When Marcia L. Joyce walked outside to hang laundry in the yard of her home on the 4700 block of Everson-Goshen Road on Aug. 29, 1978, it was the last time her family saw her.

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When Marcia L. Joyce walked outside to hang laundry in the yard of her home on the 4700 block of Everson-Goshen Road on Aug. 29, 1978, it was the last time her family saw her.

Joyce’s husband drove into Bellingham that morning to make a withdrawal from the family’s bank account, leaving his wife to tend to their two young children, said Detective Tom McCarthy of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

Joyce left the children inside to go hang the laundry, McCarthy said. When her son went outside to find her, she was gone and was never seen again.

In Bellingham, the husband received some alarming news when he went to make his withdrawal at the Northwestern Commercial Bank. Someone had cleaned out the account, McCarthy said.

Now, more than 30 years later, McCarthy said detectives hope that determining who took out the money will help solve Joyce’s disappearance.

“It’s a shot in the dark,” McCarthy said. “But maybe that will help us figure this out a little better. We don’t want to leave any lead unturned.”

McCarthy is looking to speak with anyone who worked at the bank’s branch on Alabama and James streets, where the family had its account, in August 1978.

McCarthy said the withdrawal was likely made a couple days before Joyce disappeared. He hopes to talk with someone who may remember if Joyce made the transaction, and if she was with someone.

Detectives also are trying to go back through bank records to find a record of the transaction, McCarthy said.

McCarthy said Joyce’s disappearance is considered a potential unsolved homicide, but that is due to the unusual nature of her disappearance. Someone also could have abducted her or she could have abandoned the family.

He said he’s interviewed family members, and the majority believes something happened to her.

“They can’t fathom a mother abandoning her two small children in the home,” McCarthy said.

Joyce’s husband called the Sheriff’s Office to report his wife’s disappearance after returning home in 1978. He was told to call back 24 hours later and make a missing persons report, McCarthy said.

Deputies combed the area in search of any trace of Joyce but found nothing, McCarthy said. Her disappearance remained an open investigation for years after that.

Three years ago, McCarthy said Sheriff Bill Elfo directed his detectives to renew efforts to solve the office’s open investigations, including the 1989 murder of Mandy Stavik, a former Mount Baker High School student, and the disappearance of Leah Roberts, a North Carolina woman whose car was found on a logging road in the county in 2000.

Detectives also started working on Joyce’s disappearance at that time, McCarthy said.

McCarthy is asking anyone with information about Joyce’s disappearance to call him at 360-676-6650.

“We’re trying to solve this 30-year-old mystery,” McCarthy said. “Well take whatever help we can get.”

Peter Jensen at peter.jensen@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2264.