Certain details included in this article, including the potential resolution, are in the process of verification by investigative agencies. Updates will be provided after a response is received from the parties in question.
Mario Natale Palermo was a man who disappeared from Ontario in late 1977, under unclear circumstances. His latest age progression depicts him at 64 years old.
In 2019, Palermo was reportedly located alive after relocating to Russia under a different name, which is in the process of verification by law enforcement.
Description & Overview
Palermo was described as having (dark) brown hair and brown eyes (with a hint of hazel, which was identical to the eye color of his mother). Peculiarly, Mario's Canadian Citizenship Certificate, dated 1964, indicated that he in fact had blue eyes, however, that statement was erroneous. He also had a mustache and a medium build at the time of his disappearance, as well as 3 moles on his face; each located down the side of his left cheek and jaw. Mario also had very distinctive and prominent ears that seemed to "stick out", and the tip of his ears were pointy and tilted in a backwards direction (see gallery below). They seemed to align with his face higher up than the average person. His mandible and chin were noticeably quite angular (resembling a strongly diamond-shaped face), which could also be considered and described as being "robust".
Prior to his disappearance, Palermo was a single man living at home with his parents and 3 younger siblings. His home life had become severely turbulent from the late '60s until the day he was last seen. That year, Mario had placed a tape recorder on the table at home one night that his father was drinking excessively. The tape revealed a confrontation incited by Mario, capturing chilling screams and a struggle as he ran around the house in terror, being chased around the house repeatedly by his father who was wielding a knife; intent on harming him. The tape in question had since been destroyed.
Mario was known by all to be a very shy and quiet person, and preferred to keep to himself most of the time; this is a personality trait that most of the family shared as well. As a result, very little information had been shared with his family about his life during and after moving away to attend college in Hamilton and Ottawa in 1974-76. His general whereabouts specifically in the summer of 1976, however, had been well documented in the call logs recovered by Bell Canada, further evidenced by the honorable discharge letters and certificate that Palermo had received at this time from the Canadian Forces as well.
Mario had been fluent in both English and Italian languages; the latter being his mother tongue. However, according to his siblings, he did not possess an Italian accent when speaking English.
At the time of disappearance, the missing persons report was poorly recorded, and many factors/information had been left out inadvertently, allowing Mario's case to fall through the cracks. Tragically, as a result, his case soon went cold. Research and related items gathered strongly suggested that had this been looked into sooner, he most likely would have been found earlier.
In early March 2019, Niagara College's Media department, along with Canada's national network Bell Fibe TV expressed their interest in producing a documentary about his life and mysterious disappearance alongside his family in hopes that someone would have recognized him or potentially held information valuable to their search effort.
Palermo was born on August 27th, 1954 in Conflenti (a village within the region of Calabria), Catanzaro, Italy to first-time parents Giovanni and Petronilla; taking place approximately two years before immigrating with his parents to Canada. Mario had been baptized (Roman Catholic) in Conflenti Inferiore a few months prior to the move.
Ironically, the young couple, along with the travelling group of other Italian families emigrating to Canada, decided to make a stop in Rome before boarding the ship at a grand basilica they spotted on the way, 2-year old Mario in tow. Not thinking any differently, and expecting the overall doctrine to be Roman Catholic, they entered the church. However, to their surprise, they eventually realized that they had unknowingly just walked into a Satanic church, as they were trustingly herded inside (for some unknown reason) by the emigrating group's tour guide, who allegedly was the only party that had been fully aware of the situation they were about to encounter. Mario's highly-religious mother, Petronilla, would later describe the harrowing scene when the young family entered what they originally thought was a Catholic church, and instead, they were immediately confronted with a highly-distressing scene in which the sacrifice of a lamb was in the midst of being performed at the altar. It was only then that they fully realized what had been going on, and at that point, the trio exited the building. Everything seemed to go downhill from there, and it almost seemed as though they had been cursed; foreshadowing the inevitable chain of devastating and heartbreaking events that their family (and mainly, Mario) would soon have to endure.
(Side note: Strangely, each of Mario's siblings, as well as his mother, wholeheartedly believe[d] that paranormal forces likely seem to have somehow been involved in the family's disheartening circumstances and occurrences, and each even describe having to have several home-exorcisms performed, and report encountering what they thought were 'demons' walking up and down the stairs each night. The entire family have also witnessed a completely-closed doorknob turning with a loud creak (specifically, this was the door leading to the backyard) every evening around 5:00 PM, right before the door quickly swung wide open to reveal an inexplicably empty room. Eerily enough, tenants that currently rent and reside in this house have also casually reported the exact same thing, completely unprompted. Past tenants have mentioned this as well, even hearing terrifyingly loud shouting in one of the bedrooms (which was described as a man's voice), urging them desperately to "get out", which reportedly occurred constantly; all night, every night, and without pause. Moreover, well before the family even moved in or had anything to do with the house, there had actually been a murder of the home's sole occupant in the upstairs bathroom).
His mother Petronilla would also later recall that Mario had understandably not been a very happy camper throughout the immigration process, and that he had been sobbing and sullen for the duration of the boat ride, pleading to his mother (who had been sponsored by her relatives; automatically making her son and husband elligible for citizenship) to rethink the move to Canada and return to their home in Italy, which sadly seemed as far away as ever at that point. As they neared the Canadian coast, little Mario finally realized that there was no turning back. Nonetheless, Mario and his parents had sailed upon the S.S. Vulcania departing from the city of Rome, Italy. The first stop was the docks of New York City. The second stop was Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the three 'landed' on the day of December 6, 1956. They then finally settled down in Welland, Ontario, and Mario would soon begin attending St. Mary Catholic Elementary School, which luckily, was within walking distance of their residence at the time. The street/neighbourhood that the family had moved into was prominently (and almost totally) populated by Italian-Canadian citizens, as well.
