BALTIMORE — Baltimore County investigators are revisiting a 20-year-old cold case involving a young mother who went missing in Halethorpe.

Police are searching for clues in the case of Michelle Rust after concluding that her disappearance was the result of foul play, the department said Thursday morning.

Rust, who was 24 years old at the time, vanished on July 20, 2002, while preparing for her 3-year-old son’s birthday party, police said.

Michelle Rust. (Baltimore County Police Department)

“As time went on, nobody heard from her,” said Cpl. Dona Carter, of the department’s criminal investigations bureau. “There was no activity on her bank accounts, no checks written. She was a dedicated mother, dedicated daughter to her family. She wouldn’t have just disappeared, so it was pretty evident that she was the victim of foul play.”

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Investigators returned to the 1800 block of Clark Boulevard using ground-penetrating radar to find any leads to provide answers to Rust’s disappearance.

“So it looks for any disturbances under the ground, for any evidence that might be there or might not be there, but that’s what we’re looking for, any evidence that led to her disappearance,” Carter said.

Initial suspicions suggested Rust went to the store to purchase supplies, but witness interviews revealed that no one saw her leave her Arbutus home, nor drive her vehicle. Police said her green 1998 Dodge Caravan was later found on Clyde Avenue in Lansdowne.

“A short time later, her green Dodge van was found a short distance from here, but as I said, there has been no information related to her disappearance and no one has heard from her to this day,” Carter said.

Since her disappearance, no activity on Rust’s financial accounts or cards has been observed. Police also said Rust’s personal belongings, such as the clothes and jewelry she wore the day she disappeared, remain unaccounted for.

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Detectives have sought to rule out suspects by “determining individuals’ whereabouts and activities on the day of the disappearance,” but so far, they have only been able to rule out Rust’s parents.

While the search for evidence continues, investigators have released more details about Rust’s case.

“Family members say that Michelle Rust loved her three-year-old son, and would not have disappeared on her own, leaving the child behind. She is also a diabetic and dependent on insulin. This adds more weight to the conclusion that she has been the victim of foul play,” Baltimore County Police said.

Michelle Rust, whose maiden name is Lins, is described as a white female, 5 foot 4, 140 pounds, with red hair and blue eyes. She had a permanent retainer on her lower teeth and a cut on the ball of her right foot at the time of her disappearance.

She was wearing a black V-neck shirt, a princess cut sapphire ring, a diamond engagement ring, and a white gold cross necklace with diamonds.

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In 2005, WJZ spoke with Rust’s father when they marked her then 27th birthday.

“We would like to know what happened so we can basically put her to rest,” Rust said. “You know, you get up every day and you feel worthless because there is nothing I can do for my daughter.”

Police said they will also search in undisclosed locations in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

“The house that we’re going to be searching next door was actually, her father-in-law and mother-in-law lived at that location,” Carter said. “We will be searching further locations in Baltimore County and Baltimore City related to her disappearance.”

WJZ is a media partner of The Baltimore Banner.

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