Eileen Francis Hynson was a 19-year old girl who disappeared off the face of the earth on June 1, 1976. No body was ever found, and her whereabouts are still unknown.
The information on her case is scarce and very limited. She was from Napa, California, living in a time period where murder and mayhem ran rampant. 1970s Cali was filled to the brim with serial killers, rapists, and kidnappers: the list of missing and murdered people from this period is almost infinite.
Eileen was born on Feb 6, 1957 (an Aquarius) and was 5’2 and 130 lbs, with dazzling hazel eyes and dark brown hair. She lived with her father and brother, since her mother Gwendolyn had died 3 years earlier in 1973. It must have been difficult for 16-year old Eileen to have dealt with such a huge loss at a very young age.
Only 2 family photos of Eileen were ever made public, and what I always found striking about these images is how she looks slightly sad yet effortlessly beautiful. And the fact that her eyeliner was completely on point.
The summer of 1976 should have been a happy time for Eileen: on that bright June day, she took off from home to attend a bridal party dress fitting. Her father claimed she first went to a resort in Lake Berryessa, a fairly remote area that is difficult to get to without a car.
Weirdly enough, Eileen did not take any luggage with her – she had left her suitcase behind at home. This indicates that she did not plan to be gone long, and rules out the possibility that she ran away from home.
In September of 1969, almost 7 years before Eileen disappeared, Lake Berryessa became infamous. The Zodiac Killer (yet to ever be identified) went apeshit on two picnicking college students. They were a square and pleasant couple named Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, and they were just trying to enjoy some quality relaxation time in nature.
They were intruded upon by a creepy man with an executioner’s hood and .45 pistol, like a bad B-movie come to life. The man toyed with the couple, pretending he was a runaway prisoner on the lam to Mexico. At first he claimed he only wanted to rob them. But things soon turned violent. He was the one and only Zodiac Killer, and he forced Cecelia to tie Bryan up with a plastic clothesline, and then tied her up himself.
As he pointed the gun at the couple, Bryan noticed that the Zodiac’s hands were shaking. Bryan asked if he was nervous, to which the Zodiac responded with a relaxed laugh and an “I guess so.” What happened next was without warning.
After putting away his gun, the Zodiac suddenly turned towards the bound and subdued Bryan. Brandishing a knife, he stabbed him 6 times. Later on, Bryan would note how the stabbing made a “chomp-chomp-chomp” staccato noise in his back, sending him into a world of terror and shock. Cecelia was stabbed next: 5 times in her back, and 5 times on the front of her body.
After playing dead for a time, Bryan managed to crawl towards a main road for help, but Cecelia was too weak to even move. She was alive when authorities arrived, but went into a coma and died days later. Bryan survived the attack and went on to become a lawyer.
What can one make of this nightmare of a crime? Whether or not the Zodiac Killer was involved in Eileen’s disappearance (probably not, abducting a female quietly does not fit his M.O.), his crime proves that areas of Lake Berryessa are so isolated that somebody can attempt to commit a double murder without being interrupted.
Did Eileen Hynson fall victim to some lunatic who put her through a similarly deranged experience?
What complicates things even further is that Eileen was supposed to have left the lakeside resort to go to Benicia, California (another Zodiac killing ground), where the bridal party was happening. We have no idea why Eileen went to Lake Berryessa first, or who she met there.
In fact, we have no clue as to where exactly Eileen disappeared – it is not even on the public record! She could have vanished anywhere between Napa, Lake Berryessa and Benicia, most likely en route between the two latter locations, as her father only grew alarmed after she left the resort.
To add to the ridiculousness, the public was never informed as to whether Eileen had a car, or if she was busing and hitchhiking between these points. Since there is no mention of an abandoned car or licence plate info, and due to the fact that she was only 19, it is plausible to assume she had no transportation of her own.
If she had her own vehicle, who managed to coax her out of it? Did a strange man pull a Ted Bundy-style manipulation on Eileen in a lone parking lot? If she was busing, did she meet a suspicious character at a stop who lured her to her doom? If she hitchhiked, which fatal car did she enter? Did she meet her end at the lake, just as Cecelia Shepard had? There are literally zero answers.
According to a Facebook post by a woman named Kathleen who claims to be her cousin, it was her wedding which Eileen was due to attend. She alleges that Eileen left her home to prepare for the bridal fitting (she was to be the Maid of Honor), and was never seen again.
If Kathleen is for real, she needs to hit me up and give me an all access interview.
A user with a sharp eye on Websleuths forums uncovered a photo of a girl who strongly resembles Eileen. This image was taken by Californian serial killer William Richard Bradford; a former photographer who lured women to their deaths under the pretense of a modelling career.
This alleged photo of Eileen is #40 in a collection of 54 photographs of different women found at Bradford’s residence. Initially, they were all believed to have been Bradford’s victims. As of now, more than half have been identified, most being alive and well, though police have not released the identity of all of these women.
Some claim Girl No# 40 has been identified by police, but the info is a secret. In 2012, Napa County’s cold case unit added Eileen to a list of disappearances which “they believe have the highest possibility of being solved using modern evidence techniques.”
Is this because they identified the Bradford girl as Eileen Hynson? It is aggravating how police still continue to withhold key information, yet appear to have had no conclusive breakthrough after nearly 50 years on the case.
Another Websleuths user claims she spoke to Eileen’s family and found that they believe Girl No# 40 is Eileen, but older and possibly years after she disappeared.
There are also some theories about Eileen being a victim of the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killer. In the early 1970s, several young women were kidnapped and murdered while hitchhiking in Sonoma County. The killer’s trademark was tying women up (like the Zodiac!), torturing and raping them, then strangling or stabbing them to death. He was never caught.
All of the Santa Rosa Killer’s victims have been identified, save one: Sonoma County Jane Doe, whose skeletal remains were discovered in a ravine in 1979. She was thought to be between 16- 21 years old, wore contact lenses, had auburn-brown hair, had a broken rib heal while she was alive, and stood at around 5’3.
Her cause of death is unknown. She was hogtied, and her arm was fractured around the time she died. This sicko took pleasure in torturing his victims before killing them: In 1972, Kim Wendy Allen, 19, was raped, tied up and murdered, after being strangled with a cord for over 30 minutes.
The description of this Jane Doe fits Eileen, but it would be helpful if we know if she wore contact lenses or had a broken rib in her lifetime. To reiterate, the lack of info is a massive roadblock in Eileen’s case. Hopefully, the police still have her DNA on file and will eventually test her against this Doe (and others).
Eileen Hynson is still out there somewhere. Her remains could be lying untouched at the bottom of some Californian lake or a distant ravine off the edge of rocky forest cliffs. Or perhaps she is still lying nameless in a coroner’s morgue, her body forever awaiting identification. Her disappearance continues to be a frustrating unsolved mystery.