A fire broke out in the afternoon hours on the day of May 7, 1967, at the family home, occurring just a few days before Mario's Ottawa trip (as explained below). The fire had been attributed to an accident involving one of the Palermo children (and his friend), who had been left unattended in the backyard playing with fireworks, which had been placed into an aluminum trash can that was up against the back wall of the house. Mario's mother and two younger siblings were across the street at the time, when they witnessed a plume of smoke emanating from their house. Their father, Giovanni, had been walking home from work as firetrucks raced to the scene, and even he could see dark smoke coming from his house from several kilometers away. Thankfully, no one had been injured, but the family had subsequently been forced out of their home, and moved out immediately. As a result of the incident, law enforcement stated the next day that they would be cracking down on the sale of fireworks to minors, and no longer allowed such an incident to occur.
Mario took it upon himself to do what he could in order to help his family, and had subsequently enlisted the help of their local Catholic church; he even went door-to-door in order to help raise money for his family so that they could be able to afford new lodging (the pledge list he had written up had recently been uncovered). Incredibly, his father was even in the newspaper, pictured holding the check which had been handed to him as a result of the proceeds collected with Mario's love, care, and hard work. The situation, aggravated by everything that the family had been going through at the same time, began to take a large toll on the young family. Still, they always stuck together.
While in the 7th grade, 12-year-old Palermo joined the Welland School Safety Patrol, which had been run by CAA (Canadian counterpart of AAA). As a treat, Mario and 7 of his peers from his elementary school (one student being his best childhood friend, Joe Bora, who also has not been heard from at all since the late 1970s') were chosen to attend a school trip to Ottawa, Ontario in May of the year 1967. The trip itinerary included boarding a flight operated by Air Canada to the capital city, a 3-night stay at the Talisman Hotel in Ottawa, sightseeing, a picnic party and a trip to the House of Commons and Rideau Hall. Patrollers even had the opportunity to meet the current Prime Minister at the time, who in 1967 was The Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson.
Mario arrived home on the 21st of May 1967, and upon his arrival, his behaviour seemed to shift dramatically according to his worried parents as he had suddenly begun behaving erratically, exhibiting signs similar to those of someone afflicted with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Reportedly, Mario had vaguely indicated that events occurring during the Ottawa trip were the cause of the mental anguish he had been going through, but refused to go into any detail. The only person Mario had ever told about what happened was his fearful mother, who didn't share this with anyone in the family (other than her husband). The whole family was due to attend church the day he got home, however, Mario had seemingly grown increasingly anxious and frightened (which was completely out of the ordinary) at the thought of attending mass. He refused to attend outright, even locking himself in the garage; screaming and crying.
This one singular event triggered a catastrophic chain of events leading up to his eventual disappearance.
Mario had progressively and quickly become severely shaken, paranoid and anxious resulting from the incident in Ottawa (as well as the fire), but denied to doctors that anything out of the ordinary took place to cause these feelings. Because of this, doctors were under the assumption that his symptoms were being expressed purely on a psychological basis and unfounded in reason, subsequently forcing them to wrongly diagnose Mario with schizophrenia. Feeling that she was doing what was best for him at the time (in the past, she felt that she trusted all doctors with total certainty and blind faith), Palermo's mother consequently began taking him to the Welland County Hospital (2-South/Mental Health Unit) routinely for Electroshock Therapy (ECT) under doctors' order, hoping to allow memory loss of the traumatic event to take effect and alleviate the negative emotions he had been experiencing as a result, mainly being depression and anxiety. It seems to the family that Mario had been caught up in a situation where the treatment may not have been necessary, as the plan had been ordered based on this biased theory of pathology. Consequently, it would soon turn out that Mario's personality had inadvertently begun to change rapidly upon receiving treatment as a result of the effects of electric charges being applied to the hippocampus, amygdala, and temporal lobe (among others).
His father Giovanni soon developed a severe alcohol problem (until he quit drinking on November 30th, 1994, which also happened to be on the day of his fourth granddaughter's birth, as well as the 19th anniversary of Mario's disappearance from home), and was a danger to the rest of his family prior to this. Reportedly, Giovanni abruptly began abusing alcohol in the form of homemade wine, beer, and whiskey in June or July of 1967 (which was the year that everything seemed to go totally awry). His personality, mood swings, and temper had shifted vehemently, that is, depending on which alcoholic beverage he had been consuming at any one time. Every weekend, Mario, his mother Petronilla, and 3 younger siblings had been forced to board themselves up in a room indefinitely by stacking furniture against the door so that his dad would not break through and harm them. This usually took place in the garage at the back end of the property, where Mario routinely had to bar himself against the door for the duration it took to keep his father out in order to protect his mom and young siblings.
Incredibly, Mario and his father (as well as the rest of his family) had always been extremely close before this point. In 1965, he even wrote a story in his school notebook, stating that he would always be spending every day with him performing activities such as building go-karts for racing, building chairs, tables, and electronics together from scratch, as well as other normal father-son bonding activities such as playing catch, for example. Sadly, this ended abruptly, and things pretty quickly seemed to go downhill.
