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Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, May 22, 1959

May 22, 2009 |  2:00 pm

may 22, 1959, Racial Rabbits

Confidential File

Disappearance Without Reason

Paul_coatesI'm going to tell you the story of a missing person. His name is Robert Corbell. His disappearance just doesn't add up.

He doesn't fit in the statistical picture of a man who disappears from sight.

His life hasn't been exciting. At least, not abnormally so.

He's traveled a lot. During his nine years in the Air Force he's seen duty on Guam and in England and in Puerto Rico.

He's a good man. He's got an excellent record in the service.

I can give you a physical description of him:

He's 27. He's 6 ft. 1 in. tall, weighing about 210 pounds. His eyesight isn't good; he wears very thick glasses. He's got brown hair and hazel eyes.

And a tattoo, a black panther on his upper right arm. He got it in Guam.

May 22, 1959, Corbell He loves his parents and his wife, and he likes his kids, dogs, gardening and people -- but that's not very interesting reading. Nor is it significant.

And there's the trouble. Nothing about him or his past actions is especially significant.

Yesterday, I talked at length with his wife -- hoping for some bit of information.

Her name is Barbara. She's 27, too.

"He was stationed about 10 miles from Slough -- that's a town in England about the size of Riverside.

"Seven days after we met he asked me to marry him and I said yes. But we waited eight months. We became engaged in August of 1957 and were married in October."

Barbara Corbell smiled fondly. "If you only knew him," she said, "he's such a wonderful man. He's forever buying me little things. Not very expensive, but I like them so."

On April 21 of this year Bob and Barbara flew to the United States. His transfer to March Air Force Base had come through.

They spent the first week with Bob's parents in El Monte. Then they found an apartment in Riverside.

May 22, 1959, Cover "Everywhere he'd go he'd always insist that I go along," Barbara told me. "I used to say to him, 'Why don't you go out for a drink with the boys?' But he wouldn't."

A week ago Monday, Bob, an airman, first class, was up at 5:30, his usual hour. His wife yawned and he said, "You go back to sleep. I'll get my breakfast."

He did. He kissed her when he left. Then he caught the local bus to the Greyhound Depot in downtown Riverside, to await another bus to take him to the base.

He bought a newspaper and read it over a cup of coffee in the lunchroom. This, he did every morning. When the bus arrived the cashier said: "Time for you to go, Bob."

Casually, he got up and walked out of the door toward the bus and vanished.

The cop on the case told me: "Nothing about it makes sense."

His father told me: "If he could, I know he'd contact me or Barbara."

His wife said: "Something must have happened to him, but what?"