(Introduction to show begins)
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): I’m Todd Matthews and this is Missing Pieces. Tonight we have Drew and Joyce Kesse. How do you pronounce that guys?
JOYCE KESSE (Guest): Kes-se.
TODD: Kes-se, okay. And they are the parents of missing Jennifer Kesse. We pronounce it a little differently here in the upper south. So you guys live in Orlando, Florida, right, Orange County?
DREW KESSE (Guest): We live a little below it on the west coast. Jennifer lived in Orlando.
TODD: Okay, so that’s where she went missing from. So, Orange County deputies found the car belonging to a missing 24-year-old Orlando woman, at the Huntington On The Green Apartments, and that has been how long ago now?
DREW: Seventeen months, yesterday.
TODD: Seventeen months, yesterday?
DREW: Yes. Which is actually January 24th of 2006.
TODD: She was 24 years old. She’s a beautiful girl.
DREW: She is 26 years old now.
TODD: Okay. At the time…she was 24 years old at the time that she went missing. You’ve got a lot of You-Tube videos. It seems like people have done this for you…created these videos. Can you tell me a little bit more about those?
DREW: Well, actually they’re honestly no one that we’ve ever met or known and they showed up on You-Tube one day and we were emailed by many people and they said, “Hey, there’s a couple of You-Tubes” and then a couple more came on and then a couple broadcasts came on and we’re very thankful for it. You-Tube is very effective. Obviously, anything Internet-wise is one more media to utilize for us for spreading the information very quickly.
TODD: What did you guys think when you saw that, that people that you never even knew, were actually making videos trying to help find your daughter?
JOYCE: It was overwhelming, but the whole circumstance and the goodness that has come out of the tragedy, is overwhelming, and it just never ceases to amaze us…honestly, the goodness in people.
TODD: You know you see in the news now so many bad things that people do and I thing that people are really surprised when they see people trying to do good things, and I love seeing You-Tube used for something like that because there are so many things on You-Tube that are just not appropriate at all and a lot of people avoid using You-Tube. I think it’s a big mistake. I think we can turn it around and make it something that people like us can use for promotion of cases like this because they do get an incredible amount of page views, you know somebody’s seeing this and you know they’re getting the data and they’re passing it on. So how many have you counted? I’m seeing at least 3 that are actually on the page that we have for you at Missing Pieces.
DREW: Correct, and if you were to go on You-Tube and just search Jennifer Kesse, I believe there’s a total of 5 or 6 at this point, and a couple are TV interviews that they have stuck on, someone just stuck it on so more information is out there but, Todd, you are correctly right, You-Tube, as well as MySpace is just an incredible tool, however, it’s a dual-edged sword, there’s good and bad, and you know it’s really hard to weigh it out sometimes, but for us, it’s been extremely effective in really passing it around the world in a very short period of time, as well as keeping it going, which is incredible. We’ve been contacted from over 46 countries so far.
TODD: That’s amazing. It’s a far cry from just a few years ago. I remember working on a missing persons case back in the 1990s, it was an unidentified body and I couldn’t get anybody to listen to me, you know, nobody was interested, completely. This was when the Internet was new; there were no resources at all, and now it’s…you have all these tools available to you.
TODD: It’s just a totally different world than before.
DREW: And we’re thankful for this.
TODD: Have you seen anything on You-Tube that you didn’t like, as far as somebody taking it upon them selves to create something that was maybe…that could have harmed your case?
JOYCE: No, not that either of us have seen.
TODD: So far it’s just been a plus, then?
DREW: Yes. Yes. There are some things that happened very early on with websites. It’s amazing what people can do under your name, to be quite honest with you. We had a couple websites started and purchased, and we put as owners and then webmaster put content on and we had no idea we were even owners of websites until we tried to go and buy some on Jennifer’s name…
JOYCE: …and then we really did disagree with the content of some of them and so that was an eye-opener, unto itself, finding out that people could actually, if you will, buy Jennifer’s name…
TODD: uh huh
JOYCE: …and utilize it any way that they saw fit, I mean, there was initially, if you put, I can’t remember exactly, Todd, but if you…
DREW: Just one ‘n’.
JOYCE: Oh yes, if you put in Jennifer Kesse with just one ‘n’ and did a search, it actually took you to a porn website.
TODD: You know, I’ve seen that happen a lot for the more well-known cases, Chandra Levy, and cases like that have been so saturated in the news, you see them connected to things like that often and I think that’s just a trick from the porn sites to take advantage of somebody looking for something else.
DREW: But over all, it’s been an incredible use of…honestly cheap, if you think about it, a very inexpensive way to get the word around, which is very important in tips.
TODD: It’s just that you can address the world for pennies, the entire planet. You know this entire, radio public service announcement, the only cost is the website and the phone calls, everything else is voluntary. Every effort that everybody takes to put this together is 100% voluntary, so you know it can be done.
TODD: It can be effective and you know you’re our 43rd one-hour episode and it’s really been going really well. A lot of the news media picks it up. They take things that we’ve transcribed at the show and are able to pull it into the mainstream news. Okay, I’m reading now, “Not knowing what has happened to Jennifer has been excruciating for her family and her friends. She’s Daddy’s girl and she’s not afraid to talk to myself or my wife about anything” you’re reported as saying, Drew.
TODD: Now this is just obviously…was this the first insight you’ve had into missing persons, when this happened to you?
