Daughter left grandparents’ home one week before her 16th birthday — in 1969
Niki Diane Britten ran away from her Albany home one week before her 16th birthday in July 1969.
Her mother, Nancy Mahaffey of Albany, has been looking for her ever since.
Niki had been living with Nancy’s parents at the time and Mahaffey was getting settled with her new husband.
“Mother didn’t tell me for three weeks she had run away,” she said.
Her daughter had a history of running away, and Mahaffey suspects her mother thought Niki would come back, as she always had before, and didn’t want to cause any unnecessary alarm.
Niki started running away when her mom and stepfather moved to Pennsylvania, and she stayed behind with her grandparents.
In 1966 and 1967, Niki spent time at Hillcrest, a youth correctional facility in Salem, her mother said.
Nancy was only 16 when she divorced her first husband, Niki’s father. Nancy says her parents legally adopted her daughter to ensure Nancy’s husband, whom she alleges was abusive, wouldn’t get custody of Niki.
“It was a teenage marriage that never should have been,” Mahaffey said.
Her ex-husband, Evan “Sonny” Hitch, is now deceased, she added.
After Niki ran away in July 1969, her mother says Niki called family friends in September during Labor Day weekend, thinking her grandparents would be there. When they weren’t, she told the friends she was working in New York and doing fine.
That was the last time they heard from Niki.
Long after Niki disappeared, a strange note signed by “Niki” surfaced at Nancy’s parents’ house.
Nancy isn’t sure if it really was from Niki, stopping by her grandparents house when they weren’t home, or if her mother wrote it as a way to make herself feel better.
In it, “Niki” wrote not to worry about her. She said she had “been to a lot of places” and was living with “some people in a big old house.”
She said she “might come home someday but right now I have to do what’s right for me.”
The letter was somewhat disjointed and didn’t sound like Niki, her mother said.
“It looks a lot like my mother’s writing, but all of us have similar handwriting,” Mahaffey said of the women in her family.
Her parents, Niki’s grandparents, have both died.
Niki’s grandparents never changed the locks to their home in south Albany, and their phone number also stayed the same. Just in case.
Nancy has hired detectives in the past, but none could locate Niki.
Both Mahaffey and one of her children, Niki’s half-sister Julie Thompson of Bend, have provided DNA logged in the national database.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) attempts to match unidentified bodies with DNA submitted by family members of the missing. There have been no matches for the family.
Niki’s Social Security number has never been used, her mother said.
Mahaffey has had multiple marriages and her last name has changed several times.
“When she knew me, my last name was Weakland,” she said. She and Richard Weakland divorced, and he is now deceased. Nancy married Jim McFarlane and was widowed. She then married Wilton Mahaffey, who is now deceased as well.
Mahaffey says all she wants to know is if Niki is healthy and happy. If she doesn’t want a relationship, Nancy says she will respect that.
Niki would be 58 years old.
If Niki would like to contact her mother, the Albany Police Department has her number, Mahaffey said.