Case File Overview
Mitchel “Mitch” Weiser and Bonita “Bonnie” Bickwit met while attending John Dewey High School, an alternative school for gifted students located in Brooklyn, New York, and were quickly inseparable. Mitch and Bonnie were from stable, middle-class Jewish families and lived with their parents in Brooklyn, with Mitch residing in Midwood and Bonnie in Borough Park.
Bonnie and Mitch
In July of 1973, when Mitch was sixteen years old and Bonnie was fifteen years old, they were working typical teenager summer jobs. Mitch was a photography assistant at Chelsea Photographers in Coney Island, New York. And Bonnie was a mother’s helper at Camp Wel-Met in Narrowsburg, New York – a popular summer camp for Jewish kids located around 90 miles outside of the city.
Mitch and his classmate Larry Marion bought tickets for a concert that was being held on July 28 at the Grand Prix Raceway in the rural Central New York village of Watkins Glen. The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen was a concert festival featuring The Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and The Band. The concert turned out to be one of the largest in history, with over 600,000 fans in attendance.
Summer Jam at Watkins Glen
However, a wrench was soon thrown into Mitch and Larry’s plans. When Larry’s mom learned about the trip she “completely flipped out” and forbade her son from going. So Mitch decided to invite Bonnie along instead. Not only did he not want to waste the ticket, but also he missed Bonnie and hoped she could take a couple days off from her job at the camp to enjoy the adventure with him.
But when Bonnie asked her boss for the time off she was told no – she could not go. This angered her, especially because she had been working sixteen hours a day. Bonnie quit her job at the camp and told her boss she would be back in a couple days to pick up her belongings and final cheque. Her parents – Raye and Ted – were on holidays and did not have the opportunity to talk Bonnie into staying at camp.
When Mitch told his mom Shirley and his sister Susan about his plans to go to the concert neither were pleased. His mom pleaded with him not to go. When she realized she could not stop him, she tried to give Mitch money to make sure he would not hitchhike during the trip. When he refused the money, Susan tried to physically block her brother from exiting the house. But he pushed past her and left.
Mitch left late on Thursday July 26 and travelled by cab to Camp Wel-Met since no busses ran that late, arriving to the camp around midnight. He called his sister to let her know he had arrived safely, but also mentioned that the cab ride had used up a lot of the $25 he had set aside for the trip. His sister asked Mitch to please come home, but his heart was set on going to the concert.
On Friday July 27 Mitch and Bonnie ate breakfast together in the dining hall and then gathered their belongings for the trip – they carried backpacks, sleeping bags, and a cardboard sign that read “Watkins Glen” to help with hitchhiking along the way. They got a ride from a camp worker into Narrowsburg, approximately 75 miles away from Watkins Glen. Camp workers often travelled back and forth shuttling campers and hauling supplies. The driver dropped Mitch and Bonnie off and last saw them standing on the side of State Route 97 trying to hitch a ride.
There are unconfirmed reports that a truck driver may have given them a ride some of the way afterwards, but it seems like this could merely be confusion over the driver who gave them the initial ride from the camp. Regardless, it is unclear whether Mitch and Bonnie ever arrived in Watkins Glen for the concert.
Missing Persons Poster
The young couple should have headed home on Sunday July 29, but they have never been heard from again. Their distraught families distributed thousands of fliers, hired a private detective, and even consulted psychics. But Mitch and Bonnie have remained missing for decades.
At the time of his disappearance, Mitch was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds. He was wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt, and boots. Mitch has brown shoulder-length hair, hazel eyes, and wears gold-rimmed metal eyeglasses. He also has a scar on his lower lip and discoloured upper front teeth. When Bonnie was last seen she was 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighed 90 pounds. Like Mitch, she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Bonnie has brown hair and brown eyes.
Case File Theories
When Bonnie and Mitch first vanished, authorities strongly believed they had run off together. They thought the teens had either eloped, joined a commune, or even been ensnared by a cult. Remember, this was the 1970s, so the perspective of law enforcement was quite different than it is today.
And police did have a few reasons to think that Mitch and Bonnie may have left on their own accord.
Bonnie mailed a letter to her parents three days before she disappeared in which she explained how much she liked doing her own thing while at camp. She mentioned it was time for her parents to start giving her more freedom.