As a result, Mario, his siblings, and his mother would be stuck in such an unimaginably high-scale situation from Fridays at 5 PM until the early hours of the following Monday morning (he only ever drank on his days off, which happened to occur only on weekends), at which point Giovanni would report for work at a steel factory bright and early at 8:00 AM. He would later return home after his shift every Monday, having purchased chocolate for each of the children on his way home, as well as for his wife, in apology for his actions that were carried out each weekend. This semi-dysfunctional cycle continued endlessly, even after Mario had disappeared. However, for reasons that are generally unknown, it was quite unfortunately and abundantly clear to his siblings that Mario had usually been the primary target of his father's anger and contemptuous rage. Family believe that he very understandably may have fled due to such conditions, and subsequently, may have taken on a new identity. However, this was not his only motivation, as you will soon discover below.
Adolescence & Adulthood
Mario began high school at Welland High and Vocational School (now defunct) in September 1969, and was known by friends and family to have severe attendance and truancy issues as a direct result of his hospitalization. Despite this, Mario had joined the school's Chess Club in his second year (grade 10), and also competed in Track and Field running relays. Mario is not pictured anywhere in his yearbooks (as he would avoid attending class photos), except for a small picture of him running track, and a group photo of the Chess Club (both in 1970 only), which is listed in the gallery.
Later, Mario graduated from high school in June of 1973. He was actually scheduled to graduate the year before, however, he had missed a substantial amount of classes, as he had been admitted to the Welland County Hospital for about 1 or 2 months after being formally diagnosed with clinical depression, and underwent countless rounds of shock therapy during his stay. Once discharged, he repeated the 12th grade the following year.
During ECT treatment, Mario had received epidermal surface burns as a result of abnormal exposure to electricity by poor application of the conductive gel placed between his skin and the two electrodes. The pattern of skin damage is further evidenced that the treatment had been carried out in a bifrontal manner (2 electrodes; each being directly above his eyebrows).
After graduating high school, he began attending night school classes to complete an optional 5th year ('grade 13') at Hamilton Collegiate Institute (circa 1973-74) in order to be accepted into and attend university. New information reveals that Mario had also been admitted to the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital at this time, as well. The duration of his stay (or what it entailed), however, is currently unknown.
Mario then attended McMaster University in Hamilton, which took place in 1974. After his first year, he decided to embark on a new journey towards higher education, so he applied to top Ontario universities such as University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario), Western University (London, Ontario), and his new school of choice: Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. He had definitely been accepted to the University of Toronto and Carleton University. It is unknown if this was also the case at Western University, however.
Sure enough, September 1975 rolled around, and Mario had begun attending Carleton University in Ottawa, where he would also be spending most of his time in the summers of 1976-77. His program of choice was Engineering. He had promptly applied for tuition grants offered by the university as well as the Canadian government, and had soon found himself living at the campus' dormitory for the duration of the school year.
Mario was also part of the Governor Generals' Foot Guards (3rd division, Public Duties Detachment) in Ottawa, Ontario. in the same time period, and at one point, had gone to CFB Petawawa to complete his basic training (BMQ), beginning in April 1976. Palermo held the rank 'Private' during his tour of duty.
As of May 29, 1976, a certificate addressed to Palermo confirms that he officially received his Honorable Discharge from the Governor General's Foot Guards, finalizing the completion of his duty. At that point, he, therefore, became eligible for a pension from the Canadian Armed Forces.
At the time, Mario was very familiar with, and often relied on using public transportation and hitchhiking to make his way from city to city, and at one point, took shelter at the YMCA of Hamilton and the YMCA of Ottawa for an extended period of time (as well as several hostels). He wore upscale clothing, and wasn't your average 'transient' traveler. He typically wore wool Levis' Panatela pants, and button-up dress shirts. He was known to also wear Hushpuppies brand dress shoes, size 9 (US/Canada). His family states that he specifically never wore denim jeans, as they didn't fit his style, and he only ever wore black or other dark-colored socks. Palermo was also known to have an exceptionally high IQ (*more specifically, his IQ score was 155*), and the family states that he was quiet and shy as well as having an introverted personality type.
Also, In 1976, Mario had a door sign/plaque belonging to Carleton University that read "Aerodynamics Research Laboratory". That same year, he travelled to Montreal, Quebec in May, the duration of his stay being approximately 2 weeks or so, and he had been generating income during this period. It is speculated that as a result, he most likely had been serving with the Canadian Armed Forces in the province of Quebec, also.
Mario's siblings recall that he was an avid fan of The Beatles and Santana (as well as most psychedelic music originating from the '60s), even attending many concerts of the latter in the years leading up to his disappearance.
Prior to his disappearance in late 1977, and after returning home for the summer through to the fall season of that year, Mario had also been working in Welland amongst Niagara College's Theater program at Sacred Heart Church, located on Empire Street, in Downtown Welland, working as a set designer. At the time, the program had been celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and rehearsals were being held every weekend in mid-to-late October 1977. The venue was dubbed "Welland Little Theatre", which is now defunct. Mario also had obtained a copy of a paperback book by Faber Plays before he disappeared, that contained a script for the play The Real Inspector Hound (written by Tom Stoppard), and a list of other plays for which a script could be ordered. The book had apparently originated from London, England.
A date was set for December 13, 1977, for the Niagara College Theater program to put on the well-rehearsed comedy play, Engaged, at 111 Church Road in St. Catharines, Ontario. It is unlikely that Mario was in attendance, and his name was completely omitted from the publication. Disappointingly, as a result, he wasn't even mentioned as being part of their set crew. However, an income tax slip received at his home address in Welland at the end of 1977 officially recorded that Mario had, indeed, successfully received payment from Niagara College for his work on the set.
