Ruth Parker spent two decades as a social worker in North Carolina’s triad region around Winston-Salem serving North Carolina’s most vulnerable children. Serving children of abuse, neglect, and even missing children from horrible home situations, Ruth worked to make a difference. It was both a labor of love and one of necessity.
Helping countless innocent North Carolina children, victims of their circumstances often at the hands of loved ones, was not only a calling, it was also cathartic, especially at Christmas.
Now in retirement and living in Davidson County as she has for more than two decades, Ruth still has one final mission when it comes to children. Finding her own. Ruth’s two sons have been missing for 36 years. Now in her mid-70s and she is determined to be reunited with them before it is too late.
On October 9, 1986. Ruth Vosseler as she was known then was living in Rochester, New Hampshire, and in the process of divorcing her husband of six years. Ruth and Charles, who had a real estate business, had two children together, both boys: Charles “CJ” Vosseler Jr. and William “Billy” Vosseler.
As the fall leaves were turning on that fateful October day 1986, Charles picked up their sons– CJ, then 3 years old and Billy, then 2 — for the weekend, as was common. But when the weekend ended, her bitter and conniving ex-husband didn’t bring them home.
Ruth eventually went to Charles’s office to confront him. The office was mostly empty. The business closed. Employees fired. When she arrived, she saw some of the employees leaving the office with boxes in their arms.
Charles had closed his business the same day he picked up his sons for the weekend, Ruth told Carolina Journal.
“The person I married was not the person I thought he was.”
She went to the police mostly empty-handed. Her husband had taken every single photograph of the children. There were no pictures for missing person posters.
Ruth soon found out her husband had been planning to take the kids and run for months. He kept her from working and isolated her from friends and family. He stole her mail. He made her think her family forgot about her. He drained every dollar out of their bank account. Police also did not investigate the case vigorously because parental kidnapping wasn’t considered a serious offense in 1986.
“The local police were much more concerned about my car because they know how to do that. It took me five months and a state senator to get an unlawful flight to avoid a prosecution charge that would allow the FBI to become involved.”
The FBI did become involved and continues to investigate the case to this day.
When CJ first attempted to make contact with Ruth through the Ruth’s Boys Facebook account, we were contacted by an investigator on the case that helped make the connection.
Ruth would later find out that her ex-husband’s parents were involved in some of the aspects of the disappearances. Their stories evolved and changed over time, and they were unhelpful in the quest to reunite Ruth and her two boys. Whatever secrets they had, went to the grave with them.
Six weeks after the boys went missing, a family friend remembered they had once taken home videos of CJ and Billy. Police were able to capture images from that video to use for posters. Later those images would be used to create age-progressed images of what her children, now grown men might look like
After more than 30 years, Ruth is entering the twilight of her life. She hopes and prays to see her children before it is too late. She told CJ she hopes she is still alive and she will see them again.
“Of course, that is my dream and wish, I don’t know. It is one of those things that wake you up in the middle of the night because you don’t know.”
Authorities came close to catching Charles in 1988 in Oklahoma. Authorities arrived at his home to find he had burned it down and fled. At that time, he was going by the name, Charles Wilson.
Charles would be 80 years old today and it is unknown if he is still alive, although Ruth pointed out his parents lived into their 90’s.
His older son, CJ Vosseler, would now be 39 years old. He was described as having blond hair and green/blue eyes.
Billy Vosseler would now be 38 years old. He was described as having brown hair with red tones and light blue eyes.
Years ago someone connected to Charles anonymously sent her actual childhood photos of her sons.
Love brought Ruth to North Carolina in the 1990s. She left New Hampshire because it was too painful. She lived in Wisconsin where her family was from for a time before settling in North Carolina. Her second husband passed several years ago, and she remarried another man from North Carolina. She never had additional kids of her own but is a proud step-grandmother. Ruth told CJ that despite her loss she was able to rebuild a good life in North Carolina.
“North Carolina has been very good to me. I really like North Carolina,“ she said.
Moving to North Carolina helped Ruth push through the pain, find a sense of normalcy, family and value in her community.
“I was having trouble functioning. I was having all kinds of nightmares,” she said. “But I happened to catch a look at myself in the mirror and I looked like a crazy person. I was barely holding it together, and I wanted to start screaming and never stop. I said to myself, I can’t do that because the only way my children are going to come back is if I do something.”
And her “something” was not just searching for her children. It was helping others in her new Tarheel home.
“Not every day could I feel like I did something for my kids, but I could feel like I did something to help other kids and other families. “
Ruth continues to help children and their parents. She is a dedicated volunteer and counselor through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Ruth is hoping technology will reunite her family. Ruth and other relatives have submitted their DNA to Ancestry.com and other geological mapping services hoping the boys will someday submit theirs.
DNA powered a recent reunification between a missing daughter and her family 51 years later. Melissa Highsmith went missing in 1971 when, at just 22 months old, she was taken from her parents’ Fort Worth home by a babysitter. More than 50 years later, Highsmith’s family tracked down their missing loved one using a 23andMe DNA test. Her parents were still living and able to hug their daughter for the first time in five decades.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the capture of Charles Vosseler or the location of Ruth’s sons.