What happened to Christine Flahive? Questions linger in ’95 disappearance

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Christine Flahive (Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office)

Investigators in Charlotte County are still searching for answers in the 1995 disappearance of Christine Flahive.

Monday marks 26 years since the 43-year-old woman disappeared. She was last seen leaving her home on her bicycle. Investigators believe she was heading to JD’s Lounge in downtown Punta Gorda, then to a mobile home off Rollins Street.

That’s where detectives are focusing their search for Flahive: on a piece of land off Rollins Street where Jonathan Payne was staying in 1995.

Detectives consider the case to be a homicide and announced Payne as a person of interest in 2020 even though he died in 2011.

Despite conducting dozens of interviews and receiving dozens of tips over the last 25 years, they’re still left with more questions than answers.

“A substantial amount of time has elapsed and, of course, without finding her whereabouts, it makes it that much more difficult,” said Detective Kurt Mehl with the Charlotte County Sheriff Office’s Cold Case Unit last year.

“We also have information from a confidential informant, a confidential source, that she is deceased,” said Cold Case Unit Detective Mike Vogel.

One tip they received: Payne and his associates had access to some big machines.

“Construction type machinery that could allow for burial rather deep,” Mehl said.

Detectives and cadaver dogs spent a bulk of early 2019 searching several properties, including Rollins Street. They found some concerning items, but those won’t help with the investigation due to Mother Nature.

“The ones we could submit were submitted, but unfortunately, due to time and degradation, there is not really anything of value to do any kind of comparison of DNA or anything of that nature,” Mehl said.

Detectives believe Flahive was killed in Charlotte County and her remains are still in the area. They say finding out what happened to the Charlotte County mother is a top priority.

“As investigators, we want to solve a case,” Vogel said. “I mean, that’s what we do. But also, just as human beings, we want to resolve the case for the family.”

There’s still hope for solving this case. Detectives have solved four Charlotte County cold cases in the last eight years.

Investigators confirmed that Phillip Barr, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Tara Sidarovich in Punta Gorda, lived on the same property as Payne, moving in a few years after Payne moved out.

Barr’s ex-girlfriend’s family owned that land and the property next door, but detectives don’t believe Barr or his ex-girlfriend were involved in Flahive’s disappearance.

Anyone with information regarding the Flahive case is urged to contact the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office by calling 941-639-0013 or submitting an anonymous tip via the CCSO website or the CCSO’s free mobile app. You can also call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 800-780-TIPS.

Detectives also said that if you knew Payne or if you frequented downtown Punta Gorda around January 1995, to contact them.

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