PUYALLUP - It's been 3 1/2 years since Misty Copsey disappeared from the Puyallup Fair.
Her father thinks she ran away and still hopes for a telephone call. Her mother thinks Misty is dead.
Misty was 14 when she vanished. Her mother had dropped her off at the fair with a friend on Sept. 17, 1992. She was supposed to catch the 8:40 p.m. Pierce Transit bus back to Spanaway. She called home about 8 p.m. and told her mother she might get a ride home with a friend. But a bus driver said Misty approached him about 9:20 p.m. and asked what time the last bus to Spanaway left. Then she walked off.
No one has reported seeing her since.
In 1993, searchers found a pair of pants, underwear and a sock thought to belong to Misty in an area where two girls' bodies had been found earlier.
"My professional instincts lead me to believe that she's more than likely deceased," said King County homicide detective Jim Doyon.
"There are some people out there who believe she just took off and is living somewhere, somehow, without contact with any law-enforcement agency.
"But reality tells me that given the circumstances, the timing and location of her disappearance, there's a high probability she is the victim of foul play." It's difficult for an adult to disappear and stay hidden for long without any contact with police, and it's even more difficult for a teenager, he said.
"There are people out there who are getting away with murder," he said. "The Misty Copsey case is one of them."
Doyon's theory is that Misty was killed by the same person who killed Anna Chebetnoy and Kimberly DeLange, two teenagers last seen in Puyallup.
The girls' bodies were found along Highway 410, near the spot where Misty's clothing was found.
Doyon also notes that two years and one month separate each disappearance: Kimberly was last seen in July 1988; Anna in August 1990; and Misty in September 1992.
"I think the link is too obvious to ignore," Doyon said. "I'd have to see a very close possibility of a connection there."
Misty's father, Buck Copsey, hopes his daughter ran away and will call home now that she's turned 18. Her birthday was yesterday.
"I'm hoping that she's going to call me," Copsey said. "When she turns 18, she's no longer a child. Nobody can force her to do anything she doesn't want to do."
Copsey's former wife, Diana, thinks otherwise. "I know she's not alive," Diana Copsey said. "I knew the night she disappeared. She had no reason to run away."
The Puyallup Police plan to retrace their investigation of her disappearance, which so far has been classified as a missing-person case.