Carol Lubahn Murder – “Dateline” is an award-winning news magazine program covering real crime stories. NBC has been broadcasting “Dateline” since 1992, presenting in-depth reports about various criminal cases and investigations in a documentary-style format.
Dateline season 2 episode 10, “Secrets in the Mist” delves deep into the disappearance of Carol Lubahn in Torrance, California. She went missing in late March 1981 and could never be located. Her case remained unsolved for over 30 years until authorities finally apprehended a suspect.
Are you curious to gain more information about the investigation and uncover who the murderer maybe? “Dateline” offers all the details. Let’s dive in! Let’s continue watching this episode together!
Carol Lubahn Murder Plot
Carol Jeanne Meyer Lubahn was born to Milton and Melba Meyer on October 28, 1954, in Torrance, Los Angeles County, California. Carol met Michael Lubahn Clark while in high school. After graduation, they wed that year and had two children: Brandi (raised by Milton himself) and Michael Jr. (with whom Michael Lubahn Clark later had another son named Michael Jr.). Unfortunately, their marriage only lasted nine years before Milton hired Michael as his helper in his home painting business and treated him like his own son.
Carol and Michael enjoyed an idyllic first few years of marriage. Carol remained close to both sets of her parents throughout their relationship. In fact, there was even a period when Carol lived with both groups and maintained close ties with both. Carol kept in regular contact with both sets even while living apart. This arrangement was intentional to avoid alienating one another.
In 1980, Carol began studying architecture at El Camino College in Torrance and quickly earned a spot on the Dean’s list. Carol planned to complete her education by the summer of 1981 while working as an assistant at Triple Check Tax Service to contribute financially to her family and support herself. However, as time went on, their marriage started to deteriorate further. While Michael seemed content living together, Carol decided not to sell their apartment, leading to her giving up her plans to sell the apartment.
Rumors of Carol’s affairs with both a high school classmate and a college friend created tension within their marriage. During Michael’s brief absences, Carol devoted herself to taking excellent care of their three children at their Torrance home on Cranbrook Avenue. Mark Turpin, believed to be Carol’s college sweetheart, had a special relationship with their children. So when Carol suddenly abandoned them all and disappeared at the age of 26 in 1981, it came as quite a shock.
The last time Carol saw her family was on March 28, when she and her mother had lunch to plan her sister Terry Meyer Samuelson’s upcoming wedding shower, set for May 1. On March 29, Carol’s parents hosted a family supper, during which tension between Carol and Michael became noticeable. However, there were no indications that she would leave Michael behind with their children.
Melba managed to have a brief phone conversation with Carol the following day, but their encounter that evening would be their last. Michael claimed they had an argument, and Carol abruptly left at 10:30 p.m. while he was showering. Michael Jr., who had left his bedroom door open while listening to music, heard Carol slamming a door before leaving. However, he did not immediately report her missing, as Michael claimed Carol left of her own volition. Unfortunately, Carol has vanished since then, and her whereabouts remain unknown.
Investigation and Arrest
Carol’s parents could not accept that their daughter had abandoned them, so they filed a missing person report. Authorities discovered Carol’s red 1979 Audi Fox in front of Red Onion Restaurant in Redondo Beach on April 6. The restaurant’s manager had informed the police of its presence for several days prior. Suspecting foul play, the police began questioning Michael as soon as possible. After several failed attempts, the police acted against Michael, who remained a person of interest for some time. Eventually, they arrested him on April 8 and charged him with abandonment.
Michael officially reported Carol missing on April 9 and believed she had left alone. He cited incidents such as break-ins at their house, mail tampering, stolen clothes belonging to Carol while at work, hang-up calls during holidays, and subsequent break-ins at their home as signs she may have fled. Eight months after Carol vanished, he began an intimate relationship with Kerry Dunki-Jacobs, who eventually became his bride-to-be after they divorced Carol in her absence in 1984.
In 1997, former Torrance Police Detective Allen Tucker began probing whether Carol had ever left her house again and accused Michael of killing her. However, Michael strongly denied any such accusations. Necro-Search International of Littleton, Colorado, specializes in discovering unmarked graves, so they were brought in to investigate at the Lubahns’ former residence. They searched both the front and back yards using radar sled technology but found no signs of foul play.
Allen’s research showed that Michael had moved his family into a townhouse complex on Beach Boulevard approximately six months earlier and operated a painting and wallpaper business there. Authorities assumed Carol was deceased due to no activity on her credit cards or Social Security number since her disappearance. “We have no idea where she is,” explained Torrance Police Detective Jim Wallace at that time, as there was no alternative explanation.
On April 13, 2011, at 8:30 a.m., the police stopped Michael from his Huntington Beach residence on his way to work. He provided different accounts of what had occurred with Carol over two years. At first, he said she returned at 1:30 a.m. on March 31 to inform him that she was with another man. In subsequent questioning, they revealed another argument during which Michael pushed Carol hard enough for her head to hit a table. Later, however, he changed his story and admitted to punching her instead.
Prosecution of Michael Lubahn Clark
Over time, Michael claimed that an intruder had broken into the former Lubahn home, rifled through the mail, and stolen Carol’s clothes before fleeing without explanation. Additionally, Michael reported receiving anonymous phone calls at home during holidays from unknown individuals. However, he did not specify a timeframe for these events to occur. Initially, I didn’t recognize her; calling out her name had no effect. Later, retired Torrance Police Detective Allen Tucker revisited this case, but his search of Carol’s former residence turned up nothing.
According to authorities, Michael was detained due to his inconsistent testimony. After receiving a letter from Carol’s mother on December 14, 2012, and having an epiphany while behind bars regarding Carol’s death, Michael changed his story during his sentence for second-degree murder. He claimed that Carol returned to their house around March 31, 1981, at 1:30 a.m. after leaving with another man and informed Michael about this. During his sentence in early January 2013, they got into another argument, and he pushed her, causing her head to strike a table, resulting in her death. Michael was already serving time for second-degree murder charges related to this event.
After being pressed for answers, he altered his story again and admitted to punching Carol before panicking when he realized she was dead. He then rolled her corpse up in a carpet before quickly driving away in his car near the Point Vicente lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verdes. He donned a wetsuit and flippers, swam two hundred yards beyond the kelp line on a raft, and threw a cinder block overboard, submerging Carol’s body in a watery grave. He provided the dive divers with access to the spot where he dumped her body.
The prosecution alleged that Cindy’s ex-son-in-law lied during polygraph questioning. According to Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, sometimes “The truth doesn’t always come out in one go; you need to keep probing until more emerges.” Melba Meyer testified that she did not think her ex-son-in-law was guilty until seeing him on trial in 2012. She testified that he always had many stories, adding that she just could not understand how someone could treat their children this way.
Michael Jr. remained close to Michael after their mother passed away 32 years earlier. During a hearing in December 2012, Michael Jr. argued for a reduced sentence on his father’s behalf, explaining, among other reasons, “I lost both parents before, so seeing the world unfold without either one will be very hard on me.” Michael justified his actions by citing fears of abandoning small children if he went to jail. On January 8, 2013, he received a 15 year sentence.