Mario's younger brother would later recall that he was pretty much what you would consider being the 'jack of all trades', and was extremely skilled when it came to woodworking and building, such as masterfully creating electronic devices from scratch (such as high-quality; professionally made speakers) by hand, which would have come in (excuse the pun) quite handy in a career of set design.
It was also noted that to his family, in months leading up to his abrupt disappearance in November 1977, it had seemed very strange that Mario had actually been staying at the family home in Welland for longer than he had normally been up until then (in 1977, he had spent the entire summer and fall living at home with his parents and siblings, which was never the case otherwise), keeping in mind the family's circumstances as described above. He would normally be in and out of the house every month or so, and hardly ever stayed stationary at one location or city for very long. In regards to university (considering he would have had to return to Ottawa in September 1977, in which he didn't), this would most likely imply that he had either dropped out completely, or had been put on academic suspension from Carleton University before September 1977 (in Ontario, the first suspension carries a duration of 4 months which would end in *December 1977*).
Mario had obtained a slip of paper from a pharmacy in Welland, Ontario, documenting a legitimate prescription he had received from a doctor on October 31, 1977; about a month before his disappearance (which had been around the time that he was working with Niagara College's theater program), for the pharmaceutical drug named chloral hydrate 500mg (prescribed as a sedative to help combat insomnia). At the time that the slip was printed, the prescription still contained 2 refills, and it is unknown whether they had ever been fulfilled or not.
On November 26, 1977, Mario made the fateful decision to try his hand at prescription forgery, and copied the signature of a local general physician in Welland at the time, Dr. Ansari. Mario had then ordered a sibling to visit the pharmacy and display the written prescription in order to have the prescription filled. The pharmacist realized right away that the signature was indeed fake. Subsequently, he asked to see the slip of paper, under the ruse that he "just needed to verify it". Mario's sibling soon returned home, and he hit the roof when they had informed him that they left the forged signature in the pharmacists' possession, on top of arriving home empty-handed. Immediately following the 'botched' attempt, local authorities were promptly alerted to the incident. The medication he was attempting to obtain is currently unknown.
The next day, which was 3 days prior to leaving home, police visited the household, wanting to speak to Mario. He was then told that the doctor he was forging signatures of was highly considering filing charges for fraud, and the authorities subsequently warned him for the last time that if he was caught doing this again, they would have no choice but to convict him. The doctor later decided to drop the charges. Mario's criminal record is clean and free of conflict, as he has not had any run-ins with the law prior to (or after) this event. This was the first and only time that Mario had attempted to forge any prescriptions, and understandably, this event, in particular, is one of the main reasons he may have fled his family home (in his eyes, in order to avoid what he strongly feared would be imminent prosecution and arrest for his mistake).
Moreover, Mario had repeatedly begged his mother Petronilla to move away with him and find an apartment together (in 1977, not long before he left home), as he feared for her life, as well as his own, if she were to remain with her husband as a direct result of the issues and actions spawning from his alcoholism. Unfortunately, every time he brought it up, Petronilla adamantly refused, telling him that she couldn't leave her family behind, even taking the family's dire circumstances into consideration. This was the final straw for Mario.
- He may have been Markham Doe (DNA comparison; familial samples provided by his mother in 2009)
- He may be North Bay John Doe (Ruled out circumstantially in April 2019)
- He may have been Hamilton John Doe (1978) (Ruled out via dental comparison as of September 23, 2019)
- He may have been Garden Grove John Doe (1986) (Ruled out circumstantially in 2019)
- He may have been Luce County John Doe (Ruled out circumstantially in 2019)
- He may have been "Pops" (Ruled out in November 2019 via DNA comparison)
- He may have been North Bend John Doe (Ruled out by DNA comparison in 2019)
- He may have been Dandridge John Doe (Ruled out circumstantially in 2019)
- He may have been Cartierville John Doe (Ruled out by DNA comparison in 2019)
- He may have been Miscou Island John Doe (Ruled out by DNA comparison in 2019)
An accurate 3D-model rendering has recently been created in order to demonstrate Mario's facial features and full profile. The model is tactile and can be manipulated to show all aspects of his head and jaw. Note: This may seem uncanny to some, however, as it does feature eye and facial movement; making it more life-like. The model of Palermo's head is viewable here. Additionally, a morph sequence has also been created to show the age progression detail between the main young photograph and the current age-progressed photo, and is viewable here, as well.
A legitimate prescription (ordered by a local doctor) was prescribed to Mario, dated October 30, 1977, for the pharmaceutical sedative Chloral hydrate (1x 500mg daily dose, liquid syrup), in order to alleviate symptoms caused by acute insomnia. Chloral hydrate is likely best known colloquially with names such as a 'Mickey Finn', or 'knockout drops'. Alternatively, this drug, in particular, is usually prescribed as an anesthetic in preparation for surgery, and also as a post-operative painkiller. It is also known to have been used in preparation and treatment for electroconvulsive therapy patients like Mario.
The prescription was then subsequently filled before being picked up by Mario at a pharmacy near his family home in Downtown Welland, Ontario, which also occurred on the date provided. The prescription stated that as of that day, he would have had 2 more refills; simply enough medication to last 2 more months. The prescription and its subsequent refills had surprisingly never been tracked by investigators, although this could have been a very promising avenue of investigation.
