. Heather stayed with her mother every other weekend, and the two wrote letters between visits. 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. "Rich 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, that's 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 she 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. Train of Values seeks to protect kids By Clare Ulik Staff writer The Train of Values chugged into town last month. On board is a nationwide effort to protect children from predators. The miniature passenger train will be at grocery stores in the Valley through May 13. After children take a ride, volunteers will photograph and fingerprint them and enroll them in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Junior Safety Posse. The train's visit to the Valley is sponsored by the Arizona Deli and Bakery Association, Coca-Cola, the Marc Klaas Foundation for Miss ing Children and The Nation's Missing Children Organization Inc. Marc Klaas is the father of Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old California girl who was abducted and murdered by a stranger in 1993. The train will visit these locations: Sunday: Fry's, 3901 E. Thun-derbird Road, Phoenix. Next Friday: Bashas', 1761 E. Warner Road, Tempe. April 30: Bashas', 8740 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale. May 11-13: Smith's, 4505 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix. The train will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Fingerprinting will be done from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. As members of the Sheriffs Junior Safety Posse, children wijl get a membership identification card, tips on fun and safety, and future mailings. The effort is being promoted by Kim Pasqualini, the founder of The Nation's Missing Children Organization Inc., which recently moved to Phoenix. She is seeking volunteers to do fingerprinting at grocery stores. Those interested in helping can call her at 788-4733. DOLPHIN'S PLAY POOL INCLUDES: POOL UP TO 16' x 30' (400 SQ. FT., 80' PER.) 8 Shapes Or Custom Design Normal Excavation & Soil Removal Schd. 40 PVC Plumbing(Upto15') 400 Watt Underwater Light (20' Brass) Electric Hook-Ups & Up to 50' Run 3' Kool Deck Around Pool Perimeter 6" Ceramic Waterline Tile Shotcrete Structure (6" to 8") Thick White Marble Plaster Interior 1 H P. Energy Efficient Pump & Motor 3.1 Sand Filter With Backwash Automatic Surface Skimmer Automatic Time Clock Operation 2 Volleyball Sleeves Start-Up Instructions Start-Up Chemical and Maintenance Kit ALL THIS FOR: OO plus tax mm OVER 2000 DIFFERENT TILES ON DISPLAY. WE HAVE OUR OWN QUALITY INSTALLERS DO THE WORK FOR YOU. CALL US FOR A FREE IN-HOUSE ESTIMATE. "5 .Hours: iyiuii.tii. oani-sprii Sat. 9-4, Sun. 11-4 1 Our 23rd Year Serving The Valley FATioFn;:.:ov clatc lccx w Uy, SALTILLO Fffitro FLCC.l TiLE J Stalled Loc: jWt Ar:of!iJu crA;iri:iG I FLOOH TILE i miii u n I AT Kr3 gg ft. I!"7tallep AMERICA'S TILE a MARDLE IMPORTS INC. "SHOWROOM" 11649 N. Cave Creek Rd. r- Phx., AZ 85020 lO E 861 -1680 o Cartm NEW LOCATION "Best Casablanca Showroom in USA" 150 FANS ON DISPLAY BUILDERS WELCOME By Frank Echenique (Former Casablanca's Rep) Free Basic Installation in the valley or free UPS delivery In 49 states. Come to see why people from New York, Beverly Hills & Europe buy fans from us. Extra close out Items at low-low prices PANAMA i2iiiipt $279 200 wpb 2 for $1 7900 32011T $45500 (ll) 482-1 88 1 Corner of 32nd St. Store Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9-5:30 Sat. 9-5 EXTRA CHARQE TOR WIRIMQ AMD BRACE If HEEDED. M3 Sr STLnvaivmEire. EXPANDED INVENTORY TAKE AN ADDITIONAL 25 OFF FF ALL CD Coupon MUST Accompany Purchase CLEARANCE MERCHANDISE EXCLUDED I f- Hurry! Sale Ends May 6th! j W to I ai off retail EVERY DAY!!! Here are some of our designer names: 'I . T I Via Spiga Unlsa Evan Picone Perry Ellis Joan and David Aerosole Mr. Seymour Bandollno Bass Easy Spirit Algner Van Ell Allure Connie Glacee Anne Klein Stuart Weitzman Circle S Keds Trelorn Ellesse K-Swlss Andrew Geller American Eagle Impo Naluralizer Enzo Vera Cruz Rangonl Sesto Meucci Nine & Co, Ryka Andre Assous Norma Kamall Kenneth Cole Kaepa Onex Azalela Cherokee Margaret Jerrold Bellini Dr. Scholl Jasmin Franco Sarto Old Maine Trotter Avia New Balance Pappagallo Skechers Nicole Calvin Klein Hush Puppies Colorado FOOTWEAR" saoa 6990 E. Shea Blvd. Agua Caliente Center (N.W. Corner of 70th St 4 Shea) Next to NY Bagels & Bialys & Pro Golf NARROW AND MEDIUM AND SOME WIDE WIDTHS 922-7439 Hours: Mon. Fri. 10-6, Thurs. 10 Sat. 10 -5, Closed Sun. 7, CELEBRATE EARTH DAY al an Environmental Expo al Arizona Center April 21-22 Friday, 9 a.m. 6 p.m. Saturday (Earth Day), 9 a.m. - Noon Interactive EmiRONAAENtAt- Exhibits Activities for Mes MAKE A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Volunteer for Our Valley Wide Green-Up Saturday (Earth Day), 8 a.m. - Noon fiMfntl REAAOVAtTRASH PK& WN& VAILK Y rOKWAID CALL 240-2408 int$! MOTOROLA Waste Systems Phoenix Newspapers, Inc. Md " Cwm" '-iM"",m BHOWMN&ffiWM MOUSTNEI n a o od w 569-6336 4

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