In June 1948, eleven-year-old Sally Horner was set on a dare to steal a notebook from a local store. The simple act took Sally’s life for an unexpected and tragic turn. Notebook in hand, Sally walked out the door, thinking she has gotten away with her petty theft crime. A man by the name of Frank La Salle approached her claiming to be a member of the FBI. He was about 20-years older than Sally. He told her that he saw what she had done. La Salle let Sally off the hook. However; the belief and fear in her eyes revealed just how much power he could have over her.

From One Tragedy to the Next: The Nightmarish 1948 Kidnapping of Sally Horner

The next day Frank La Salle showed up to her school as the final bell rang, and approached Sally for a second time. He ordered that, by the demand of the government, she go with him to Atlantic City without her mother’s knowledge. Sally was instructed to call her mother and tell her that Frank was a father of her friend and that he was taking a few classmates on a trip to the seashore.  Frank added credibility to the story by calling her mother and convincing her that this would be a safe trip. The next day, Sally’s mother drove her to the Camden bus station and dropped her off with La Salle. This was the last time the mother and daughter would see each other for two years.

From One Tragedy to the Next: The Nightmarish 1948 Kidnapping of Sally Horner

La Salle had a bad track record. He was a convicted rapist and was clearly on to his next victim; Sally. In the following two years, Sally traveled across the country with La Salle. She feared to resist his abuse because he threatened to turn her in if she spoke to anyone. The eleven-year-old was enrolled in schools, pretending La Salle was her father. Sally lived like this for two years, not saying a word about her captivity to anyone. At a certain point, she became desperate to break free, found a phone and finally called her sister. Sally explained all that happened and asked her sister to call the FBI. At age 13, Sally reunited with her family. Frank La Salle was sent to jail under the Mann Act.

Sally’s happy ending was short lived. Two years later, she was tragically killed in a car accident.

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