Cindy Song—The “Halloween Bunny” Girl Who Went Missing And Was Never Found Again

Twenty years and still no clue of where she is.

Cindy Song, an ordinary college student from Pennsylvania State University, went partying with her friends on Halloween night in 2001. When her friends dropped her off at the entrance of her home at 4 am the next day, little did they know that it would be the last time Cindy would ever be seen or heard from.

Cindy Song |

Song was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, before she moved to the US as a 15-year-old to pursue higher education. She left home to move in with her relatives in Springfield, Virginia. After graduating high school, she enrolled in Penn State as an integrative arts major, set to graduate in 2002.

Known to be a meticulous student, Cindy wasn’t an outgoing person. But she made an exception just for Halloween. It was October 31, 2001, when she decided to go out with her two female friends, dressed in a DIY bunny costume with a pink top, white tennis skirt, and a makeshift tail. The three went to the nearby Players Nite Club, which was hosting a Halloween party. They drank and danced till 2 am and then went to a friend’s house party.

At around 4 am, Song’s friends dropped her off at the entrance of her residence at the State College Park Apartments. They drove away after seeing Cindy walk towards her place. Three days passed since, and her friends didn’t hear from her. But they weren’t alarmed since they knew she had a busy life packed with classes and two part-time jobs. However, when she didn’t turn up for one of her jobs and couldn’t be contacted, her concerned friends decided to file a missing report with the police.

Cindy Song on Halloween, 2001 |

The investigation started with a thorough inspection of her house, where the police didn’t find any sign of a forced entry or struggle. The false eyelashes she wore on Halloween were in the bathroom, but the bunny costume wasn’t found. Her mobile phone was left behind, but her keys, purse, cards, and driver’s license were gone. The police didn’t find any records of a phone call after 4 am when her friends dropped her off. They started working with the general theory that Song probably went to a nearby convenience store and left her phone behind, not expecting to be gone for too long.

The fake eyelashes found in Cindy’s apartment |

Song’s parents flew in from Seoul and immediately got on the wrong side of the investigators because they cleared out her apartment, potentially destroying evidence in the process. They also formed an action group with Penn State students and various communities called the Coalition for the Search for Cindy Song.

Cindy Song’s mother |

The police were clueless at this point in the investigation and started to focus on Song’s mental circumstances to find some answers. She had recently gone through a severe breakup with her boyfriend, which led her family to believe she might have run away or taken her life. But her friends testified that she was going to therapy and handling the heartbreak well with professional help. Plus, there was some irrefutable evidence pointing out that Song was very much looking forward to sticking around. The police found an upcoming Britney Spears concert ticket and a receipt for a new computer to be delivered in the next few days in her apartment. She was in high spirits on Halloween night as well. Though depressive thoughts might strike at any moment, investigators started to favor a more plausible scenario — that Cindy might have come across a predator in the late hours of the night, intoxicated, with no way to contact anyone or defend herself.

Soon, the police got a curious lead. A female witness claimed that she saw a woman matching the description of Song a few days after Halloween in Philadelphia’s Chinatown district. The woman was apparently screaming for help while a man forced her into a vehicle. When the witness tried to intervene, the man chased her off. But Philadelphia is about 320 km away from Penn State, which made the police doubtful of the lead. When the witness started to change the details of her story multiple times during questioning, investigators concluded that she was unreliable, and they hit another dead end.

Three months went by, and the police couldn’t make any progress. Song’s parents held a press conference with the coalition members, criticizing the Ferguson Township Police Department for inadequate action to find Song. They mentioned that when a local 13-year-old white girl went missing on New Year’s Day, over 50 FBI agents were assigned to the case, whereas Song’s missing case was initially handled by only one single investigator. Even after public pressure from Penn State’s Black Caucus and the Korean Undergraduate Student’s Association, only a team of six state police officers was put on the case. This put a deep dent in the communication between the police and Song’s parents since the former cut them off completely. Lead investigator Detective Brian Sprinkle said this decision was for Cindy’s sake, not the family’s.

Cindy’s mother with an attorney at the press conference |

The police even consulted a psychic from California after being approached by the Penn State Paranormal Research Society. Though she gave them a lot of information, nothing proved helpful. At the end of 2002, the case got featured on a TV show, Unsolved Mysteries, and the heightened public interest in the story led to a series of false leads.

Then, in 2003, the police got their most significant tip yet, from a co-defendant turned informant named Paul Weakley. He claimed that history sheeter Hugo Selenski had murdered Song with the help of a pharmacist named Michael Kerkowski, who also led an illegal drug ring. Weakley said that though he didn’t have any first-hand knowledge about Song, Selenski told him that he and Kerkowski kidnapped a girl in State College with bunny ears. They took her to Selenski’s house, where they assaulted her numerous times and kept her locked in a vault before eventually killing her.

Hugo Selenski |

Police swarmed to Selenski’s house and, to their horror, found charred remains of at least five bodies buried in the backyard. By the time the entire property was excavated, police had found a total of 12 bodies. DNA tests confirmed that none of those were Song’s remains. But Michael Kerkowski and his girlfriend Tammy Fassett were found among the corpses. Selenski’s lawyer came with a watertight alibi, proving he was somewhere else when Song went missing, and soon enough, Weakley’s statements started to dwindle. He claimed Selenski killed Kerkowski for keeping Song’s bunny ears as a souvenir which angered him. Later, the police discovered that Kerkowski was hiding a huge sum of money from Selenski, which is probably why he got killed. Weakley then admitted that he was also a part of the murder and received money reward from Selenski for tipping off about the hidden stash.

Selenski’s Backyard |

All of this made Weakley the prime suspect in the case now. Police found several articles related to Song on his computer. They suspected he was keeping a tab on the case to offer false leads in exchange for a reduced sentence. But some people theorized that Weakley was the actual killer, keeping articles as a souvenir of his crime, and he used the knowledge of Selenski’s mass grave as a red herring. After all, he was serving a life sentence and had every reason to lie. But the lack of evidence meant he was soon dropped as a suspect.

Paul Weakley | Mark Moran/AP

With this last lead lost, police were completely out of any means to solve Song’s case. Her close ones were all cleared, and every lead was exhausted. Some believed Song had committed suicide, while others thought she had disappeared. There was no body, evidence, witnesses, or suspects to pursue. The 21 binders full of information on this case are now just a part of the Ferguson Township police department’s archives, gathering dust for the last twenty years.

Source: Pennlive and The Charley Project
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