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Child star Lora Lee Michel is still missing today: Bizarre disappearance revisited

Shania Wilson May 20, 2022
Child star Lora Lee Michel is still missing today: Bizarre disappearance revisited
Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

Lora Lee Michel – birth name Virginia Joy Willeford – was a Hollywood star as a child but, years later, she seemingly vanished.

The case of Lora Lee Michel has been widely talked about since her 1963 disappearance, but a recent article by The LA Times has pushed her story back into the limelight.

As far as we know, the child star’s whereabouts remains unknown, but her family have refused to give up.

Here’s what we know.

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Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

Who was Lora Lee Michel?

Lora Lee Michel was a child star and American actress in the golden age of Hollywood, appearing in a handful of movies, including Lady At Midnight, Good Sam, and Mighty Joe Young.

Michel, born Virginia Joy Willeford, was welcomed into the world by parents Lena and Willie Walker Willeford in La Grange, Texas, with four or five siblings.

Unfortunately, the star’s childhood was anything but smooth sailing. As reported by The LA Times, money was tight in the family and her father Willie frequently drank, causing Lena to run away.

At the age of five, Lora was adopted by Otto Michel, a cotton broker, and his wife Lorraine, who renamed her Lora Lee Michel.

When settled in her new home Michel began appearing in pageants, theatre productions and eventually hit the big time in Hollywood.

However, by the time she was ten Lora’s movie-star life came crashing down. After a public court case in which Michel accused her adoptive mother of starving her, a judge ordered Lora Lee to leave Hollywood and return home to Texas.

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1940s child star disappeared later in life

After leaving Hollywood, 1940s child star Lora Lee Michel stayed out of the public eye until 1963.

At 22 years old, Michel and her husband Frank O’Neil Scott were sentenced in federal court for stealing a car and driving it across state lines. According to The LA Times, Scott was a troubled former Marine sergeant who’d served in the Korean War, and a heavy drinker.

On 9 March 1963, Lora Lee was delivered to the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, West Virginia, the same publication reports.

When she was released she disappeared from public view, and her family haven’t seen her since.

Lora Lee Michel’s whereabouts is unknown today

Today, Lora Lee Michel would be 81 years old.

The child star’s family have fought effortlessly to find Michel, frequently reaching out to those who knew her and the public. Unfortunately, their efforts have been to no avail.

The LA Times recently revisited the case and came to the conclusion it was possible Michel could have died from cancer. It reported Herb Fisher, a friend of Michel’s second husband, Joe Wendel Owen, told Owen that Lora Lee had died in 1979 of cancer. It is unknown how Fisher learned of her fate and The LA Times was unable to obtain a death certificate to prove it. 

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Shania is a Magazine Journalism graduate from the University of Derby. Her main passion is rooted in print journalism, however, she also branches out towards social media and is also interested in public relations. Outside of writing, Shania enjoys using social media, reading, and drinking coffee.