This sedative (referred to as 'hypnotic') agent, in particular, was known to cause very strong adverse effects upon withdrawal if it had been taken regularly for longer than a couple of weeks. Notably, even in the 1970s', Chloral hydrate was hardly ever used any longer, and if it was, it had been prescribed mostly in liquid-syrup form. Mario's prescription, however, had been dispensed in pill form.
A slip of paper that Mario had written: "Red wool + black wool - picked up saw dust [spaces] silk [sic] materials + steel". Another slip of paper similar had read: T.D. - S.D. 20 mg 24 hr [d]art, T.D. 30 mg [d]art".
In addition to this, Mario had written "S.D." in block letters on a paper in his Chemistry notebook (5th year of high school), and dated the page being April 17, 1975. On the same note, he had scrawled his Social Insurance Number just above it; as well as a list of professors to "keep or drop".
After immediate inspection, it was clear that the papers had been soaked in a mysterious red substance, and were mysteriously and significantly stained by dark red splatters on the edges of the sheets. Almost all of Mario's school books and miscellaneous belongings had a similar pattern of discoloration and strange splatters. These items in particular had been stored inside the family garage's attic for safekeeping.
Strangely, in 2015, Mario's mother received a letter in the mail (at the family home) that was addressed to her missing son, whom she hadn't heard from in decades. The letter was to 'inform' Palermo that he had successfully carried out his duties in the Canadian Forces as a Governor General's Foot Guard in Ottawa, and was therefore honorarily discharged in 1976. Because of this, the letter was also meant to inform Mario that he had subsequently and immediately become eligible to receive his military pension as a result. The Social Insurance number belonging to Mario correlated with information in the letter, and it was known that all income ceased in 1977 according to tax records, and the aforementioned military pension had never been received at all. It is unknown why the letter had been delivered recently as opposed to in the past.
The certificate confirming Palermo's military history was dated August 1976, and it stated that he had been honorably discharged from the Governor General's Foot Guards, in the Reserve Force (3rd Division) officially on May 29, 1976, after his tour of duty began in April 1976. The date of his honourable discharge was associated with his successful completion of the Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario on that same date. Additionally, more research revealed that the 3rd Division was not only based in Petawawa as Mario had been in 1976 (located at Foulkes Barracks at CFB Petawawa), but also based in British Columbia (one of the Forces bases being in the city of Comox, B.C., where his friend and fellow veteran, Stephen Mercer had been stationed and residing in until his death in 2011). This may strongly suggest a high likelihood that he could have relocated to British Columbia upon his disappearance.
In his second term of University at Carleton in 1976, Mario had enrolled in a course that had been dubbed "Introduction to Computers". The operating system that they had been working with was somewhat primitive, and the coding languages he had been using were called FORTRAN IV and SAMOS. The work that he had been doing in regards to this course was based on learning to use the systems and how to store information onto the public servers there at the beginning of the course. His hand-printed notes from May of that year reveal that after this, he had mainly been taught probability equations and how to compute and solve them, and the like, which wasn't out of the ordinary, in particular, considering he was enrolled in Carleton University's Engineering program. Suspiciously, however, Mario had been experimenting there on the side, and on his own for one particular purpose: to find out how many people in his sample population had the same birthdate as he did. The percentage that he came up with at the end of this was 25% out of 100 subjects. He may have been utilizing this to plan a new identity, and how to attain one more precisely and accurately. He somehow had gained access to the computers at unorthodox hours as well, such as 4:30 AM, specifically.
On November 11, 1977, a letter was delivered to the family home that had been addressed to Mario from the Attorney General/Sheriff's Office, informing him of impending jury duty he would have to partake in. Interestingly, there was a court date set on the 30th of November, the day he left, in Orillia (which was his last-known location as of January). Another letter later addressed to Mario from Canada's Financial Collections (on behalf of Canada Student Loans) was received at Mario's family home on January 6, 1979, stating that his account had been delinquent for 270-365 days, meaning that they had received payments up until October 1978 (which was almost a year after he had gone missing from his family home). The circumstances strongly suggest that Mario had been alive at least up until that time.
In 1976, Mario had obtained 2 booklets from a travel agent in Welland, regarding hostel/group trips to various cities within South America (most notably, Peru, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires). Included was an itinerary for each trip, which cost about $268.00 for a chartered flight departing the city of Toronto, Ontario (Pearson International Airport/YYZ). Ironically, Mario had paternal relatives living in Argentina (all of whom originating from Italy, as well), and he may have taken the trip in order to visit with them.
There is also a good chance that Mario may have fled and relocated to Russia, as in late 1977, it was well-known to Canadian citizens (printed in the newspaper, for example) that the Soviet Union had been accepting the immigration of Canadian residents in order to provide them with jobs. However, the downside was that the relocation was deemed permanent, as such immigrants would later be completely unable to return to Canada (or the other country of origin), or retain their Canadian citizenship once the immigration process had been rendered complete. As a result, for people in this situation, there was, unfortunately, no turning back. In 1971, Mario had doodled maps of his own within his high school history binder, mainly in regards to Russia, writing about tactical war strategies on it, as well (this was not school-related, and this was done on his own time). He had also drawn spaceships bearing the 'USSR' Insignia, and even owned an alarm clock at the time that had originated in Russia (under circumstances at the time, it normally wouldn't have been readily obtainable within Canada in the 1970s' as a direct result of the embargo that had been imposed), which his family had recently recovered amongst the rest of his possessions.
