NARROWSBURG, NY — It was supposed to be a fun, romantic, and ultimately forgivable infraction of the rules at Camp Wel-Met, a popular summertime getaway for kids in upstate New York.
On July 27, 1973, 15-year-old Bonita Mara “Bonnie” Bickwit, who worked at Wel-Met, slipped away from the camp with her 16-year-old boyfriend, Mitchel Fred Weiser.Related: Missing — Police Search for Teen Who Disappeared on Prom Night
During the school year, the two honor students attended prestigious John Dewey High, an alternative academy for the intellectually gifted in Brooklyn. Their romance was serious enough, in teenage terms, that earlier in the summer, Bonnie and Mitchel had reportedly exchanged “wedding rings.”
On the day they departed, Mitchel made the journey up to Wel-Met to hook up with Bonnie. From there, they had a plan. The teens intended to hitchhike 156 miles to attend Summer Jam, a massive outdoor music festival featuring the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead in Watkins Glen, New York.
Bonnie and Mitchel left carrying backpacks, sleeping bags, and approximately $25 between them. A trucker picked up the couple and gave them a lift part of the way before dropping them off along Route 97.
From there, no one knows if Bonnie and Mitchel ever made it to the concert. In fact, no one knows anything about what happened to them — no one has seen or heard from either Bonnie or Mitchel since then.
Both Bonnie and Mitchel came from strong, loving families who were deeply connected in Brooklyn’s Jewish communities of Borough Park and Midwood. College scholarships seemed to loom ahead of them, followed by their choice of careers. Neither had ever gotten into trouble with drugs.
Friends who had been in touch just before the disappearance say they noticed nothing wrong. Still, adolescence being what it is, some trouble brewed.
Bonnie reportedly had a dust-up with her employers that summer and announced she was quitting. She also regularly cried about her infirm and disabled father back home. In addition, Mitchel was slated to graduate early that coming January, but he expressed upset that it wouldn’t enable him to attend the college of his choice. As their families have long pointed out, though, these are normal teen issues.Related: Sisters Missing Since 1985 Found Alive, Mom Charged With Kidnapping
Complicating the mystery is that local police bungled the investigation, losing crucial files among which were each teen’s only set of dental records. As a result, no real progress toward an answer occurred for more than a quarter-century.
In 2000, Bonnie and Mitchel’s classmates planted a tree and erected a memorial plaque in their honor at John Dewey High School. Media attention prompted Governor Elliot Spitzer to reopen the investigation, and the case got TV coverage. In the course of a TV show working on the case, a new possible lead emerged.
Rhode Island resident Alan Smith claimed that he had been hitchhiking back from the Summer Jam Festival when a Volkswagen bus with Pennsylvania plates picked him up. Bonnie and Mitchel, he said, were among the vehicle’s passengers, along with a driver whose name he didn’t remember.Smith further stated that the travelers pulled over at one point to cool off in a river. He said he saw Bonnie get swept away by a current, followed by Mitchel diving in after her. When neither returned, Smith said he and the driver simply rode off and never reported the accident.
When presented with photos, though, Smith failed to identify either Bonnie or Mitchel. Nor could he describe what they were wearing. He also refused to take a polygraph test. In addition, following Smith’s claims, authorities investigated every coroner’s office in the area and found that no drowned bodies had turned up at the time in question. So that leaves only more questions.
Bonnie would be 59 now. Mitchel would be 60. Their families maintain an active website and welcome any and all help in discovering the truth.
If you know anything at all regarding the disappearance of Bonnie and Mitchel, please contact the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office at (845) 807-0732.
If you are in search of a missing person, make sure to enter their information into the database of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
Main photo: Bonnie Bickwit and Mitchel Weiser, 1973/image for distribution [Mitchel and Bonnie official website]