True Crime stories are wildly popular. What makes them so is beyond me. Maybe it’s the curiosity of how someone’s mind could be so vastly different from someone else’s, maybe it’s the idea that some people are so sneaky and that they can get away with such a huge crime and walk free. Maybe others are intrigued by the fact that these things often happen to normal people living seemingly regular lives until suddenly, they’re not. This story, in particular, is exactly one of those and although it happened in 2006, it’s still a cold case. This is the 2006 disappearance of Jennifer Kesse.
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The weeks leading up to Jennifer’s disappearance weren’t necessarily dull, but they were within a normal scope of the possibility of a girl living her life. The 24-year-old had just received a promotion at her job, a timeshare company where she worked as a project manager. With her promotion, she had been able to move into her own condominium at a nice Florida apartment complex. It was the gated community kind with a security guard; something she’d chosen because she wanted to be safe. She’d just gone on a trip with her boyfriend of a year, Rob Allen, with whom she was super in love. They went to St. Croix and had the time of their lives.
A Family Is Shaken
The day before she disappeared was as follows: Jennifer talked to her mom about her trip over the weekend and told her all about the St. Croix trip. She later talked to her boyfriend on the phone. They had a bit of a disagreement- as do all couples, especially those frustrated with a long-distance. This phone call was around 10 o’clock that evening. It would be the last time anyone would speak to her.
The next day, the morning of January 24, 2006, was the day disaster struck the Kesse family. Jennifer’s parents Drew Kesse and Joyce Kesse received a phone call that their daughter hadn’t made it to work that day. When they, in turn, tried to reach her, her cell phone, with the same number she’d had since she was sixteen went to voicemail. They immediately drove to her apartment complex to see what could have happened. Louis Boldenm an investigator for WKMG and the Orlando Police Department were on the case.
At her condo complex, the Kesse family, including her brother, Logan was let into her unit by the building manager. It looked as though she had *just* been there. As people who had lived with her in close proximity, they easily recognized the hurricane that was “Jenn’s” morning routine. Sleep shirt on the floor, the shower towel still wet, makeup, and hair tools on the vanity. Other than the fact that her keys, phone, and wallet were gone, everything seemed copacetic. So, at the very least, they know she woke up as per usual and left her apartment for work. Later, questioned witnesses say that they saw Kesse’s car leaving the apartment complex around 7:40 am.
What Happened to Jennifer Kesse?
Immediately the Kesse family went to the police, who did not feel their situation was an emergency. By early evening the family had been passing out fliers on the corner, calling hospitals, and questioning the construction workers on the property on her. Two days later, The Orange County sheriff’s office got a call placing Jennifer’s car in a parking lot about a mile away from her condominium. It was found at Huntington On The Green, where stolen cars in the area often turned up. Poice asked her boyfriend, Allen, to be there when they opened the trunk of Jenn’s black Chevy Malibu. Seemingly, for a moment, he was a person of interest. Her body, however, wasn’t there. Security footage from the Huntington camera showed a man leaving Jennifer’s car in the parking lot. His face, however, wasn’t visible in the video due to a row of gate posts.
With some assistance from the FBI, they determine the man was about 5’3″- 5’5″. He walked in the direction of Jennifer’s apartment, they determined he appeared to be dressed like a painter or maybe a construction worker. Perhaps (or perhaps not) coincidentally, Jenn’s condo complex had been doing renovations. Upon hearing this, Joyce Kesse recalls her daughter saying that a week ago her daughter had mentioned having had some work in her unit. She had also remembered her daughter saying that they made her uncomfortable.
Now, a couple of points could be said about this. 1.) Jennifer Kesse, according to best friend, Lauren McCarthy, was “extremely safety conscious… She was very aware of her surroundings… She carried pepper spray with her all the time” and “was the type of person who would call her mom or her dad or me … when she was simply walking from Target in the parking lot and it was dark out.” So, it seems like generally, men may have made her uncomfortable.
Further, being from a seemingly financially stable family perhaps she was the kind of individual who was intimidated by people of lesser stature, afraid to get mugged, or something similar. Now, to add some credence to her anxieties, some reports say that in the unit across from hers there were upwards of 10 male property workers staying in a unit across the hall from her? So, maybe she was on to something.
Too Much Time Gone By
By the time the Orland Police Department decided Jenn was actually a missing person, her family had been staying in her apartment for some time to be close to the investigation. The police department told the Kesse family that they had “ruined” the crime scene. By 2008, Jennifer’s case had been growing cold for two whole years. Again, the police took a fresh look at the case. When a woman who worked on the property was questioned about the case, she said she was able to identify the man in the video from Huntington. From his clothing and hair she said he resembled a man named “Chino” who lived on the property and had formerly been a maintenance worker who, as officers later found out, two years prior a crime line tip had been made concerning Chino.
Further, they learned he’d been in prison for statutory rape. When questioned about Jennifer Kesse and working in her apartment, he’d replied that nothing out of the ordinary happened and that “everything was normal”. He cooperated with officers and even passed a polygraph test concerning the matter. So, he was pursued no further. Jennifer Kesse was deemed dead by the state of Florida in 2016. Her family sued the Orlando Police Department for her case file and won. They are looking to solve the case themselves. The Kesses are offering $15,000 as a reward for valuable information on where Jennifer could be at this time. If you have any information about Jennifer Kesse’s disappearance, visit the “Find Jennifer Kesse” Facebook page run by her family.