Moreover, not long before Mario had disappeared, Mario had confided in his mother; explaining the tactics behind something called 'cemetery walking'; explaining in-depth what must be done specifically in order to change someone's name and identity. Strangely, Mario had left behind a Gillette brand shaver, brush, and facial hair trimmer set at home when he left. The price tag, still stuck to the original package, stated that he had purchased it a few months in advance (October 1977), and it had been used regularly for a short period of time.
Photographs above contain articles of clothing recently recovered from storage at the family home. This showcase demonstrates the style of clothing and accessories that Mario wore on a daily basis.
The night before Mario disappeared from his family home, he had sat down with his sister, blankly informing her that he had to leave, and that she would never see him again. He had also said this to one of his brothers around the same time. Mario had been acting progressively more despondent, detached, and stressed until he left, and family was unsure what to make of the statement. For about 2 weeks prior to his disappearance, it was reported that Mario was often seen pacing around the hallways at home perpetually, and seemed to be very troubled by his circumstances. Mario reportedly had confided only in his mother regarding what was wrong, however, she refused to divulge such information about this fact in particular. Unfortunately, as a result, none of his friends or siblings really knew exactly what was troubling him. However, his brothers and his sister each recall quite vividly that his emotions and expression had taken a harrowing turn for the worse as a direct result of the electroshock (ECT) treatment he had been receiving for alleged mental health disorders in his teenage years.
At the time of his disappearance, he was not carrying any identification, and did not have a driver's license. When he left, however, he took a brown Dionite luggage travel bag with him, and he was wearing a dark beige and brown (tartan patterned) pair of Panatela wool pants. He usually kept a pocketknife in his pants' pocket for protection, encased in a vinyl/leather sheath. Mario also had been wearing a Waltham watch. For reasons that are unknown, Mario left most of his wardrobe and clothes behind, including his casual-wear Hushpuppies shoes.
Mario had also taken his copy of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band vinyl album along with him, leaving the rest of his record collection behind. Ominously, one song in particular on this album (She's Leaving Home) is forebodingly similar to the circumstances Mario faced the day he left, which was also on a Wednesday, and also occurred in at 5:00 AM on that day, which was November 30th, 1977.
The evening leading up to his disappearance was a quiet one, and initially, showed no sign of trouble. The family had all gone to bed around 11:00 PM. Mario, however, had been awake in his room the entire night (which is not unusual, as he was known to be quite the night owl). Suddenly, the entire family was roused at the sound of the front door slamming loudly at 5:00 AM. Afraid someone may have gained access to the house, Mario's parents and siblings ran downstairs to see what was going on, but found nothing out of the ordinary. What they did find, however, was that Mario was no longer in his room or anywhere in the house. Initially, no one was alarmed as a result of the fact that this was quite typical of Mario, and often spontaneously snuck out at night in such a manner. Usually, Mario would be absent for about a week or two (normally, to visit and crash with his best friend living in Hamilton) before returning home.
This was precisely what he had planned to do that night; at which point he boarded a Greyhound bus in Welland to his destination's terminal located in Hamilton (which is approximately a 45-minute drive from home), where his best friend had been living at the time. Mario then stayed at his friend's house for a few weeks, and the friend in question would later confirm the accuracy of this statement in 1991. On his official day of disappearance (December 12, 1977), Mario had asked his friend for a ride to Hamilton's Greyhound bus depot, and upon arrival, Palermo had ominously stated to his friend that he would "never see him again", and needed to "take care of business" and "straighten his life out" before saying goodbye. This friend was the last person to see Mario alive, and he personally witnessed Mario boarding a Greyhound bus (however, he was unable to recall which specific bus he had taken, but it definitely was NOT the bus to Welland). With that, the bus promptly departed the terminal, and Mario was gone. Indeed, neither his friends nor family would ever see or hear from him ever again.
As a result, Mario's 'true' destination is unknown. The last time that family and friends heard from Palermo was on January 8th, 1978, when his mother received a Grey Coach parcel from Orillia, Ontario containing a pair of boots that Palermo borrowed from his youngest brother, as well as two boxes of chocolates (which specifically, were cordial cherries; a Christmas treat). The chocolates had most likely been sent right after Christmas day. Once his mother finally received the package, she made the trip (alongside one of Mario's brothers) to Orillia to find her first-born son (or at least information about where he may have gone). Upon arrival, she entered the Greyhound terminal. Employees at the terminal denied any knowledge of Mario, and his name was certainly not in their records. As a result, their investigation came up empty, and Mario was soon reported missing by his mother on January 20, 1978.
It is strongly suspected that Mario had most likely also been travelling back up to CFB Petawawa and/or Ottawa at the time of his disappearance.
Initially, Mario's family believed that he may have simply re-entered and begun residing in Conflenti, Italy. However, an international search conducted around 1994 by INTERPOL in conjunction with the RCMP (on behalf of Mr. Gilbert Parent, who was an MP at the time, spending years attempting to help family locate Mario) proved negative, as no records were found of a passport or Italian visa under his birth name and identity. However, the relocation cannot be totally ruled out, as he often told siblings in detail that he "knew how to change his name" in order to obtain a new identity, and even mentioned a few times in passing that if he were to do so, he would take on the first name 'Frank', or 'Franco' (named after his maternal uncle), and on separate occasions, Mario often expressed wanting to return to his birthplace in Italy.