Plus, in the week leading up to her disappearance, Bonnie left Camp Wel-Met and snuck into her family home to grab the $80 she had been saving for a bicycle. Police assumed she used the money to pay for her and Mitch to run away.
At the same time, Mitch was upset because his family could not afford to send him to the college of his choice. Instead, he had to stay close to home and attend Brooklyn College. Authorities were even more sure the couple had taken off together when they discovered Mitch and Bonnie had secretly exchanged wedding rings earlier that summer.
Mitch and Bonnie
There have been at least two glimmers of hope that Bonnie and Mitch may be alive and well.
First, Bonnie’s mom Raye received a letter in the Fall of 1973 from an Indian reservation in South Dakota asking for a donation. She told the media that Bonnie and Mitch “were very interested in Indian affairs” and wondered if they could be living among the Indian community. But even though the families mailed out hundreds of flyers to reservations and mission schools nothing ever came of the lead.
Second, years later when Mitch’s family moved to Arizona, they paid to list their new phone number in the Brooklyn telephone directory in case their son was alive and ever wanted to reach out. Thirteen years following Bonnie and Mitch’s disappearance, Mitch’s dad Sidney received a collect call from someone identifying herself as “Bonnie.” But the caller abruptly hung up after he greeted her and she has yet to be identified. Sidney blamed himself for being too enthusiastic and scaring the caller off, but likely it was just a heartless prank.
Despite all of this, Bonnie and Mitch’s loved ones have always been adamant the pair did not run away. At most, their families thought they might have left to get married but would have returned by the end of the summer—they never would have abandoned their families and lives.
On the flip side, a lot of the evidence suggests Mitch and Bonnie did not run off.
Mitch was very excited to take his driver’s test, which was booked for shortly after he disappeared. Also, when he went to pick up the concert ticker for Bonnie from his friend Larry, as he was leaving Mitch said, “See you Monday,” indicating he was planning to return soon.
And both Mitch and Bonnie left paychecks behind and never used their social security numbers, which leaves one to wonder how they financed their new life. Also, Bonnie was extremely worried about her father. He suffered from a degenerative neurological disorder and those who knew her thought it was highly unlikely she would cut ties and never check in on him.
As time passed and no one heard from Mitch or Bonnie, the authorities finally started to wonder if something terrible had happened to the young couple.
Police received an interesting lead in the case in the Fall of 2000 after the MSNBC TV show Missing Persons did a segment on the missing teens.
Allyn (Alan) Smith, then twenty-four years of age, told authorities he had seen Bonnie and Mitch drown while they were making their way home from Watkins Glen. Allyn said he hitched a ride home the day after the concert in an orange Volkswagen van with Pennsylvania licence plates. When he entered the vehicle, two other hitchhikers were already there: Bonnie and Mitch.
Allyn said although he never knew the two teenagers’ names he overheard them discussing the young woman’s job at a summer camp and recognized both of them from their clothing and descriptions.
According to Allyn, the group took a break from the drive to cool off with a quick dip in a river. While Bonnie was swimming, she started to drown and Mitch jumped in to save her. However, they both were swept away by river currents. The driver of the van told Allyn he would call police and report the incident once he got to a gas station, but this call was never logged and the driver has never been found.
Authorities at first found Allyn’s account credible, but then they started to wonder why he did not attempt to rescue Mitch and Bonnie given the fact he was “an athletic Navy veteran.” Moreover, Allyn could not remember the location of the river where Mitch and Bonnie were said to have drowned even when police took him back to the area. Also, the odds of one body not turning up after a drowning incident is plausible, but to have both bodies never be found seems more unlikely.
So if Bonnie and Mitch did not run off or die in an accident, could they have been murdered?
Robert Garrow, an American serial killer active in New York in the early 1970s, could be responsible for Bonnie and Mitch’s disappearance.
In 1961, Garrow was jailed for rape. Six years later, he was released on good behavior after serving only a little more than a quarter of his twenty-year sentence. Then, in July of 1973, he went on a killing spree.
On July 11, Garrow raped and killed 16-year-old Alicia Hauck in Syracuse. Three days later, he murdered Daniel Porter, 23, and Susan Petz, 20, in Wevertown, Warren County. On July 29, 1973, he stabbed Philip Domblewski to death at a campsite in Wells, Hamilton County after tying him to a tree. Three other intended victims somehow managed to escape with their lives.
