Whatever Happened to Eva Mae?

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The checks eventually led Schonfelder to a bank account.

And, last week, to Eva Mae.

Eva Mae Wilson is -- to the delight of her friends and former neighbors -- alive, and, as near as Detective Schonfelder can tell, apparently healthy.

She is living in what police will only say is an apartment on Thomas Road. They say they don't want to violate her privacy or her confidentiality by giving Nichols or anyone else her new address.

Last week, on May 7, Nichols got the call from Schonfelder before she left for work.

"I'm just so shocked, I can't believe it," she says. "I just hope the mailman comes before I get ready to go to work so I can tell him not to get rid of her mail."

Nichols immediately contacted June Martin to tell her the good news.

"I'm just so excited that she's still alive," Martin says. "That was my greatest fear."

But the story hasn't quite reached a happy end. Eva Mae is no longer missing, but the money she should have received from the sale of her house and other funds may well be.

And her current living conditions, according to police, aren't much better than the dilapidated house she left behind.

"The apartment that she lives in is not nice. It's not good," says Phoenix police spokesman Sergeant Randy Force. "She still is very confused how she came to be where she's currently at."

Eva Mae is unable to tell police much about the sale of her house.

"It's not clear in her mind what all happened around the time her house was sold and where the money is," Force says.

Now, the case that wasn't even an official missing persons file has evolved into a full-fledged police investigation. Detectives from the department's Document Crimes division want to review the sale of Eva Mae's house and trace, if they can, where the money went.

"Her mental state is going to be a key component of whether she was taken advantage of or whether she agreed to certain things," Force says.

Investigators won't say much -- how she came to be in the apartment where she's living, or even how long she's been there -- until they have a better idea exactly what happened to Eva Mae.

Still, Force says, "It's not a pretty picture."

"There is some cause for concern there that she has been taken advantage of, and her living conditions, her living standards at this point, are not high.

"That's really going to be disturbing news to her friends."

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John W. Allman