In the autumn of 1990, a slight October breeze cut through the evening air on the streets of Kelso, Washington. A pretty brunette with Farrah Fawcett bangs stepped out of her friend’s car at the corner of Allen and Pacific streets. She planned to walk to the Rendezvous Bar only two blocks away, but friends will later report she never made it.
Almost two weeks later, another young brunette would disappear just a few miles away in Kalama, Washington. She, too, was just a few blocks from her destination.
Years later, the body of one woman would be found while the other remains missing, leaving behind a host of family and friends with nothing left but broken hearts and a world full of questions.
Part 1: Kelly
Kelly Diane Wright Sims was born February 24th of 1963 and disappeared twenty-seven years later on October 16th, 1990. It had been a chilly Tuesday night spent with friends, who dropped off the young mother of three in downtown Kelso so she could walk to a bar. She wanted to play a few rounds of pool, she’d said, before picking up her youngest at the babysitter’s house.
Kelly’s little sister, Adrianne Avery Dyer, was only fifteen when her sister went missing, and doesn’t remember much of the days leading up to the disappearance. She does remember a protective older sibling, though – one who enjoyed spending time with her family and loved her children dearly. She recalls the utter heartbreak the entire family felt when Kelly’s first baby, Shannon, passed away.
“Her first daughter was born to her when she was still in high school,” Adrianne says. “Sadly, this baby was born premature and passed away only days later. Very somber times.”
Kelly went on to have three more children: Ksandra, Brittanie, and Thomas, who were all very young when their mother vanished.
“No family should ever have to endure this kind of pain and unknown,” Adrianne states. “I still search in strangers’ faces, longing for people to be her. My mother longs for the truth. I used to have mixed emotions about this situation, but after experiencing the birth of my one and only child, I can look at my sister’s missing person situation in a different light. She’s not only a missing person, but also a missing daughter, sister, mother, aunt, and friend.”
Brenda Rismoen, a close family friend, remembers a fun-loving and stubborn person who was more like a sister to her. Their mothers were both best friends, so they practically grew up side by side.
“She liked to listen to music, watch TV, and talk on the phone,” Brenda recalls. “Just a typical kid that liked to have fun.”
The two families spent copious amounts of time together, taking beach vacations and renting cabins. Brenda and Kelly would spend hours together cooking in the kitchen for their loved ones.
“My memories are of a big sister who treated me no different than blood,” Lisa Juntunen, another close friend, says. “I loved her as much as any sister could.”
Lisa fondly remembers long nights playing Yahtzee, drinking Cokes and chewing sunflower seeds. They played records, washed dishes, canned vegetables with their mothers, and went through the bell bottom trend together.
Before she went missing, Kelly promised Lisa, who was pregnant at the time, that she would be there went she went into labor, just like Lisa had been there for each one of her four babies.
“She was excited for my baby that was due,” Lisa remembers. “I felt so upset and helpless when she didn’t come home after days of being gone. To this day, I just want to comb the woods for any piece of her that might be out there. I miss her every single damn day.”
Part 2: Michelle
Michelle Frances Loran was born July 31st, 1971 to Thomas and Evelyn Loran. She vanished nineteen years later — twelve days after Kelly Sims, on October 28th, 1990. She was only a few blocks away from her Kalama home – a town also in Cowlitz County, Washington.
The youngest of five children, Michelle had two older sisters and two older brothers. Their father died when she was just a child, and she ended up dropping out of high school when she was older. She gave birth to her only child, a baby girl named Crystal, five months before she went missing. Crystal was raised by her grandmother for the remainder of her childhood.
“Michelle was a sweet person,” her brother, Thomas, remembers. “Didn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
Thomas last saw his sister on his twenty-first birthday on Thursday, October 25th. Without a job or a steady income, Michelle wasn’t able to afford much for a present. What she was able to give her brother, however, was treasured forever.
“She gave me a Zippo lighter,” Thomas remembers. “I didn’t smoke nor do I now. Beautiful gift, though.”
While Thomas doesn’t know what his sister was doing the night she went missing, he and his family knew Michelle would never run away and leave her child behind. She had been doing well, and had a new boyfriend. They were great together, and were already discussing marriage. Reportedly, however, the father of Michelle’s daughter didn’t like that she had moved on.
“We knew something bad had happened,” he says.
A friend of Michelle’s ex-boyfriend, a man named Marty Ogden, was allegedly the last person to see her. He gave her a ride to her house around 2:00 a.m., although reports state that Michelle never made it home.
Five and a half years later, the Loran family received some answers as to what happened to their beloved Michelle. In 1996, part of her skull was found in a wooded area near China Garden Road in Kalama. According to the Cowlitz County website, “The rest of her body and lower mandible are still missing.”
What happened to these two women? Were they victims of domestic violence, or was a serial murderer on the loose in the streets of Cowlitz County? Evidence does not point to the crimes being connected, but it is undeniably suspicious for two people to disappear from the same county only days apart. Other women went missing from Cowlitz County in the years following, including Misty Thompson in 1993 and Phyllis Lewellen in 1996.
Both Kelly and Michelle’s families believe the girls were killed by someone they knew.
“Where Michelle was found, I believe only locals who knew the area would have dumped her,” Thomas says. “I believe between [Marty Ogden] and Michelle’s ex-boyfriend they were responsible.”
In October of 1991, Marty Ogden’s half-brother, Keith Anthony Barton, was arrested for the murder and dismemberment of twenty-nine-year-old Longview woman Kellie South. Because only part of Michelle’s skull was found – in an area only a few miles from where Ogden and Barton grew up – it’s possible she was dismembered as well. Thomas recently spoke with detectives and plans to visit the site where his sister’s remains were found to do some searching himself.
Brenda believes Kelly Sims may have gone home and argued with her boyfriend at the time, and it may have turned violent. She says Kelly had told her that he threw a knife at her feet once, and argued frequently.
“He drank a lot,” she remembers.
A detective with the Kelso Police Department was kind enough to comment about Kelly Sims’ case, stating, “Although we believe Ms. Sims is no longer alive, we have no knowledge to prove otherwise.”
When Kelly first disappeared, police organized foot searches and conducted interviews while family and friends hung flyers around town. The police department still receives tips from time to time that investigators immediately respond to, but the case has undoubtedly gone cold.
“There are theories about what perhaps may have happened to Ms. Sims,” Captain Fletcher says, “but those are simply speculation and I did not discover in the case file any evidence to support those theories.”
Both families still hold onto hope, regardless of the utter heartbreak and the time that has passed.
“I truly believe in justice,” Thomas says. ”I do believe we answer to a higher power.”
“We are not stopping or going away,” Brenda promises.
If anyone has information regarding the cases of Kelly Sims and Michelle Loran, please contact the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office at 360-577-3092