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UnFound — A Missing Persons Program

Estranged wife doubts details of West Virginia man's 1994 disappearance in Pittsburgh

Stephen Huba
| Sunday, June 24, 2018, 1:12 a.m.
Robert Elmer Allison, pictured about three years before he disappeared on Dec. 21, 1994.
Submitted
Robert Elmer Allison, pictured about three years before he disappeared on Dec. 21, 1994.
Robert Elmer Allison, pictured about three years before he disappeared on Dec. 21, 1994.
Submitted
Robert Elmer Allison, pictured about three years before he disappeared on Dec. 21, 1994.

Robert E. Allison was already absent from his wife Rebecca's life when he disappeared in 1994.

Married in 1990, they separated a few years later.

“We had differences that we just couldn't work out,” Rebecca Allison said in a recent interview. “I didn't have much contact with him after the separation.”

So when Robert Allison went missing Dec. 21, 1994, Rebecca learned about it secondhand. The Pennsylvania State Police called her seeking information, but nothing ever came of their investigation.

Rebecca Allison, 65, of Moundsville, W.Va., wants to know what happened to her husband, whom she called Bobby and with whom she had a child.

What little is known about Robert Allison's disappearance comes from a missing-person flyer distributed by state police in Waynesburg and a newspaper article published about a year after the incident.

A native of Cameron, W.Va., Allison was living in Waynesburg at the time of his disappearance. He worked for the Ohio River towboat operator Tri-River Fleeting & Harbor Service in Pittsburgh.

Prior to his disappearance, Allison, then 42, told a fellow employee that he was going to a bar in Pittsburgh's West End. He left the boat, heading toward Patriaglia's junkyard on foot, according to state police.

All of Allison's belongings were left on the boat, including clothes, money, cigarettes and a portable TV. The cigarettes especially aroused Rebecca Allison's suspicion that something was amiss.

“Bobby was a heavy smoker, maybe two or three packs a day,” Rebecca Allison said. “There were cartons of cigarettes on the boat that he left. He would have never left his cigarettes.”

Nearly 24 years later, she still has doubts about the official version of events.

“When I first heard about it, I was told that he had fallen off the barge. After that, it was ‘Oh, no, no, no, he left the barge,' ” she said, noting that she has never talked to Tri-River.

A person answering the phone at the company's office at the Pittsburgh West End Landing said no current employees worked there in the 1990s. Tri-River was purchased by Consol Energy Inc. in 2007 and was sold again in 2013.

Rebecca Allison met her future husband on a blind date. She was impressed with his smarts — he was valedictorian of his graduating class at Cameron High School — and his sense of humor.

“He was a very nice guy,” she said. “He was very intelligent and had a very sharp sense of humor. It could be like a dry sense of humor, but it was absolutely funny.”

The two bonded over their mutual love of West Virginia University football, so much so that they spent their second date at her house watching a Mountaineers game.

The couple married and had a daughter together. The girl was just starting to walk when Robert Allison disappeared.

“She really has no memory of him,” Rebecca Allison said.

The state police investigation was eventually transferred from the Waynesburg barracks to the Belle Vernon trooper who handles missing person cold cases.

Although the case is still open, all leads are considered exhausted. Anyone with information is asked to call the Belle Vernon barracks at 724-929-6262.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280.

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