Friends and family of Roxanne Paltauf gathered Saturday morning on the northeast corner of Rundberg Lane and North Creek Drive to commemorate the 10th anniversary of her July 7, 2006, disappearance.
Paltauf, who was 18 when she went missing, was last seen by her boyfriend Louis Walls at the nearby Budget Inn. Walls, 30 at the time, told her family later that evening – and later reiterated to police – that Paltauf left the motel room they'd rented at 8:30pm after the two got into an argument. She went to cool off, he said, leaving her cell phone, purse, and money, and never returned. (Walls did not return those possessions, and in fact made hundreds of calls on Paltauf's phone over a span of several days.) Paltauf's family has long doubted Walls' account, and former Chronicle reporter Jordan Smith detailed the myriad reasons to suspect Walls' actions and motivations in her July 3, 2009, feature on Paltauf's disappearance, "All That Remains."
Though no arrests have been made and Paltauf's family cannot say for certain whether their daughter is in fact deceased, the case has seen its share of action. In 2014, after APD received what could be considered a credible tip about "a body" potentially "buried in a shallow grave," the department teamed with the FBI to run a search on a 10-acre tract of land nearby. APD Detective Richard Faithful, who heads the case from the department's Cold Case unit (the investigation remains a joint effort between that unit and Missing Persons), said that he continues to receive tips 10 years later, but has rarely been able to act on anything for lack of "viable evidence."
"A lot of it is stuff heard on the street," said Faithful. "We'll follow up on tips, but it's all hearsay." He said he remains open-minded, but that "the cop in me" points to Walls as the culprit. "If somebody comes up with something else, great. We'll follow it." He said he's made "many attempts" to connect with Walls, even recently, but that Walls continues to evade him – sometimes even showing up to a meeting location Faithful tricked him into going to only to shout obscenities at the detective and leave the scene without answering questions.
Paltauf's family hasn't had as much luck avoiding Roxanne's ex-boyfriend. Her sister, Rosalynn Paltauf, notes how the 40-year-old continues showing up in their lives, whether through chance run-ins or the propagation of rumors about what happened to Roxanne – many of which originate from Walls' friends. "I've run into him," she said. "If you remember Tamale House on Airport – we grew up in that neighborhood. I remember one morning getting my tacos. Sure enough, he was right behind me. That was six years after she disappeared."
Walls wasn't a topic of conversation Saturday. The 30 people gathered along Rundberg Lane took much more interest in connecting with friends and family: in Paltauf's mother, Elizabeth Harris, and her three sisters, who worked the crowd in shirts bearing different pictures of Roxanne. People hugged and talked, then walked into a small field to hold hands and join Pastor Fred Warren in the reading of Psalm 91. "It really touches me deep in my heart to see you all here," said Harris. "I know many of you don't even know Roxanne, but if you know my family, you know Roxanne. She lives through us."
After Warren concluded the reading, Harris opened a box and released five butterflies into the air. The group then split up, canvassing West Rundberg with fliers and bumper stickers, in hopes of finding someone who may help. As Warren said, "There is someone out there who still needs to be reached."
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