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Mari was last seen standing outside a Subway sandwich shop in a strip mall on Louisiana Highway 415 west of Port Allen, Louisiana at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 2002. Investigators believe she was abducted from that location. Mari's belongings were found scattered on the pavement shortly after she disappeared, along with some of her acyrlic fingernails which were possibly torn off in her struggle with her abductor. Robbery was probably not the motive for her kidnapping, as her food, purse and keys were left behind and wrapped Christmas presents were found in the backseat of her car.
A surveillance camera videotaped a General Motors pickup truck speeding away from the Subway around the time Mari disappeared. Tire tracks, possibly from the abduction vehicle, were found in the parking lot of the strip mall. The camera also caught the abduction suspect on tape but the image was not of sufficient quality to be used to identify anyone.
At the time of her disappearance, Mari was on her way to visit her husband, Jerry Fowler, a former Louisiana Elections Commissioner who was serving a five-year sentence in a Texas federal prison for bribery. He resigned his position in 1999 and pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks from voting machine contractors. Jerry's lawyers tried to get him furloughed from prison so he could help search for Mari, but they were unsuccessful. Investigators don't believe Jerry's criminal activities have anything to do with Mari's abduction. He died in 2009.
Authorities believe Mari's disappearance may be related to Derrick Todd Lee, the so-called Baton Rouge Serial Killer. A photograph of Lee is posted below this case summary. He has been charged with six other murders, attempted murder, and rape. He has been charged with murder in the disappearance of Randi Mebruer and is considered a suspect in the disappearances of Melinda McGhee and Glenn Tankersley as well. His suspected victims were all White women living in southern Louisiana. Lee owns a truck similar to the one seen at the site of Mari's abduction, and cellular phone records place him nearby Mari when she was abducted. Police attempted to link Lee and Mari with DNA and were unsuccessful, but many investigators still believe Lee had something to do with Mari's disappearance.
Mari has never been located and neither Lee nor anyone else has been charged in her case. She was declared legally dead in May 2004, seventeen months after she was last seen. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance.
West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office