Despite its rather small size, one can easily remain hidden in the French Quarter. This is a city where anyone can come with no identification get a job paid under the table, pay their rent weekly in cash, and basically live under the radar. A person can literally spend a lifetime in the French Quarter with no one aware of his or her presence. When these types of people disappear, it goes unnoticed, as no one knew anything about them in the first place. When someone famous disappears, however, it attracts attention.
Twenty-three-year-old Ylenia Carrisi, granddaughter of actors Tyronne Power and Linda Christian, and the daughter of famous singers, Romina Power and Albano Carrisi, arrived in New Orleans with high hopes of becoming a writer. She hoped to get a personal account of the life of street musicians in the French Quarter. Called the Italian Vanna White, and known by many in her native Italy as the letter girl on Wheel of Fortune.
She arrived in New Orleans on December 30, 1993. Rather than check into one of the many posh hotels available in the area, Ylenia opted for a cheap room in Le’ Dale located just outside of the French Quarter to immerse herself in the atmosphere. Accompanying her was fifty-four-year-old Alexander Masakela, a street musician Ylenia met on a trip to the city she made the previous summer. Altough they made for a rather odd looking couple, Ylenia’s presence brought little attention. She blended into the scenery, appearing to be just another young girl living on the streets of the French Quarter.
A couple of weeks later, Masakela attempted to pay the hotel bill with unendorsed travelers checks and was evicted. He asked the hotel manager if he could leave some items for a few hours. He left a backpack filled with clothing and personal effects of Ylenia, who hadn’t been seen by hotel staff in a week. January 6, management saw Ylenia leave the room shortly before midnight wearing a flower print dress and a white jacket. Masakela never returned and Ylenia was never seen again.
On January 18, Ylenia’s parents filed a missing person report with local authorities. In late January, police questioned Masakela. He denied knowing of her whereabouts. Lack of evidence freed Masakela who disappeared from the city after his release from police custody.
A security guard at a local park alongside the river reported seeing a girl fitting Ylenia’s description, wearing a flowered dress and a white jacket, sitting near the river. When he directed to her to leave informing her that the park had closed, she told him that she belonged in the water and dove into the Mississippi River. He called out to her but she ignored him swimming casually around in the cold water. The guard watched in horror as the young woman swam further out toward the main channel. As she approached the treacherous channel a barge hastened down the river causing her to panic. The woman screamed for help as she struggled against the furious current and undertow. The guard stood helplessly as he witnessed her body forced under the muddy water disappearing in the darkness.
A Coast Guard search found no body and the security guard remained unable to confirm the identity of the woman when shown a photo of Ylenia. Another witness identified her as a woman he had seen the day after the drowning walking on the streets.
Without a body, there is no crime. The question remains if whether or not the woman in the river was Ylenia or merely a case of mistaken identity. All anyone knows for sure is that Ylenia entered the French Quarter, never to return.