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Four decades later, family hopes for answers in college student’s mysterious death

Cold Cases

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Every year on March 22, Bob Drake and his family stand vigil at Easton’s Beach in Newport.

It’s where his sister’s body was found 41 years ago.

“She was a very kind, selfless person,” he recalled.

Diane Drake was heading to work on East Main Road in Middletown, possibly hitchhiking on the cold, rainy afternoon, when she vanished.

The next day the 19-year-old’s nude body was found in the waters off Easton’s Beach. An autopsy later revealed she’d been strangled.

It’s been difficult for detectives to track down her killer because they never had a crime scene.

At the time her body was found, detectives asked anyone who’d seen her walking in the area of Aquidneck Avenue and Valley Road to come forward.

But despite several leads and persons of interest, the case went cold. The family believes the Claus von Bülow case cast a shadow not only over the City of Newport, but also the investigation into Diane’s death.

“What you have to do is keep the story in the forefront, but the story didn’t stay in the forefront,” Bob said. 

But Bob and his sister, Terry Devine, are hopeful someone will eventually give them the answers they’ve been searching for.

“It would be everything, it really would,” Devine said. “It’s been so long and it’s been such a long and heartbreaking journey for all of us, so it would really mean the world.”

“My sister Diane was a beautiful person,” Bob added. “She would have been the first person to come to me and ask me to forgive those people. That’s what kind of person she was and that’s the kind of person they took from us.”

Newport Police declined to speak with 12 News about the case, but did confirm the investigation remains open.

Anyone who has information about Diane’s murder is urged to contact the Newport Police Department at (401) 847-1306.

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