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  • Writer's pictureKym Pasqualini

Ylenia Carrisi: Granddaughter of Tyrone Power Missing Since 1994

Ylenia Carrisi missing from New Orleans, Louisiana since 1994.
Ylenia Carrisi, the granddaughter of Tyrone Power, vanished in New Orleans, Louisiana, in January 1994.

Ylenia Carrisi, 23, mysteriously vanished on January 6, 1994, while visiting New Orleans, Louisiana. Her disappearance rocked her celebrity family, and the mystery of her disappearance continues to this day.

Tyrone Power and Lana Turner
American actor Tyrone Power and actress Lana Turner in 1947.

Ylenia comes from a family of famous entertainers. She is the granddaughter of the dashing 1940s American actor Tyrone Power, best known for the movie Mark of Zorro. Tyrone was married to actress Linda Christian from 1949 to 1956 and had two children, Romina and Taryn Power.

Ylenia and Romina Carrisi
Ylenia Carrisi holding her younger sister Romina

Early Life

Ylenia Marie Sole Carrisi was born on November 29, 1970, in Rome, the eldest daughter of Albano Carrisi and Romina Power. Her father is an Italian recording artist, actor, and winemaker who lives in Puglia in southern Italy.

Ylenia’s mother Romina lives in Sedona, Arizona, and was married to Albano from 1970 to 1999. Romina and Albano are popular Italian duet singers, often referred to as the "Sonny and Cher of Italy."

In 1983, Ylenia appeared with her parents in the film Champagne in Paradiso and later was the Italian equivalent of Vanna White when she became the letter-turner on Italy's version of Wheel of Fortune.

Ylenia had not shared in the family’s pursuit of performing arts and shied away from life in the public eye. She aspired to become a novelist, studying literature at King’s College London, where she received the highest grades in her year.

Ylenia Carrisi studied literature at King’s College London and was a celebrity letter-turner in Italy’s Wheel of Fortune.

Ylenia's Disappearance

During Ylenia’s studies in London, she began thinking of traveling with nothing but her backpack and journal. She decided to embark on a solo backpacking trip around the world. Ylenia returned to Italy and sold all her belongings to finance her trip abroad. She intended to keep journals of her experiences and turn them into a book.

Ylenia began her trip in South America and spent several months in Belize enjoying the small towns and beaches.

The village of Hopkins is a place where people live a simple life. Surrounded by the Maya Mountains with the Cockscomb Range inland and the Caribbean Sea on its shore, the village was built in 1942 to replace the village of Newton, which was devastated by a hurricane.

The residents of Belize are known for their hospitality and friendliness. The town even hosts its national holiday, welcoming people to attend their celebration with drum ceremonies lasting until morning.

The small village of Hopkins in Belize.

Ylenia’s brother Yari was also an experienced traveler and decided to surprise his sister. He arrived in the village of Hopkins on a rainy Monday, December 27, 1993. Yari couldn’t find Ylenia and went door-to-door searching for her. Locals told him that Ylenia had boarded a bus to Mexico the day after Christmas.

In pursuit of a new adventure, the day after Christmas in 1993, Ylenia suddenly left Belize and headed to New Orleans, Louisiana.

The LeDale Hotel on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, where Ylenia Carrisi was staying when she vanished.

Ylenia Stays in New Orleans

Getting lost in New Orleans has a certain mystique. The people who reside there say the city is unique—a place where the music is lively, the food is spicy, and the people are laid back—the perfect place for an aspiring writer.

Ylenia’s mother Romina received her last call from her daughter on December 31, 1993. She was staying at the LeDale Hotel on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Her parents would later find out she stayed with Alexander Masakela, a gray-bearded Jamaican street musician 20 years Ylenia’s senior.

Ylenia had traveled to the French Quarter during a previous summer and often hung out with the street musicians and homeless people while chronicling her encounters in her journal. The city enchanted her, so when her parents left for Florida, Ylenia stayed behind so she could write and paint.

This time, Ylenia checked into a cheap hotel with Masakela, 54, a slick talker with a Jamaican accent who played the cornet. He lived off donations from his street performing. Masakela, who went by the nickname “Pops,” intrigued Ylenia and was said to have expanded her intellectual understanding. In turn, she treated him like a guru.

Last Known Whereabouts

On January 6, Ylenia left the hotel at approximately 11 a.m. and went to the French Quarter. From there, she seems to have vanished into the ether.

Ylenia’s parents called a family friend, who reported Ylenia missing on January 18, 1994, and her parents traveled to New Orleans to find her. They found nearly all Ylenia’s personal belongings—including her clothing, backpack, passport, and journals—left in the hotel room.

They would find out that a week after Ylenia was last seen, Masakela showed her passport to the staff at the hotel. He had attempted to use Ylenia’s unsigned traveler’s checks to continue paying for the room but was evicted.

When police questioned Masakela, he claimed he had no information about Ylenia’s disappearance. He also denied having a sexual relationship with Ylenia, as she had specifically requested two beds when they checked in.

While there have always been suspicions that Masakela may have done something to Ylenia, there have also been other intriguing notions.

Wharf along the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Woman in the Water

Albert Cordova, a security guard, contacted police, claiming he had seen a woman resembling Ylenia in Woldenberg Park on the evening of January 6. The woman was sitting on a wharf next to the Mississippi River; when the guard asked her to leave the area, she responded, “I belong in the water anyway,” and dove headfirst into the river, dress and all.

“It was clear she was a strong swimmer,” says Cordova.

Cordova pleaded with the woman to return to shore. Instead, she swam at least 100 yards toward the middle of the river. Just then, a barge came by, creating huge waves, and she began struggling and screaming for help. Cordova stood helpless as the woman eventually sank into the water.

