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Joyce and Josephine's father was killed in a car accident in 1968. Their mother was pregnant with Joyce, and Josephine was an infant. She gave the two girls to their paternal grandparents; their older sister, Rosetta, went to her maternal grandmother. The sisters were reunited in 1975, after their mother remarried. She made her second husband leave their home over allegations that he'd tried to molest Joyce and Josephine. In 1983, Joyce and Josephine were having disciplinary problems at home in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. They left and moved in with the family friend in Norman. He was granted temporary custody of them. Then they disappeared.
The sisters may have been involved with drugs at the time of their disappearances. There have been possible sightings of them since they vanished and investigators think they may still be alive, but none of the reports have been confirmed. Their older sister believes the family friend murdered Joyce and Josephine. He has been interviewed several times by police and never ruled as a suspect in the Cogburns' cases; he's considered a person of interest. In mid-September 1983, Josephine told Rosetta that Joyce and the man had been dating, but Joyce now had a new boyfriend and didn't want anything to do with her guardian. Rosetta theorizes the man killed both teens in a jealous rage. She says he never returned the girls' belongings, like clothes and photo albums, to the Cogburn family, even though they asked him to.
Neither sister's names, birth certificates or Social Security numbers have been used since October 1983. Their disappearances remain unsolved and foul play is suspected.