On the Run

Molly Dattilo family gets closure
with judge’s order on case

Annual fun run continues to honor missing woman

(May 2018) – The Dattilo family was finally able to experience some closure for Molly Laura Dattilo, who went missing in 2004, when Jefferson County Circuit Court last fall announced her officially deceased.
In September 2017, Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Darrel Auxier signed an order declaring that Dattilo is presumed to be deceased from her continued absence of more than seven years. This order also concludes that the day Dattilo went missing in Indianapolis, July 6, 2004, to be the date of her death.

Photo provided

A large group of runners, young and old, take off for the annual Molly Dattilo Run and Walk, which takes place each May along the Madison, Ind., riverfront.

Dattilo, an Eastern Kentucky University student who was taking summer classes at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, was last seen around Westlake apartments in Indianapolis. She left behind her car, cell phone, clothes, identification, ATM card and other items on the night she disappeared. Police traced a call Dattilo made to a friend around 11 p.m. from a pay phone at the Thornton’s gas station on Crawfordsville Road in Speedway, Ind. But no one has heard from her since. The 5-foot, 100-pound woman with brown hair and green eyes was 23 years old when she went missing.
An investigation into her case never resulted in the location of her body or solved the mystery of her disappearance. Although family members and law enforcement officials believe she was the victim of a criminal act, the petition stated.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but Dattilo’s family was awarded damages from a civil lawsuit against two men – John Shelton and his father Edward Shelton, whom they believe caused her disappearance.
Celestra Dewey, Dattilo’s sister, said, “It’s been a very long time, and we wanted some closure. We presumed she has been deceased for a long time, and at some point we needed to decide what to do just so we can have closure and help us sort of move on. The thing is, there are so many of us, and we are all around the country, so we all had to get together and finally do it. We have been thinking about it for a long time, and everyone has to agree, it is such a big ordeal. It’s not forgetting, but closing that chapter.”

Photo provided

Madison, Ind., native Molly Dattilo went missing in Indianapolis on July 6, 2004.

Even though Dattilo is no longer considered missing, they still hold the annual Molly Dattilo Run & Walk in her honor, which is almost like a memorial to her mother and family to keep her memory alive.
“Molly ran from the time she was very, very little,” Dewey said. “That’s why this race means a lot to us and is so important and special to us. The great thing about it is that Molly was a really good runner, but she never forgot to encourage other runners, even if they were from the other team.”
Race director Paul Kelly organized the present race committee. It was originally sponsored by Girls Inc. in 1982. Kelly started from the very beginning when the race first began in 2006 in honor of Molly.
“We kept the race alive, and I’m proud of that,” Kelly said. “A community coming together to honor Molly is the real heart of the event. We even had running coaches from both schools join hands to work together and put this race on and keep the Molly race going by creating running clubs to get ready for this race. The race is a great way to bring Madison together, not only to honor Molly’s memory but also to be active and involved within our community.”
Dewey said, “It enables and encourages all kids to get out and who wouldn’t often participate in activities to get out. During this race, the community is actually cheering on every child. It doesn’t matter what school you go to, everyone cheers from the first kid to the last kid, and it’s really inspiring and shows a lot about our community.”
Kelly has known the Dattilos before becoming the race director, since they used to run together in the Girls Inc. races before her disappearance. But Dattilo’s love for running wasn’t her only passion; she enjoyed singing. too.
“Molly was a good singer, and we so happen to have a CD of her singing the national anthem,” Kelly said. “We play that every year, and it’s a wonderful part of the event. Between the hustle and bustle of the event, nothing matters after the national anthem. It’s emotional, especially for those who know about it.”
The Dattilo family has been through a lot of heartbreak and strain throughout these last 13 years, but this final court petition declaring the death of Dattilo has helped the family have some final closure. On top of that, this whole situation formed a new law in Indiana. The Molly Dattilo Law was enacted in 2007 and was strengthened in 2013. It requires law enforcement to accept missing persons reports immediately and identifies those as high risk, even if the missing persons are adults. 
“We were not taken seriously, initially, and it wasted a lot of time,” Dewey said. “We fought hard for this law, and now police have to take missing adults seriously, and you do have the rights. Unfortunately, this law is not used all the time, but it is one great thing that came out of this disappearance.”

• For information on the Molly Dattilo Run & Walk, contact race director Paul Kelly at (812) 701-3297.

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