Joshua Mahaffey Disappearance Garnering National Attention After Dateline Feature

CENTRALIA — While a number of missing persons cases from the area remain unsolved, one of the oldest recently garnered national attention when it was the subject of a Dateline broadcast on NBC.

The broadcast focused on the 1991 missing person case of 15-year-old Joshua Mahaffey of Centralia.

Joshua reportedly snuck out of his bedroom window October 12, 1991 in rural Centralia after getting into an argument with his mother.

Tanya Mahaffey didn’t report her son missing until November 12 1991, telling authorities that she didn’t report him missing right away because he was known to run off for several days at a time.

Josh was known to hang out at the Fairview Shopping Center and a place off Jolliff Bridge Road known as Devil’s Playground. Authorities from both Marion and Clinton counties have searched the area for clues and remains but after nearly three decades have come up empty handed.

Shortly before his disappearance, Josh had reportedly been involved in the burglary of a small grocery store in town, taking snacks and sodas with a friend named Terry Martin.

One witness reported seeing Josh riding in a blue Ford Maverick with Martin the night he disappeared. Martin’s girlfriend and another teenage boy were also reportedly in the car.

According to Dateline, Clinton County Sheriff’s Detective Todd Timmerman says the witness later told Centralia attorney Harold Pike that she witnessed Josh being tortured and murdered at Devil’s Playground.

Over the years law enforcement and private groups have searched the area of Devil’s Playground but what happened to Joshua Mahaffey remains a mystery.

Other unsolved missing persons cases from the area include the mysteries surrounding the disappearances of Benedetta “Beth” Bentley in May 2010, Vincent Wesselmann in April 2011, Jared Hanna in July 2011, James “Jimmy” Romines in April 2014, and Keith Royer in March 2016.

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