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Three young women, two still in their teens, vanished from a crowded Indiana beach on a hot July Fourth weekend 43 years ago.

Police and park officials, aided by scores of volunteers, combed sand dunes and scoured murky Lake Michigan water. But the search proved futile, and the women never were seen again.

What happened to them is a mystery that continues to grip the imagination of a man who latched onto the story from Day One.

"From the first day -- the first hour that call came in -- I've been following it," said Dick Wylie, then Northwest Indiana bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's been part of my life for 43 years."

Though he eventually left the news business to become a police officer in Florida, Wylie, now 75 and retired, never stopped trying to solve the July 2, 1966, disappearance of Renee Bruhl, 19; Patricia Blough, 19; and Ann Miller, 21, from Indiana Dunes State Park.

Last week, Wylie traveled to Northwest Indiana from Florida to meet with Indiana State Police and Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel about the reams of information he has gathered and hopes to someday turn into a book.

Though the case has not been reopened officially, state police Maj. Larry Turner said he and Lt. Dave Kirkham listened to Wylie's theories and talked to Gensel about the case.

"We'd be crazy not to look at this information," Turner said.

"Whenever someone provides information about an unsolved case, certainly we take that seriously," Gensel said.

State police and the prosecutor's office have had preliminary discussions about a possible plan of action for the case, Gensel said, but it's too early to tell where that might lead.

During the original investigation, a reconstruction of events leading to the disappearance determined the three women drove the 60 miles to the park from their homes in the Chicago area in Miller's car, arriving about 10 a.m.

Blending easily into a crowd estimated at nearly 9,000 that Saturday, the first day of the holiday weekend, they attracted only a smattering of attention, mostly from a couple near where they parked their belongings on a dune.

Their abandoned beach blanket, still strewn with a yellow robe, a jar of tanning lotion, transistor radio and other items, alarmed the couple enough to alert a park supervisor when the women didn't return by evening.

Blough, in a ruffled yellow bathing suit; Bruhl, in a brown suit with green flowers; and Miller, in a red and blue suit, walked into the water at about noon, talked with a man in a boat and then got into the boat, which headed west, the couple told officials, according to newspaper reports at the time.

When his daughter hadn't been heard from, Harold Blough contacted the park July 4, setting off the search and initiating the Indiana State Police investigation.

Janice Morandi, Blough's sister, said the disappearance was traumatic for her family.

"My mother believed they were still alive," Morandi recalled. "I knew they were dead."

Morandi, who lives in the Chicago area, said she thinks of her sister often.

"She was very shy, and she loved horses," Morandi said.

She hopes the case can be solved and believes it's possible, even after four decades.

"Sometimes when people get older and they're laying on their death beds, they talk," Morandi said.

For Wylie, the disappearance is "one of the most puzzling mysteries ever.

"When you consider three teenage girls missing from a beach, with 9,000 witnesses on the beach and them getting into a boat and never being seen again -- not one sighting -- it is baffling."

Renee Bruhl, 19; Patricia Blough, 19; and Ann Miller, 21, last were seen aboard a boat heading west from Indiana Dunes State Park on July 2, 1966. The disappearance of the Chicago-area women remains unsolved. Anyone with information in the case is asked to call Indiana State Police's Lowell Post at (219) 696-6242.

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