In early August, Garrow was shot, wounded, and apprehended by a State Forest Ranger. Garrow received a 25-year to life prison sentence for his crimes. In early September 1978 he faked paralysis and was moved to the Elderly and Handicapped Unit at Fishkill Correctional Facility where he escaped. Three days later, Garrow was killed in a gun fight with authorities after shooting and wounding a corrections officer with a gun his son had smuggled into prison for him in a bucket of chicken.
There is a small chance Garrow could have killed Mitch and Bonnie. His murder spree coincides with the time in which the couple vanished. And he was killing within roughly a three-hour drive away from Watkin’s Glen. Moreover, he did not have any qualms about attacking and killing a couple, which is pretty rare as it is more difficult to control two people.
From 1973 to 1978 fourteen young people went missing from the region where Mitch and Bonnie disappeared. There is no way to know if all of these disappearances are connected, but if not Garrow, then another killer may have been at work in the area and killed Bonnie and Mitch.
In 2016, authorities reportedly dug at Keuka Lake, roughly eighteen miles west of Watkins Glen, after receiving a tip about Mitch and Bonnie’s disappearance. They were likely searching for bodies, but they have not been very forthcoming with information so it is difficult to know for sure. It has now been years since the search was done, and if bodies were found we would have heard by now.
What do you think happened to Mitch and Bonnie?
Bonnie and Mitch’s families have been understandably upset that Sullivan County and New York City Police did not take the disappearance of their loved ones seriously when they first vanished. Authorities failed to interview the couple’s friends or the people they interacted with at the camp. Also, police did not enter Mitch and Bonnie’s names into the FBI’s national database of missing persons. Even more, the original case files were lost and they contained the only copies of Bonnie and Mitch’s dental records, making it an uphill battle to ever identify their remains.
Age-Progressed Image of Bonnie
All is not lost, though, as authorities have admitted many mistakes were made in the case and they are now fully committed to locating Bonnie and Mitch. And in 2000, Mitch’s sister Susan found her brother’s baby teeth and perhaps they can be used for DNA purposes to rule in or out any remains that are found.
Age-Progressed Image of Mitch
For decades now, the Weiser and Bickwit families have searched for answers. But instead of any receiving any semblance of closure they remain stuck in a hellish limbo, wondering what happened to the “extremely articulate, intelligent, and socially involved” young couple who had their entire lives ahead of them…and forever mourning what could have been.
If you have any information about the disappearance of Mitch and Bonnie, please contact the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office at 845-794-7100.
Sources and Further Reading and Listening
“Mitchel Fred Weiser.” The Charley Project, last updated July 15, 2018.
“Mitchel Weiser and Bonnie Bickwit.” The Vanished Podcast, August 17, 2016.
“Bonita Mara Bickwit.” The Charley Project, last updated July 9, 2016.
“NYC’s Most Notorious Cold Cases.” New York Post, October 19, 2013.
“Search For Missing Teens Expanded.” The Jewish Week, June 30, 2000.
“Missing Teens’ Classmates Issue Plea.” The Jewish Week, June 23, 2000.
“At Dewey HS, a Reunion – And a 27-Yr. Mystery.” Daily News, June 18, 2000.
“Without A TRACE: Investigators Trying Last Push to Solve 25-Year Mystery of Two Brooklyn Teens Who Vanished From Jewish Camp; Heartbroken Families Grieve Without Closure.” Jewish Week, July 24, 1998.
“2 Who Set Out for Watkins Glen Are Still Gone.” The New York Times, April 9, 1974.
“In Search of Bonnie and Mitch.” Long Island Press, March 3, 1974.
“HS Students Seek Missing Pair.” Daily News, February 15, 1974.
“48 Hours: A Proposal.” Susan Leibegott, n.d.
“Mitchel & Bonnie.” A Website in the Memory of Mitchel Weiser & Bonnie Bickwit, n.d.
“Mitchel and Bonnie.” Missing Persons, Part 1, n.d.
“Mitchel and Bonnie.” Missing Persons, Part 2. n.d.
“Triggering Memories of the Missing.” Jewish Week, n.d.