In 2006, 24-year-old Jennifer Kesse disappeared outside her home in Orlando, FL. She was said to be an industrious college graduate with a long-term boyfriend and a loving family. When she vanished without a trace, it wasn't just a shock to her family, but to her entire community. Everything about Kesse's disappearance is a little bit off. Her car was found, but DNA evidence and actual suspects have been hard to come by. It's as if she fell off the face of the Earth.
Though Kesse disappeared more than a decade ago, her family hasn't given up hope of finding her or her kidnapper. They've set up a website to collect any information that people may have, and have created a GoFundMe page to help offset the massive fees that go into conducting a private investigation. Kesse's disappearance is a startling event that cuts directly to the heart of anyone who's ever lost a loved one.
The day before Kesse’s disappearance, everything seemed normal to her friends and co-workers. She arrived at work on time and didn’t leave until around 6:30 pm. After leaving her office, she called her friends and family for normal chats. Her then-boyfriend, Rob Allen, said he spoke to her on the phone around 10 pm; according to him, Kesse didn't say anything out of the ordinary - only that she was tired.
That's a consistent theme across those who spoke with her just prior to her disappearance - nothing sounded strange, everything seemed normal. At some point shortly afterward, she simply disappeared, as if into thin air. Those she worked with first thought something was amiss when she didn't show up for her January 24 shift. She hadn't said she was going to be late or that she was taking the day off. Kesse's co-workers called her parents, who said they hadn't heard from her, either.
According to Kesse’s then-boyfriend and parents, she wasn’t the kind of person who didn’t check in. She touched base with her boyfriend, Rob, "six or seven times a day," and the family could always reach her when they needed to.
Kesse's mother says she knew something was up because Jennifer's phone was "never turned off." As soon as the police registered her as a missing person, they attempted to ping her phone to find her location. There was no response. If her battery had been left in the phone, it would have been pinging.
In an interview with CBS News, Kesse's parents said their daughter was incredibly safe. Not only did she carry mace or pepper spray on her at all times, but she also used "safe phone calls" whenever she was out to make sure people knew where she was - and as a method of self-protection. Her mother explained, "She would always be on the phone with somebody when walking from the car to her store, from her car to her home."
Aside from making safety calls, Kesse kept mace or pepper spray on her at all times. In December 2008, a couple found a pepper spray container attached to a mail key that, as it turned out, belonged to Kesse. It took a while for authorities to accept the pepper spray as a piece of evidence, but as of January 2009, the key and spray were being considered as part of the investigation.
Kesse's then-boyfriend admitted to news anchor Greta Van Susteren that he and Kesse had an argument after they returned from St. Croix, but that it was a normal couple's disagreement; he didn’t expand on what the argument was about. Kesse's brother said the police initially believed Kesse ran off after the disagreement and that she would return within 48 hours or so.
The family impressed upon the authorities that Kesse wasn't the type of person to just run away after an argument. That's when Orlando police began searching for the young woman in earnest. While Kesse's boyfriend was initially considered a suspect in the disappearance, he was quickly cleared of suspicion when his alibi was corroborated.