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Chasing Rainbows

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

“Don’t talk to strangers”. An innocuous phrase, professed by generations of parents to their children as a baseline safety precaution. Despite that commonality of this advice in society, cultural norms have long challenged those instructions throughout history. In today’s technologically driven society, the line between stranger and acquaintance is often blurred, as social media connects even the most remote locations. Looking to the past, we recognize shifts in human interaction during various periods of time, from the communal tribes of ancient tribes, the family of workers industrializing the nation, to the connected dissent of the hippie generation. The pursuit of adventure has often triumphed over risk, highlighted by the pursuit of dreams regardless of barrier or obstacle. Hitchhiking was born out of this mindset, the pinnacle of throwing caution to the winds in favor of aspiration, unlimited possibilities with a simple hand signal. Many success stories have started this way, a moment of triumph in someone’s life. Unfortunately, the shadows lurk everywhere, and seek to prey on the vulnerability and naivete of innocence. For every success, there is a failure, for every dream, a nightmare, and every destination a faded point on a torn map. Darkness can snuff out the brightest light, erasing its existence till only a memory remains. It is often said that not all that wander are lost, but when the lost cannot be found, we cannot provide them directions. That is where we begin our story, shining a light on a disappearance, stretched over time and space, shrouded in speculation and unanswered questions.


[Due to the time this case revolves around, there is little information available regarding the early life of Simone, and what is known has been revealed by her sister, Besty]


Simone Stephanie Ridinger was born on January 5th, 1960, to her parents Jane and George Barrett. At an early age Simone would tragically lose her father, leaving both Jane and Simone alone. Jane, attempting to shed the burden of grief, would pack up her daughter and move to New York to reside with her mother. The change in scenery was a welcome one, as a budding friendship would bloom with a nearby neighbor, John Ridinger, and his young daughter Betsy. Tethered to one another by tragedy, John’s own widow status would entwine their families quickly. Their bond grew, and their families would join, in marriage and parenting, with John Ridinger adopting Simone and bestowing to her the name her story lingers under today. The family moved to a new home in the rural town of Sherborn Massachusetts. Betsy and Simone, now sisters, struggled to have the relationship common of siblings, contradictory in their hobbies, passions, and desires. Simone was a natural artist, adept in several instruments, taking after her mother, as well as a gifted singer. Simone was described as a free spirit, guided by her own path, who always did what she wanted. She was easily bored, craved excitement, and was constantly in search of something new. This attitude was naturally opposed to school behavior, highlighted by this description of her from a former headmaster, noting that she had a delightful personality, but was not fond of school and was preoccupied by rebellion. The brick and mortar unable to contain her spirit, Simone would eventually drop out of high school with plans to obtain her GED.

As Simone approached adulthood, her parents would divorce, splitting up the Ridinger family. In early 1977, she left her mother’s home to start her own life. She would move into an apartment located in Framingham Massachusetts, and take a job at a restaurant, The Rainbow Restaurant, located on Main Street in nearby Natick Massachusetts. Motivated by her self-reliance and newfound independence, things were looking up for the seventeen-year-old. However, soon a set of seemingly random choices one day would define Simone's life for good, with the results remaining a mystery even 45 years later.

In early September 1977, Simone made plans with her mother to meet her and Jane's boyfriend for the Labor Day weekend. At the time, they were residing at their vacation home on Chappaquiddick Island, nestled among the larger islands of Martha's Vineyard near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The location is remote, and only reachable by ferry boat. Simone was scheduled to work at the restaurant on September 2nd but planned to leave after her shift to travel to the Cape and hoped to hop on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. Simone was not the type to be thwarted by logistical obstacles, content with hitchhiking her way to the island. Simone's coworkers, as well as her sister were unenthusiastic about her intended choice. Leading Betsy to offer Simone a ride to a bus stop that would take her to her destination. Simone declined her offer and dismissed any worries. Betsy would describe the decision to hitchhike as unsurprising, citing that Simone “wasn’t shy about talking to strangers.” Also, the social norms were drastically different in the 1970’s, and traveling this way bordered on a banal commonality. From what has been uncovered involving reports of the case, sometime between noon and 4:00 p.m., Simone took her duffle bag into the restaurant bathroom, changing out of her waitressing uniform to regular street clothes. Shortly after, she would exit the restaurant and disembark, her hand signaling a benefactor for her next adventure. Her journey would not be long, capable of reaching the sandy beaches with the charity of a single driver, yet fate would have other plans, and she would vanish, as if the wind itself made her its passenger, sweeping her into the unknown.

Despite not arriving to the vacation home like her family expected, there was no initial concern, attributed as part of Simone’s character, where newly discovered excitement would overcome scheduled plans regularly. Over a week would pass without issue, with her family returning home on September 11, 1977. When they reached out, they discovered Simone could not be reached, and fear began to set in. Her mother filed a missing person’s report to the local police department in Sherborn, Massachusetts. The department was modest, with only a handful of officers during this time, and her status was initially labeled as a runaway, predicated on traditional child behavior of those who eventually turned up. In October, nearly a month after her disappearance, police began to take the family more seriously, and started their investigation into Simone’s disappearance. Flyers with Simone’s information were disseminated to surrounding law enforcement agencies. Early police reporting from that time uncovered that Simone had a boyfriend around the time she went missing. This thread unwound quickly, as he was incarcerated at a state prison in Billerica Massachusetts. The boyfriend had little information to share, confirming that Simone had special visitation privileges, but had not shown up recently, stopped writing him, and as in her nature, likely forgotten him. The boyfriend’s identity was never revealed to the public, nor the cause of his conviction or how he met Simone. With nothing additional to pursue, the police’s hands were tied, and her case went cold. Years would pass, and Simone would remain missing, without rumor of witnesses or leads, her case was frozen in time, void of the resources available presently.

