'People don't just disintegrate': What happened to mom who vanished in South Seaside Park? (2024)

BERKELEY - In 2009, a woman went on an evening walk outside her son's home in South Seaside Park and never came back. With no answers since, police and her family are asking that we don't forget about her.

Tuesday was the 15-year anniversary of Julia Madsen's disappearance from the house at 22nd Avenue in this section of Berkeley on the barrier island squeezed between Seaside Park to the north and Island Beach State Park to the south. Her husband Ed Madsen reported her missing around 9 p.m. on June 25, 2009, police said.

Multiple law enforcement agencies searched overnight for Julia, while family scoured the area themselves.

Guy Madsen, Julia's son, who also has a home in Clifton, even took his car and went driving up and down the sand, he said.

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He got the call from police while he was out getting ice cream with his son, he said. By the time he rushed home, police cars were covering the street and helicopters scattered the sky.

Meanwhile, Eileen Tummino, Julia's daughter, scanned neighbors' backyards.

This was just the beginning of an extensive search that lasted around two months, said Joe Santoro, Berkeley Township Police's lead detective on the case. But the search never really ended.

Julia, who was 72 when she went missing, was never found and no evidence was ever recovered, Santoro said.

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Now, police and Julia's loved ones are still asking for help from the public to bring closure to the baffling and tragic loss.

"Many people at the Shore this time of year are from out of state, but come back to vacation the same time every year," Santoro said. "Those are the people we are also trying to reach."

Madsen was last seen wearing a pink sleeveless shirt, white capri pants, with a gold and silver bracelet on her left wrist and a watch on her right wrist, according to the detective.

Joseph Itri, lieutenant with the State Police Missing Persons Unit, said that because the family contacted police so quickly, they were able to use all investigative tools that police had to offer.

"We can rest assured that all assets were utilized on this case," Itri said.

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Itri said missing persons investigations can be very complicated in general, but the location where Julia disappeared — an area surrounded by water — made this case more difficult.

Media attention on these cases helps the public understand that missing people are taken very seriously, according to Itri.

"They're never forgotten," Itri said. "There's no statute of limitations."

In situations that involve criminal activities, it also reminds offenders that police have not forgotten, Itri said.

That night, Eileen Tummino walked through backyards in the area, thinking maybe her mother had gotten lost, had been hurt or fallen asleep. She doesn't believe her mother would have gone in the water, as she was never one to go in the ocean past her knees.

But Guy Madsen believes that there was foul play in his mother's disappearance, and said that she was most likely abducted and murdered.

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"It pains me to think, as her son, I couldn't come to her rescue," he said.

Madsen said he would just like to know what happened to his mother and get justice for her.

"I would like to have whoever is responsible come to justice," he said. "That's all we have in this society."

New Jersey State Police Capt. Justin Blackwell, who has worked Julia's case from the onset, said that police carry these types of cases with them throughout the years.

"As painful as it is for the families to not have closure, we carry some of that weight as well," Blackwell said. "Not a single one of us has given up looking for her."

Analysts are regularly checking databases for remains found, Blackwell said.

According to Itri, between 10,000 and 11,000 missing persons are reported in New Jersey every year, and around one thousand of those remain active year to year.

"Never in a million years do you think you'll be the victim of someone going missing in your family," Guy Madsen said.

He'd always hoped his father, who died earlier this year, would get closure in his lifetime.

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Ed Madsen was buried in March with one of Julia's hairbrushes that had been placed into evidence after her disappearance, Guy Madsen said. The headstone includes Julia's name and her years of birth and death, with a question mark following the year of her presumed death, 2009.

Tummino said when she woke up Tuesday morning and looked outside, it reminded her of the day her mother went missing: it was the same, stunningly beautiful weather.

Julia Madsen did have the early stages of Alzheimer's, according to Tummino. But she was still driving, going to the store and had much of her memory intact.

"People don't just disintegrate," Guy Madsen said.

Tummino said her mother was a fun and uncomplicated woman who loved her family.

"Just a beautiful smile and a real nice person," she said.

Any information can be forwarded to the Berkeley Township Police Department at 732-341-6600 or the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit 609-882-2000. Tips can also remain anonymous.

Jenna Calderón covers breaking news and cold cases in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Before coming to the Press, she covered The Queen City for Cincinnati Magazine in Ohio. Contact her at 330-590-3903; jcalderon@gannettnj.com

'People don't just disintegrate': What happened to mom who vanished in South Seaside Park? (2024)
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