Patricia Viola was missing for more than a year before her foot was found on a beach in Bogota, New Jersey, leading investigators to believe she was dead. However, the circumstances surrounding her disappearance and death remain a mystery.
She was married to an electrical engineer named James (Jim) Viola, and together they had two children, a 10-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl.
The family of four lived happily in a white two-story home on Chestnut Avenue before tragedy struck the day before Valentine’s Day in 2001.
That morning, Patricia went to her son’s school, Bixby Elementary School, where she did volunteer work in the library.
She left shortly before noon.
Patricia had to walk a few blocks to her house because she suffered from epilepsy and had to stop driving after she recently had a bout of seizures.
When she arrived home, she checked her messages and noticed her mother had called. That’s when the 42-year-old spoke to her mother on the phone and informed her that everything was okay.
Her mother told the police that they had an “ordinary conversation, and everything sounded fine.”
One of the doors in the house was left ajar, which set off the alarm, and it prompted the alarm company to call.
Between 1 p.m., Patricia set the alarm, locked the doors, and left the house—she never returned.
Patricia Viola went missing the day before Valentine’s Day
At around 3:45 a.m., Patricia’s husband returned home. He had taken the afternoon off from work so that he could go shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts.
When Jim realized his wife wasn’t at the house, he assumed she got on the bus and went to the mall to shop for gifts as well. He said he didn’t want to immediately suspect that something was wrong.
But Jim began to worry when he saw that Patricia’s keys were on the counter and that her purse, cash, credit cards, cell phone, identification, and epilepsy medication were still in the house.
“Everything was here,” Jim said. “Everything except her and her jacket.”
At that time, their daughter was at a friend’s house and their son was in a religion class, but when they arrived home later that day and Patricia still wasn’t home, Jim went looking for her in his vehicle.
He searched through the dark streets with his high beams on, but he was unable to find her. That’s when he called the police department and reported Patricia missing.
Patricia’s disappearance led to an extensive search involving law enforcement, dogs, and helicopters. Officers were also on the streets, stopping passing cars and telling drivers to be on the lookout for Patricia.
The news of her disappearance gained national attention, and eventually, the case made it to the big screen. It was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” and “Disappeared,” which aired on Investigation Discovery.
Photos of her were circulating on the internet, and billboards with her face on them were posted throughout various states, including Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
In spite of that, Patricia was nowhere to be found, and law enforcement had no leads or tips.
Patricia Viola’s husband, Jim Viola, offered reward money
In June 2001, Patricia’s husband offered a $5,000 reward for information that would lead to her whereabouts and safe return.
He said, “She walked out the back door, walked through the driveway to the front, and where’d she go? Somebody must have seen something.”
Jim initially believed that his wife was still alive but had lost her memory from having a seizure. He said she could have been in the hospital as Jane Doe.
A private investigator stated in 2001 that there are two reasons why someone would disappear: either they left willingly or they were abducted.
He insinuated that he didn’t believe Patricia had been abducted, as he didn’t suspect foul play in her disappearance.
Patricia Viola’s left foot was found on a beach
In July 2002, a beach goer discovered a skeletonized left foot that had washed ashore on a beach in the Rockaway section of Queens, New York.
The foot still had its sock and shoe on it.
It wasn’t until 10 years later, in September 2012, that the severed foot was identified as that of Patricia. The results came after Patricia and Jim’s children resubmitted samples of their DNA in April 2011.
In an email, Chief John C. Burke wrote, “With only partial remains being found and identified and still no determination as to exactly what had taken place with Patricia Viola, the Bogota Police Department along with the entire law enforcement community will continue its investigation and efforts to make that determination.”
Jim said he was shocked when he learned that the foot belonged to his wife. At that time, he hadn’t told his son because he was in the hospital recovering from an infection.
But when he told his daughter, he said she broke down.
After Patricia’s foot was found on the beach, Patricia’s Law was passed. It’s a law that requires police officials to collect DNA and enter it into the database if the person has been missing for more than 30 days.
Patricia Viola’s husband buried her remains
More than a decade after Patricia went missing, her husband laid parts of her to rest on Feb. 25, 2013. Her 45-minute funeral service was held at St. Joseph’s Church in Bogota.
Jim was seen removing a small, white casket, which contained Patricia’s foot, and carrying it into the church.
Many people were in attendance to pay their respects.
Although there was no eulogy, Jim stated that his wife enjoyed spending time with relatives and friends. She also enjoyed singing and dancing and attending pool parties and barbecues.
The reverend prayed over the casket before it departed the church and was taken to the cemetery.
Patricia’s remains were buried in Hackensack Cemetery in Hackensack, New Jersey, with her parents.
Theories about Patricia Viola disappearance and death
From the moment Patricia mysteriously disappeared, there have been many theories about what may have happened to the housewife.
Jim said, “For anybody, even the local police, to come up with a theory of what happened, it’s crazy because the evidence is not there to show anything.”
However, some believe that Patricia committed suicide, including Detective James Sepp.
Sepp said he believes Patricia may have killed herself by jumping into the Hackensack River but her body just hasn’t been found, or she could have met her demise while hitchhiking on Interstate 80.
Jim doesn’t believe that his wife took her own life. He said, “We just bought a new timeshare up in Shawnee, Pennsylvania. We didn’t even get to spend our first week there.”
Several commentators on Reddit share the same sentiment as Jim.
They said it wouldn’t make sense considering she didn’t leave a note, and most importantly, she was taking care of her mother-in-law and her family.
One person stated that “a severed foot doesn’t make someone dead,” and that led them to believe that Patricia might have faked her own death.
Patricia Viola’s update: What we know about her disappearance and death
As of 2023, the rest of Patricia’s body has not been found, and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance and death are still unknown.
Authorities said her case is still open, and her DNA profile will remain in the CODIS database.
If anyone has information about Patricia’s disappearance and death, contact your local police department.