On September 30th, 1983, many lives in the town of Warrenton, Oregon, were changed forever when seventeen-year-old Joan Leigh Hall disappeared on a simple walk from the Warrenton Mini Mart to the local grade school. Known by those close to her as Joanie, this young woman was an upstanding citizen with a strong moral compass. She was looking forward to a career in law enforcement, and had even been elected as the first female President of the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Explorer Post the night before.
We are a small but dedicated group of civilians who are seeking resolution in the case of Joanie Hall, for the sake of the general public and to ease the heartbreak that her family has dealt with for all of these years. With that being said, we can state without any hesitation that this case has been egregiously mishandled from the very beginning, when CCSO Deputy Gerald M. Basch was allowed to participate in interviewing his own son, Michael Basch, and two of his teenage friends, Jimmy Sears and Gary Leer. These three men claimed to have seen
Joanie in the vehicle of the last person she was known to have been seen with, Michael Moore, almost two hours after the last confirmed sighting of her. Within days, the three had changed their story, claiming that it was not Joanie they had seen in Moore’s car, but another girl who looked nothing like Joanie.
When we attempted to submit a request via the Freedom of Information Act for any public records regarding Joanie’s disappearance, we were surprised to learn that on 12/10/2018, Judge Paula Brownfield signed a protective order keeping the investigative files on Joanie’s case sealed from the public eye for the next 75 years, until 2093, without notifying the victim’s family. This means that all records related to Joan Leigh Hall will be unsealed 110 years after the date of her disappearance.
This is completely unacceptable, and we, as Joanie’s advocates, demand to know why Paula Brownfield, who has a track record of caring about children and victims, signed off on sealing these records. We demand to know why the Clatsop County Sheriff’s office enacted this order. We demand to know what happened to Joanie Leigh Hall, why this case has been swept under the rug, and why Gerald Basch was allowed to participate in interviewing his own son.
Joanie’s family and her loved ones have a right to closure. The public has a right to know the facts of Joanie’s case, and Joanie certainly has a right to obtain whatever justice can be found. We will not rest until the facts of this case are made available to the public, and the question of what happened on September 30th, 1983, is answered once and for all.
Dena Mattox Rush