In 1980, there was a reunion in Ottawa for members of the military that had begun in the Southwestern region of Ontario. Stephen ('Steve', as he was known by the Palermo family) Mercer, who was another long-standing close friend to Mario, had been stationed in British Columbia in the late '70s after being raised in Welland, Ontario. He had been aware that Mario was a Guardsman in the years prior to his disappearance, and that Mario would be attending the reunion for this reason. Mercer had made the long and arduous trip back to Ontario, and attended the reunion in an attempt to solely catch up with his old friend. Once he learned that Mario had not been at the reunion, he then travelled (about an 8-hour drive) from Ottawa to the family's home in Welland. He was greeted by Mario's family, and they were asked if Mario had been home, and if he could speak to him. To his complete surprise, he was informed that Mario was not home, and that he had actually been missing for a significant amount of time. Steve took it upon himself, and promised Palermo's parents that he would find his dear friend and their beloved son, as he had strong contacts that could help him do so. Unfortunately, family never heard back from Steve since he left that evening. Mr. Mercer passed away on March 24, 2011, in Victoria, British Columbia at the age of 57.
Mario had a long history of involvement as a patient in several of Ontario's inpatient mental health facilities throughout the '70s while being treated for Major Depressive Disorder. Under such circumstances, MP Gilbert Parent then suggested to family that they should attempt to make contact with each of these facilities in hopes of attaining helpful information regarding his whereabouts. In 1993, letters were mailed to every mental institution in all of Canada that contained a request for assistance by searching patient intake records using his name and his most recent photograph. Attached was also a lengthy physical description, in hopes that someone may have recognized him. Unfortunately, this effort did not surface any leads.
When the international search ended in 1994 and its results came up empty, the family were collectively told that no further investigation could be performed, as they had seemingly come to a 'dead-end' after all routes of investigation failed to identify any leads, but authorities themselves surmised that there was indeed a strong possibility that he has been living under a new name and identity.
For clarification, however, it must be noted that if Mario is still living, he must only be doing so under a different name and identity, as an INTERPOL search conducted in 1993 revealed that Mario had not applied for his own passport at any time using his full name and social insurance number, nor had he acquired a drivers license at any point in his life. The search also internationally screened every indication found of anyone bearing the name 'Mario Palermo', thus eventually bringing investigators to the conclusion that none of the aforementioned individuals were him.
Also In 1977, he had already been in serious debt regarding tuition from 2 separate universities (those of which he never graduated from), and this may have also been a motive (if he happened to change his identity in any way) in an attempt to begin anew.
In late 2009, Detective Constable Douglas Clarke of York Regional Police's Homicide department had paid a visit to the home of Petronilla Palermo (his late mother), and formerly, that of Mario's, and had informed the family that he was investigating a lead, which had been an unidentified case by the name of "Markham Doe", and that Mario may have been the decedent in question. Petronilla had subsequently submitted a DNA sample for analysis (which is still available), and after being tested, the results were negative.
A few years later, one of Mario's siblings came across a particular case file regarding unidentified remains (the file number '1775UMON'). They immediately became alarmed after reading through the file listed on Canada's Missing (formerly missing-u.ca), in which the description eerily fit Mario to a tee, and his family was almost certain that the remains were a definite match for Mario. The material and design of the decedent's pants were completely identical to those of Mario's, and ironically, they were the only pair that is missing from Mario's wardrobe. However, in January 2019, Palermo's niece had contacted the OPP after a correspondence with Rebekah Turner (owner of theunidentified.org) regarding the possibility, but the detective in question stated that it was in fact not possible, as the remains had already been positively identified in 2018 as Wayne Shank, a resident of Simcoe, Ontario who had been declared legally dead as of October 1977.
At this time, the Palermo family was also informed that the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) had somehow 'lost' Mario's original dental records (such as x-rays and charts). Luckily, however, the RCMP do have copies of all the original documents available.
On one occasion in 1992, a man thought to match Mario's description (as well as a similar gait) was spotted walking on the corner of East Main St. from the Welland Transit bus hub in Welland by one of Palermo's brothers who was driving down the street at the time, facing his direction. This was the last time anyone fitting such a description had been seen in Welland.
The Palermo family have repeatedly contacted the Canadian Armed Forces in order to obtain information as to when Mario had last been at Garrison/CFB Petawawa, with no response from them after mentioning his name and circumstances. Around the same time, an online acquaintance (who is also a decorated Veteran of the Royal Canadian Dragoons) called the base in Petawawa as well, on behalf of the Palermo family, but was told that due to the Privacy Act (FIPPA), they could not disclose any information regarding the military records belonging to Mario. The family still has yet to receive a response from the Forces regarding this topic.
In May of 2019, a letter was mailed by one of Mario's siblings to Health Canada regarding possible third party retrieval of Mario's past medical records, and in June, family received a letter back from the ministry stating that Mario's listed OHIP number was an invalid one, and that contradictory to the information they had laid out, accessible records only dated back as far as 2012. Thus, no information could be deduced regarding this topic. Conversely, in late June of 2019, an online request was made under FIPPA (Privacy Act) to National Defense for family to legally obtain information pertaining to Mario's service records with the Canadian Forces as a Guardsman.
In July 2019, a tip was formally accepted and is now being processed by NCMPUR and the NRPS regarding the most-likely match between Mario's case and that of Hamilton John Doe (1978). Despite initially being informed that DNA analysis would be available, Mario's family was only recently informed by law enforcement that the DNA belonging to the decedent had actually been purged from the RCMP's records at an unknown date, and was no longer comparable. Thus, only dental information was available for comparison with Mario's, and subsequently, as a result of the investigation, this match was successfully ruled out as of September 23, 2019.
