|Disappeared||December 12, 1977|
|Missing for||41 years|
Palermo was described to have brown hair and brown eyes. 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 in a backwards direction (see gallery below). His mandible and chin were angular, and could be considered "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. Family believe that he may have fled due to such conditions, and subsequently, may have taken on a new identity.
Mario had been fluent in both English and Italian languages. According to his siblings, he did not have 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.
In early March 2019, Niagara College's Media department, along with a local cable television station, have officially agreed to work with the Palermo family to produce a documentary about his life and mysterious disappearance. This is the first time that Mario's case had ever been introduced to the media and public, in hopes that someone may recognize him or hold information valuable to the search effort. At this time, the upcoming program's exact release date is to be determined, as the production is currently still in its early days.
Life prior to disappearance
Palermo was born on September 27, 1954 in Conflenti (village within the region of Calabria), Catanzaro, Italy, approximately two years before immigrating with his parents to Canada. They settled down in Welland, Ontario, and Mario would soon begin attending St. Mary Catholic Elementary School.
While in the 7th grade, Palermo joined the Welland School Safety Patrol, which had been run by CAA. As a treat, Mario and 7 of his peers from his elementary school 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, and a trip to the House of Commons and Rideau Hall. The children were chaperoned by a Police Constable of the Welland Police Department (prior to the amalgamation into what is now known as Niagara Regional Police Service, or NRPS).
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. After graduating high school, he returned to the school to complete an optional 5th year ('grade 13') in order to attend university.
Mario then attended McMaster University in Hamilton, which took place in 1974. In the following year, he also attended Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, where he would soon spend most of his time in the summer of 1976-77. Mario was also part of the Governor Generals' Foot Guards (3rd division, Public Duties Detachment) in the same time period, and at one point, had gone to CFB Petawawa to complete his basic training (BMQ).
Also, In 1976, Mario had a door sign/plaque belonging to Carleton University that stated "Aerodynamics Research Laboratory". How he was able to obtain this is unknown.
Prior to his disappearance in late 1977, and after returning home for a short period, 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 rehearsed play at 111 Church Road in St. Catharines, Ontario. It is unlikely that Mario was in attendance, and his name was omitted from the publication.
He was 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 (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 a high IQ, and family states that he had an introvert personality type.
Mario had obtained a slip of paper from a pharmacy in Welland, Ontario, documenting a prescription he had received from a doctor in October 1977, about a month before his disappearance (and 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.
- He may be Markham Doe
- He may be 1775UMON
- He may be Hamilton John Doe (1978)
- He may have changed his name, living under a new identity in Ottawa, ON. The name of the suspected alias of interest is being withheld at this time, pending further investigation.
- He may be 17UMCA
Methods of Identification
- DNA Available: Yes, Familial (maternal) sequenced as of late 2009
- Dental records (radiographs and charts) Available: Yes
- Skeletal (if remains): No broken bones; Positive presence of muscle striations indicating athleticism (as Palermo was an avid runner)
- Smoker: No
- Characteristic Features: 2 moles on left edge of mandible, near the chin. One tiny freckle on left cheek. Receding hairline. Patchy mustache, with no hair on the philtrum (area between top lip and nose). Often styled hair to partially cover his ears. He may or may not have worn a beard. Shoe size is 8-8.5 US/CAN. Only ever wore button-up dress shirts, Levis brand Panatela Pants ('disco' pants), black/dark socks, and dress shoes or Hushpuppies moccasins, as well as Waltham watches. Never wore jewelry of any kind. Always well-kempt.
The last time Palermo was seen alive was December 12, 1977. At the time of his disappearance, he was not carrying any identification. When he left, 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 had also owned a Waltham brand watch, which was presumably taken with him when he left home. He had left behind the small warranty card belonging to that specific watch, with his signature on the back of the little booklet.
Mario also left behind a bank book belonging to him and the Bank of Nova Scotia (now called Scotiabank), and more specifically, the transit number revealed that the bank was in Ottawa on the campus of Carleton University. The bank book showed bank statements consistent with deposits, transfers, and withdrawals regarding tuition and rent payments for a short amount of time (January to March 1976). Oddly, when the bank account was searched for at the Bank of Canada in 2018 (Unclaimed Balances portal), the name of the accountholder was a "Hyacinth Hogg". Moreover, the account in question had not been used since the 1990s', and it had the same balance as what was printed on the book in 1976. Searches for the peculiar name and circumstances came up empty.
Prior to his disappearance from his family home, he had sat down with his sister, and blankly told her that he had to leave, and 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.
The day he left his family home was actually early in the morning of November 30th, 1977, and it is implied that he had stayed with his best friend in Hamilton for a few weeks after leaving Welland. 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", before saying goodbye. His destination is unknown. The last time anyone heard from Palermo was January 8, 1978, when his mother received a Grey Coach parcel from Orillia, Ontario, containing a pair of boots that Palermo borrowed from his brother and two boxes of chocolates. Palermo was reported missing by his mother on January 20, 1978.
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.
When the international search ended in 1994, the family were told that no further investigation could be performed, as they had come to a 'dead end' after all routes of investigation failed to identify any leads, but authorities surmised that there was indeed a strong possibility that he has been living under a new name and identity.
In late 2009, Detective Constable Douglas Clarke of York Regional Police's Homicide department had paid a visit to the home of Petronilla Palermo (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.
As of March 6th, 2019, an enquiry began as to whether or not there is a possibility that Mario Palermo's case may match with that of "Hamilton John Doe". The lead was then ruled out in April 2019.
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.