Four minutes after a 45-year- old Severn woman walked out of Denny's restaurant on Route 175, her mother walked in to look for her, a relative said.
That was early Wednesday morning. Almost a week later, no one has heard from Valerie Ann Littleton, and her family believes she may have become the victim of a crime.
"She vanished into thin air," her father, Kingsley Gorman, 70, said yesterday. "I'm convinced it was foul play."
A Denny's employee found her pocketbook - filled with pictures of her 18- and 13-year-old daughters and personal documents including her driver's license - in a trash can at the restaurant the next morning.
County police have labeled the woman "critically missing" because of factors in the police investigation and because of medical problems she has, said Officer Charles Ravenell, a police spokesman.
No solid leads on her whereabouts developed over the weekend, he said.
Littleton suffers from schizophrenia and has been clinically depressed for more than a decade, her father said. She was taking a monthly shot to control her mental problems, he said. She missed her September appointment Thursday.
Video surveillance at Denny's, near where Littleton lived with her parents in the 1900 block of Curie Court in Severn, shows her entering the restaurant about 11:40 p.m. Sept. 10 and leaving about 40 minutes later, Gorman said.
The tape also shows her mother, Mildred Gorman, 69, coming in minutes later to look for her, he said.
Littleton had walked to the restaurant after an argument with her mother at their home. Her father, an employee of a US Airways contractor at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said his wife was still looking for her when he arrived home from work after 12:30 a.m.
Littleton frequented that particular Denny's to order her favorite drink, iced tea, her father said. She used to stop by the restaurant after working a shift at her most recent job at a hotel in Annapolis. She is now unemployed.
Kingsley Gorman said he joined the search and the couple drove up and down local roads, including Route 175 and Citadel Drive.
"She is a very trusting person," Gorman said of his daughter. "She has accepted rides from people before."
Littleton told her parents she was raped after hitching a ride from a stranger in 1993, after she had moved in with them following a divorce and custody dispute. Her children live in Kansas City.
Charges were never filed against the man because Littleton refused to undergo a hospital exam, her father said.
Littleton has few friends in the area but is close to her family. She would often spend weekends shopping with her mother and sister, Stephanie Gorman, 43, of Odenton, her father said.
Now the two women spend their afternoons distributing missing-person fliers at local strip malls, he said. So far, they have tacked up about 300, he said.
"No one has heard anything," he said. "I'm just hanging on to my faith at this point."