SANTA ANA, Calif. – A woman who said she left her 3-year-old daughter behind with relatives after moving from California 35 years ago has been accused in the girl's death.
Donna Pulsifer Kent Prentice, 57, was arrested Friday at her home in rural southwest Wisconsin (search) on a homicide warrant and jailed without bail. Two days earlier, authorities in Illinois arrested Michael Kent, who had been Prentice's boyfriend at the time the girl disappeared.
Both are charged with murder. Kent, 62, has been extradited to California (search).
Michelle's father, Richard Pulsifer Sr., said he began searching for the girl in July 1969 when he arrived at his ex-wife's home in Huntington Beach one weekend and found everyone gone.
"I tried to find Michelle but no one would help," said Pulsifer, who now lives in Las Vegas (search).
Pulsifer had been traveling to Huntington Beach from San Diego every other weekend to visit Michelle and her 6-year-old brother, Richard Jr. When the family disappeared, he said authorities told him there was nothing they could do because his ex-wife had custody of the children.
Richard Pulsifer Jr., who was reunited with his father years later, said his mother never answered his questions about Michelle's whereabouts. But he recalled the night Michelle burst into his room at the family's home and crawled under the covers, pleading with him to "please hide me."
"She sounded real scared," said the younger Pulsifer, now 41. "And then my mom came into the room and got her."
"I never saw her again," he said.
No one ever filed a missing person's report on the girl, and investigators still do not know how she died or what happened to her body.
A private investigator who took on the case in 2001 turned his files over to the district attorney's office last year.
In January, Prentice told investigators she and Kent left Michelle in the care of Kent's mother before relocating to Illinois and had planned to retrieve her once the family settled in.
The couple made no effort to find Michelle when Kent's mother died several years later, and Prentice could not explain why, said Ed Berakovich, an investigator for the district attorney's office.
"What mother has no idea of where her little girl is?" he said.