Cleveland mother vanishes in 1997, never to be seen again. Now, Cleveland Police are turning up new leads in the case

19 News Investigates: Kathy’s daughters want answers
Updated: Jan. 13, 2020 at 11:03 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It's been nearly 23 years since two young daughters were left without their mother.

They're still looking for answers.

Catherine Parisi, 25, vanished from Cleveland in 1997.

Our investigation found homicide detectives on a special task force are now looking into Kathy’s case.

Cleveland Police tell 19 News they’ve made progress, even though Kathy is still listed as a missing person.

Kathy Parisi with her daughter Angelina.
Kathy Parisi with her daughter Angelina.(Parisi family)

Kathy’s story

Angelina Speer was just a year and 10 months old when her mom went missing.

“I can only remember our family broken. So it’s nice to have those pictures of us all together, but I don’t remember any of it,” she said.

Her sister Cecelia Parisi was 8 years old.

“Shortly after she went missing my life just fell apart. And then Angelina was taken away, and I felt like I had nobody,” she said, crying.

Kathy was working as an escort and took a call in Parma.

But no one answered the door, and she was never seen again.

Kathy’s car was found at a shopping center a day later on the West Side of Cleveland on Brookpark Road off I-480.

Her keys and $350 cash were found inside.

“Her only news article I found when I was, like, 7 was ‘Escort’s disappearance stuns colleagues,’" Angelina Speer said.

“So I can only imagine half the people who read the story were like, ‘She probably deserved it’ and turned the page,” she said.

She’s in the newspaper photograph, playing behind her dad while he holds her mom's missing poster.

“Whatever her reasons may have been, she was trying to provide for her family. Not everyone does it for reasons why you may think,” Cecelia Parisi said.

Kathy Parisi with her daughter Cecelia.
Kathy Parisi with her daughter Cecelia.(Parisi family)

Kathy wanted a better life. She was going to design school when she went missing.

“She was funny and intelligent, and the life of the party and she was always a good person,” Parisi said.

After their mom went missing, Cecelia and Angelina were raised separately.

“For years, I just kind of thought maybe she ran away or something. There was a couple of times when I was little and I went and looked in the basement like it's a hide and seek kind of game you know,” Parisi said.

“Growing up, every milestone it has this dark cloud over it. Because especially as a girl without a mom, you don't have that role model,” Speer said, crying.

Waiting for answers

As years passed, and the case stalled, Cecelia and Angelina started to lose hope.

They now believe their mom is most likely dead.

Her daughters never imagined so many years later, they would still be waiting for answers.

They say at one point, they didn't hear from Cleveland Police for years and years.

“There has been no traction since 2015. We are at the same point that we were years ago,” Cecelia Parisi and Angelina Speer said.

In 2015, they got their hopes up.

“I had stumbled across a letter of somebody saying that they know somebody admitted to them that they had something to do with my mother’s disappearance. I took the letter down to the police station at First District, and they basically laughed in my face,” Parisi said.

They say three years later, detectives with a newly formed homicide task force reached out to them.

“He made it sound like they got him, like whoa. Hey something big is going down. And then they asked us to go downtown for an interview and it turned out to be nothing,” Angelina said.

That was in 2018. The case is still unsolved.

Kathy Parisi's daughters Angelina and Cecelia.
Kathy Parisi's daughters Angelina and Cecelia.((Source: Family))

Homicide task force investigates

19 Investigates found the Cleveland Homicide Review Task Force has now put Kathy's case on the front burner.

The task force is a joint effort between local law enforcement and the FBI.

So far the task force has solved six out of 26 of these priority cases.

That's 23 percent in more than two years.

But Kathy’s case is different. She’s still classified as a missing person. Her case is marked as “not assigned” to a homicide unit file in our documents obtained from police.

Cleveland Police told 19 Investigates that homicide detectives are working on Kathy's case because it's time to move it forward.

That’s more eyes poring over old evidence. They say investigators have made progress.

The task force’s cases are from 1978 to 2019. Most of the cases are from the 2010s.

Police say homicide cases are reviewed and forwarded to the task force on a case-by-case basis.

They say it's been very significant for the six families whose cases have been solved, and they're working to solve more.

Family photos of Kathy Parisi before she went missing.
Family photos of Kathy Parisi before she went missing.(Parisi family)

Not giving up hope

But there's no question it's more than difficult for families to wait.

Kathy's daughters say every day their mom's killer continues to walk free is a day too long.

“There is probably a real and public danger to women my age walking around on the streets because my mom's case, as bad as it is, and as bad as the DeJesus, Berry cases are, there are more,” Speer said.

“For this guy to be just living carefree his daily life, totally unaffected, while he completely destroyed the lives of so many, a whole family, I don't even have words for that,” Parisi said.

Police can’t tell us or Kathy’s family what leads they may have as to not jeopardize the investigation.

Her daughters are working with a private eye. They hope this will be the year they get answers.

Cleveland Police say the homicide solve rate for all murders in the city in 2019 is 67 percent, which is above the last few years.

They say the numbers have improved because of help from the homicide task force.

If you have any information on this case, call the Cleveland Police homicide unit at 216-623-5464.

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