Life continued, and the memory of her case faded, stored away with the other unanswered case files. Almost a decade would pass, until a startling admission would spring her disappearance back into the light. In 1986, a man came forward to the same Sherborn police, stating he gave Simone a ride on September 3rd, a day after most saw her last. This man has never been named publicly and only confirmed, he was elderly at the time of his statement. This unnamed man provided new details in the Simone Ridinger case and piled new questions and speculation onto the police. He described an early morning drive, traveling on September 3rd, 1977, unremarkable until a state trooper pulled him over near Route 109 in Westwood, Massachusetts. He was questioned about his destination by the officer, and the man stated he was on his way to the Cape to pick up clock parts. When the officer realized where he was heading, he asked the man to give a girl in his patrol vehicle a ride, as she was traveling the same direction, of which he agreed to. He claimed the girl got out of the trooper's vehicle, got into his, and they would proceed on their way. The two would make small talk until they arrived at the airport rotatory, located in Hyannis Massachusetts where they parted ways. Questioned about why he was coming forward with this information after such a length of time, the man claimed he read an article in the local newspaper about Simone’s disappearance, and it triggered a memory of the encounter. Despite this revelation, her case remained unsolved, with no available information indicating additional investigation from the police.

In 2014, nearly three decades later, cold case Detective Godinho of the Sherborn Police Department would take over the case of Simone Ridinger’s disappearance, injecting a fresh set of eyes onto the meager available evidence. He would later provide reporting of his investigation to the public and stated that after reading the man’s statement he tried to go back to the initial reports of her missing to review records of traffic stops and to speak to the correlating officers. Past procedural standards would hamper his efforts, as police departments did not keep records of traffic stops. Godinho also spoke to the unidentified man’s son, who reported having no memory of his father telling any story about giving a girl a ride that was identified as missing. This stuck the detective as strange, and he questioned the validity of the man’s story. He speculated whether that interaction with Simone ever took place until he was able to track down a few former coworkers of Simone’s and questioned them regarding how she was last seen. Despite the time that had passed, the coworkers reconstructed that day, confirming they were working with Simone and as her shift ended, she did enter the bathroom with her gray duffle bag to change out of her uniform. When she exited, she had donned a “blue vested style blouse, blue jeans, and white sneakers”. Now, to Godinho, this description is compelling, as it is an exact match to the one the unidentified elderly man would give back in 1986 when he recounted his interaction with the young woman. Unfortunately, the Detective was unable to further verify the man’s story, as he was already deceased, taking with him any pursuit of Simone’s whereabouts. His information can never be vetted, remaining a faceless figure in her story, and cementing her case in mystery. Was this man the last to see Simone Ridinger, and was their interaction good natured, a sort of benevolent taxi, or did he provide his statement bore of something more sinister, his words an instrument of malice intending to absolve carried guilt or illicit hope in those searching for her? We may never know.

Recently, her case has garnered more exposure, as internet sleuths delve amongst online forums searching for answers to the Simone Ridinger’s disappearance. A prominent theory surfaced, connecting Simone with another known missing person’s case, known colloquially as the Granby Jane Doe. Granby Jane Doe was a young female, whose body was discovered in a shallow grave in Granby, Massachusetts on November 15. 1978. The autopsy revealed a gunshot to the head and a belt wrapped around her neck, indicative of a violent death. Her approximate age was determined as 15-26 years old, and the estimated time of death was attributed from three months to a year prior to discovery of the remains. The approximate time frame to Simone’s disappearance, as well as biological similarities, drew a breath of anticipation from law enforcement. It would not last though, as DNA analysis was conducted, and Simone was excluded as the identity of the Jane Doe, one of fifty currently applied, ensuring the only remaining similarity between the two cases is the lack of answers.

Today, Simone’s case remains suspended in perpetuity, awaiting some shred of information or discovery that can provide an explanation into her disappearance. So many questions remain unanswered, breeding speculation into her final known moments. What really happened to Simone Ridinger on September 2nd, 1977, after she left her shift at The Rainbow Restaurant? Is there more to learn about the people who have crossed paths with her case? Who was her boyfriend, unnamed and bearing a troublesome past? Is there truth to the elderly man’s story, the last person to see Simone, or was his encounter coincidental and nothing more? If accurate, what connections would she, a seventeen-year-old girl, have to do with a state trooper? Was the officer another innocuous piece of the puzzle, or does his involvement invoke another potential person of interest? Is there a connection between a member of law enforcement, the imprisoned boyfriend, and supposed privileges Simone was allocated? What could have befallen her that afternoon that placed her in a patrol car the next morning, still seeking a way to her destination? These questions prod our curiosity, theorizing and diving so far down rabbit holes we forgot what we started searching for. Time has weighed down the possibility of solving her case, taking with it many of the answers. Time has layered the dust on her file, eroded the restaurant back to its earthly materials, and immortalized her to memory within her loved ones. While her story may remain a mystery, her spirit lives on, illustrated by those who continue to seek adventure and live unencumbered, chasing their own rainbow.


Simone Ridinger was described as
RACE: White NamUS: MP2779
SEX: Female NCIC: # M203410371
AGE: 17 (1977)

HEIGHT: 5"2

WEIGHT: 115-125

HAIR COLOR: BLONDE/STRAWBERRY

EYES: BROWN

If you have any information about what happened to Simone Ridinger, please contact Detective James Godinho, Sherborn Police 508-653-2424.


Peter Henderson Jr.











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