On September 25, 2019, a tip has been submitted to the RCMP in conjunction with the Ontario Provincial Police through NCMPUR regarding the uncanny similarities and possible identity match between Mario and an unidentified man who was colloquially named "Pops" by locals, many of whom were fondly familiar of the decedent in life. The decedent was evidently homeless, and he was found unresponsive beneath a subway bridge intersecting Bloor and Parliament streets in Downton Toronto on March 29, 2008, by a fellow transient that knew him quite well. The man that discovered him referred to him as both "Pops" and/or "Joe". This witness never stated a last name, and as a result, it is surmised that Pops may have intentionally hidden his true identity from those who knew him. When authorities subsequently arrived, they quickly pronounced Pops dead on the scene. No information has been noted about his cause of death.
It has been well noted by many that the clothing worn by the transient referenced above matched the familiar style and type of clothing that Mario had always worn. Mainly, Mario only ever purchased Levi Panatela brand pants; all of which were tweed-fabric disco pants with checkered patterns in various colour swatches. As for the decedent's physical description according to NCMPUR, however; according to his family, Mario had definitely not possessed the physical anomalies noted at the autopsy performed on Pops. Therefore, Mario is NOT a match.
In 2019, the RCMP had scanned and crosschecked Mario's DNA alongside all of the unidentified remains in Canada, and it has been confirmed that, as a result, all Canadian unidentified remains cases have been completely ruled out as potential matches.
After 40+ long years of relentless research and hard work to try and locate their loved one, Mario's family is confident that Mario is indeed alive and living within a new identity.
In his early teen years, Mario himself had invented a board game that became extremely popular amongst his family and high school peers. The game and board had been well thought-out, and everyone who had ever played felt that if patented, it would have definitely become a commercial hit. In a nutshell, the game's premise had made each player a DJ from a certain radio station that bought the rights to (or sponsored) several different popular bands, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, etc. The game was best played amongst 4-6 players at any one time. The player with the most bands, and therefore the most generated monetary revenue, won the game.
Mario also loved to play chess, which he did every day at home. He had also been a member of his high school chess club, along with his best friend (specifically, the one who had been the last person to see him alive). He always played with one of his brothers, and also loved to play the board game Risk (a very convoluted and intricate world domination strategy game that took a very long time to complete).
On one afternoon, about a month prior to the day he left home, Mario had been greeted by a meowing little stray black cat outside the back door to the house. Mario had a soft spot for animals, especially so in regards to cats. Subsequently, he had decided to leave the little black kitten some food and milk. Unable to turn the tiny kitten away, he promptly picked the cat up, carrying him into the family home and asked for his parents' help in caring for him and letting him stay indoors. His mother, Petronilla, wasn't very happy with this arrangement at all, considering Mario wanted to begin letting the little cat in the house for shelter long-term, as it had just begun getting cold outside. Petronilla objected, and said that the cat could take shelter in the garage instead, so food and milk was continuously placed there, and blankets had been placed for the cat to sleep on. After a week or two, Petronilla became fed up with the arrangement, and as a result, ordered one of Mario's brothers to drive the tiny cat to the railyard on the outskirts of town and leave it there so it would not return. Surprisingly, the little kitten DID make the journey all the way back from Port Colborne to Welland, however, he was sadly hit by a car a few houses down from the safety of the Palermo family home, and sorrowfully as a result, the fatally-injured kitten passed away.
Strangely, however--a year ago, a similar meowing tiny little stray black kitten began appearing at the back door of the residence belonging to Mario's brother, and the cat comfortably made a home for himself in their family rather quickly. At the time, Mario's investigation had just begun to get underway once again after a long cold case struggle. Palermo's niece had recently uncovered a box of his clothing, and had begun developing a research binder holding his belongings and information important to the search. As soon as the box containing his clothing had been opened, the little kitten dashed towards it excitingly before sniffing it carefully and immediately jumping right onto some of the folded clothing, where he immediately laid back and fell asleep. The little kitten completely refused to sleep anywhere other than on or within the recovered clothing box, pictures of Mario, any of his belongings, a tote box containing his paper documentation, or Mario's research binder. This stays true, even to this day.
Mario's father, Giovanni, had unfortunately passed away after a long and arduous battle with colon and prostate cancer on November 10, 2008. Giovannni had quit drinking on the evening of November 30, 1994, which was exactly the time of birth of his fourth granddaughter, Rebecca. He had decided right then and there that this may have been his last chance at making things right and embracing family life again, which he did. He no longer suffered from fits of rage or contempt, and instead, focused on tending to his garden and spending time with his granddaughters every day. He cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for his wife, and did absolutely everything he could to try to make it up to her. Every Christmas, he would purchase little boxes of rosebud chocolates for each of his children and grandchildren. The last thing he had told one of his sons before he returned to the hospital, and subsequently passed away, was to promise that he would take care of Petronilla at all costs, which was his final wish.
Tragically, Mario's mother, Petronilla, passed away on February 22, 2016, due to renal failure, never knowing what had happened to her beloved son. She had always worn a gold necklace with a locket, and when opened, it displayed a tiny photograph of Mario when he was around 6 years old. Even up until the day she passed away, she would cry for him every night, and was frequently unable to fall asleep; kept awake by the unrelenting thoughts of what might have been. Petronilla was laid to rest beside her husband with her necklace and locket as well as many pictures of her first-born son, Mario, taken throughout the many happy years that they had spent together.
*Please note that all photographic content displayed is the sole property of the Palermo family.
- Palermo's Face In 3D: Animated Photo
- Mario's Life in Pictures: Family-created
- Mario Palermo at the Doe Network
- Mario Palermo at NCMPUR
- Rebecca Palermo and Family