Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Details of Disappearance
Elisabeth was last seen at a wedding in the Cedar Mill area of Oregon on August 31, 1996. Her parents, Karen Lee Huster and Michael Huster, were divorcing at the time and Elisabeth was with her mother when she was last seen. Michael reported his daughter as a missing child on December 23, 1996 in Portland, Oregon. He resided in California at the time. Michael had been unable to contact Elisabeth for several months and also learned she had not been enrolled in school that year. Karen apparently refused to allow Elisabeth to speak to Michael for an extended period of time prior to her daughter's 1996 disappearance. A photo of Karen is posted below this case summary.
Karen told authorities that Elisabeth was in California after they inquired as to the child's whereabouts in December 1996, but she refused to divulge the location. She was convicted of custodial interference for non-cooperation in May 1997. Karen was released from prison in February 2000. Extensive searches for Elisabeth during Karen's incarceration provided no evidence as to Elisabeth's whereabouts. Authorities suspected foul play was involved in the child's disappearance. An Oregon grand jury indicted Karen for her daughter's murder in April 2000. Karen promptly disappeared and was tracked to her relatives' home in Arizona later in the year, but vanished once again before she could be taken into police custody.
Karen was eventually arrested in Canoga Park, California in November 2000. She had been living in the Parc Place Club Apartments at the time. California authorities acted on a tip that there had been a murder in the complex when they discovered Karen residing in the suspected victim's apartment. She initially refused to give investigators her name and was fingerprinted to confirm her identity. Human remains were discovered inside two freezers in the residence. Tests revealed that the body was that of the complex's tenant, James Cameron. Karen had apparently been living with Cameron as a roommate at the time. She claimed that Cameron died of a heart attack. Karen stated that she dismembered Cameron's body to prevent authorities from learning she was wanted for Elisabeth's presumed murder in Oregon. Karen was charged with Cameron's murder later in the month.
Karen claimed insanity at her trial for her daughter's murder in February 2002. She told the court that she shot Elisabeth in the head, then dismembered her body in 1996. Karen claimed that she threw Elisabeth's remains off of a boat in the Pacific Ocean some time afterwards. Karen's attorney stated that she believed Elisabeth inherited her mental illness and murdered her as a result. The judge determined that Karen was sane at the time of the presumed murder and sentenced her to 25 years to life in prison for her daughter's homicide. Elisabeth's remains have never been located.
Above: Karen Lee Huster, circa 2000
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Washington County Sheriff's Office
The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
America's Most Wanted
Oregon State Police
KGW Channel 8