More than 20 years ago, every parent's worst nightmare came true for my husband, Jim, and me: Our youngest daughter, Jonelle, was abducted from our Greeley, Colorado, home and has never been found.
Our nightmare began on December 20, 1984. I planned to surprise my ailing parents, who lived in California, with a holiday visit—my Christmas present to them. But Jonelle, 12, was still attached to family traditions and objected to my plan.
"What about celebrating Christmas on the 25th?" she protested.
"We only have to wait one extra day," I told her, "then we'll celebrate Christmas as a family on the 26th."
Reluctantly, Jonelle agreed.
We spent that afternoon together—Jim and I, our two daughters, Jennifer and Jonelle—drinking hot cider while waiting for my ride to the airport. After I left at about 5:45 p.m., life resumed its normally hectic pace for Jim and the girls: Jennifer dashed off to her varsity basketball game while Jim took Jonelle to McDonalds for a quick bite to eat before he dropped her off at school for choir. The choir was performing a Christmas concert at a local bank, so Jim waited until Jonelle boarded the school bus before leaving to watch Jennifer's game. He assumed she'd get a ride home from her best friend Deanne's father, Russell Ross.
When Jim arrived home after the game that night, it was obvious Jonelle had been there after the concert: Our TV was on, and Jonelle's nylons were strewn about. But there was no sign of Jonelle. Looking for a note from her that might tell him where she went, Jim discovered a telephone message Jonelle had scribbled from someone who'd called for him around 8:30 p.m. But she was nowhere to be found.1