“She went down once, twice, and after the third time, she didn’t come up again.”

The Coast Guard searched the immediate area and 90 miles of the river almost to the Gulf but never found her body. Because of the direction of the current in that location, it is possible that her remains drifted into the Gulf of Mexico and out to sea.

The guard was shown Ylenia’s picture but could not positively identify her as the person at the wharf, citing it was dark that night, and he really didn’t think the woman was Ylenia.

Interview With Security Guard

The video below is a 1994 segment on Inside Edition, a contemporaneous report about Ylenia's disappearance. While the video is a digitized upload of a poor VHS recording, it is possible to view an interview with Albert Cordova, the security guard who witnessed the drowning of the woman in the Mississippi River.

So Many Questions

Perhaps Ylenia was inspired by Jack Kerouac’s 1957 best-selling novel On the Road and that was a possible reason she was drawn to backpack the United States and around the world. Many famous writers have been drawn to New Orleans, including William Faulkner and Lafcadio Hearn. We may never know what drew Ylenia there.

According to Mike Stark, who owns a French Quarter mask and hat store called the Little Shop of Fantasy, Ylenia worked “very hard at being a street person.”

Ylenia’s family knows she was happiest pursuing her dream of becoming a writer while recording in her journals the stories of people she met along the way.

Something enticed Ylenia back to the French Quarter. As Mr. Stark puts it, New Orleans is “a magical town” that attracts many people “who are trying to escape from wherever they’ve been.”

Declared Deceased

Ylenia’s father thinks it was her at the river that night and declared her deceased in January 2013. However, right after his daughter’s disappearance, Ylenia’s parents thought that she was being held against her will.

Albano Carrisi with his daughter Ylenia.

On February 18, following her disappearance, her family issued a statement from Switzerland. It was translated to say,

“The investigations to find our daughter alive, and probably held against her will, are actively being pursued … there have been numerous and reliable sightings worthy of pursuit.”

Romina Power and her daughter Ylenia.

Holding Out Hope

Romina Power thinks her daughter is still alive. Power’s hopes have often been lifted by conversations she has had with different psychics.

“You know, we live on two different levels,” Romina said. “One is the daily, normal, routine level. The other is a level of ultra-sensitivity. As a mother, I know Ylenia is still alive … somewhere. I’m absolutely convinced.”

A reported sighting in St. Augustine, Florida offered hope. Another sighting at a convent in Arizona has also convinced her mother to hold out hope that Ylenia is still alive out there, writing her book. Her father dismisses the report as “shameful speculation containing not a bit of truth.”

Ylenia Carrisi vanished January 6, 1994, in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Is Ylenia still alive? Could she have been inspired by a book to start a new life? The question is unlikely to be answered anytime soon.

In the book On the Road, it chronicles the travels of Sal Paradise and his friend Dean Moriarty. Moriarty is a free-spirited maverick, excited about life and exploration, who inspires Sal to travel. The novel contains five parts, three of them of Sam writing to Moriarty describing his adventures, taking buses and hitchhiking across the country.

Ironically, the ending of the book has Sal sitting on a river pier under a New Jersey night sky reflecting on the trips throughout the lands and roads of America he had traveled.

Did something lure Ylenia to a similar pier in New Orleans, possibly needing a moment of thought?

“It’s not the first time someone tried to swim across the river,” Stark said, “and they didn’t show up either. There is magic about that river. People who drink too much can believe, ‘I can swim that thing.’”

An Ongoing Mystery

Was Ylenia the mysterious swimmer in the Mississippi River? Was she suicidal? On the Doe Network site, the summary of her disappearance states:

“A year prior to her disappearance and while visiting New Orleans, her father stated that Ylenia had gone into the Mississippi River but got scared and was able to get out. He said she had been under the effect of marijuana at the time.”

Her parents said she was a very strong swimmer and was never suicidal, but amidst the many theories, drowning may be the most likely hypothesis of what happened that fateful evening. Then again … stranger things have happened in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Ylenia Carrisi is still listed as a missing person, and police continue to investigate incoming leads.

If you have any information about the disappearance of Ylenia Carrisi, please call the New Orleans Police Department at 504–821–2222.

Featured On America's Most Wanted

The video below is a segment on America’s Most Wanted, a deep dive report into Ylenia’s disappearance at the time.

It features video footage of Alexander Masakela, interviews with Ylenia’s parents and brother, the French Quarter area where Ylenia was living when she disappeared, more details about Masakela and Ylenia’s living situation from the owner of the hotel, and other film and images from throughout Ylenia’s life.

Where Are They Now?

In 1994, Albano Carrisi and Romina Power’s singing career was flourishing. But they stopped performing and devoted the next several years to trying to locate Ylenia. Sadly, in 1999, they announced their separation, and explained in an open letter that the breakup was due in large part to their daughter’s disappearance.

Although their daughter’s disappearance ended their relationship, Romina Power and Albano Carrisi (seen here in 2016) have resumed their performing partnership. Photo courtesy of ANSPressSocietyNews, CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

In 2013, they reunited as performers, and have continued their musical partnership, appearing together as recently as 2022.

Someone named Alexander Masakela has a Facebook account that shows evidence of the person being the same Masakela who knew Ylenia back in 1994, including a picture of a similar-looking street musician playing cornet and references to Jamaica and New Orleans. It was last updated in 2021.

Linda Christian, Romina Power’s mother and Ylenia’s grandmother, died in 2011. Taryn Power, Romina’s sister and Ylenia’s aunt, died in 2020. (Incidentally, Ylenia looked uncannily similar to her aunt, as evidenced by this tribute video to Taryn.)

Jasmine Carrisi, Ylenia’s half-sister from her father’s later relationship born seven years after Ylenia’s disappearance, is a singer, actor and a regular presence on social media.

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