DREW: Absolutely. I’ve never…yeah…I’ve never known anyone to be missing; to be missing for a minute, to be missing for a day within my circle of friends or my family or anything, but, yeah.
TODD: Did it surprise you guys how many people are missing? Because, I’m sure now, suddenly when you’re daughter’s missing, you get on the Internet, you found out a whole lot of information as far as missing and unidentified persons goes.
DREW: That’s correct.
TODD: How many people have you found that are missing?
DREW: Well, in America, there’s on average, 105,000 people a day missing.
TODD: uh huh
DREW: Most of them, children; and most of them runaways, which still does not make a difference, in our eyes, however, some very surprising things, are with missing adults. It’s very different, even though we have a very young adult, she is our child and we believe everyone is someone’s child, there’s very different laws and procedures for children going missing and adults going missing and the real problems lies in, that adults can go missing, they’re ‘allowed’ to, it’s not against the law.
TODD: uh huh
DREW: But then there’s times where adults are ‘taken’ and that’s where we are actually, you know, we know that Jennifer was abducted; we know Jennifer was taken against her will. We know that she was not the last one to drive her car, we have a prime suspect now and so we’ve learned so much and we’re trying to pass laws on how things are taken care of by the police; how quickly, where they have to go, information on databases and things like that and it’s very difficult but it’s our first experience in it yet.
TODD: You know, and the laws vary greatly between states.
TODD: I think we need more uniformity between states; something where we’re all on the same page, because we’re not. We’re absolutely not. Is Jennifer, is she actually listed with the FBI NCIC?
DREW: Yes, she is.
TODD: Okay, and you know that there’s a national DNA database? I’m sure you’ve taken advantage of that already.
DREW: She is within that and, as well, Joyce is part of the mitochondrial database, so she could be identified through Joyce also.
TODD: Now, how difficult was it to do that? You know, you filed a missing person report, you went through all of that; now when you got to the NCIC and the DNA database, did you encounter any resistance with that?
DREW: Not at the NCIC. I think by the time…it took a little while, I believe Joyce, to actually have your DNA?
JOYCE: Right. I did not have my DNA taken, and it’s just a cheek swab, until July.
TODD: And then what happened in July?
JOYCE: Excuse me?
TODD: What happens then? What’s next?
JOYCE: No, in last July, when one of the detectives happened to be reviewing the case and found out that nobody had taken my DNA to be put into the national database.
TODD: So, it’s just as simple as that, just a cheek swab?
JOYCE: A cheek swab, exactly. Jennifer’s missing and we hope and pray that at this point, that she is in every single database that there possibly can be, but, we both find it absolutely horrific that there is no mandatory DNA testing on human remains…
TODD: uh huh
JOYCE: And, we just, it’s as surreal today as it was 17 months ago when we got the phone call that Jennifer didn’t show up for work, but it’s frustrating all of the things that we’ve come to, have to learn and be aware about and the unidentified human remains is not a topic that most people would even care to talk about, and as we moved forward in this tragic journey and we realized that there are a lot of unidentified human remains in police vaults and there’s no laws that require that DNA testing be done, and as a parent of a missing child, who we have the education and knowledge, we wish we didn’t but we do, we just find it very, very disheartening that there are no laws mandating that when human remains are found that they automatically be DNA tested and cross-referenced because, honestly Todd, I believe there’s a great number of families that could finally have some closure in their lives.
TODD: Oh, absolutely. You know, that I know the FBI DNA database, well the FBI NCIC database has over 6,000 listings but we also know that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 unidentified bodies that have never made it that far yet; that have never been included. Some unidentified remains are cremated, which, if they’ve not taken a DNA sample, and we’re talking retroactively from a few years back, even the 1960s and 1970s, where DNA wasn’t available, if there’s nothing there, how do you ever link that back to somebody? And it still happens.
DREW: It still happens. In fact, the fact of the matter is also that the FBI, as far as indexing fingerprints and DNA of felons, they are 500,000 entries behind and they can only do 200,000 a year.
DREW: And it’s continually building and we may also have an instance, not only on the unidentified human remains with Jennifer, but we may have an instance where we have DNA evidence or fingerprints or what have you, to identify someone who’s never been in trouble yet and we may wait 2 years, 3 years before all of a sudden someone finally gets to the databank where “oh, look at this” and there’s a match.
TODD: Now that’s just several years just for data processing.
DREW: It’s frustrating.
TODD: There was a case in Nashville, Tennessee, a body had been found and it was classified as a female; turns out it was a male. It was after I had Project EDAN, where we did forensic art and to do the reconstruction, the artist person protested the whole time, “I don’t think this is a female” because he had photographs of the skull and he/she was shelved at the body farm, and it wasn’t until somebody at the body farm, was actually looking on the Doe Network, and they saw that case, thought it looked very masculine, they pulled the bones which were there for, from what I understand, a decade, reviewed them and found they were in error. And to me, that error is what actually, when we were actually able to publicize that information, based on what the original medical examiner gave us, you know, they had a lot of criticism but it turns out, the body was there. If it was that easy to spot that error, they could have pulled it off the shelf at any time. So he lay on that shelf, he was missing and found in the same county, Davidson County, misclassified by the medical examiner and then finally reviewed after 13 years.
DREW: Well, there is a national effort to get databases up and running and it is the JasonProject.org and it’s out in Nebraska and the FBI refuses to take it on because it’s just too costly, they don’t have enough staffing or what have you and it has passed laws in 8 states so far, we tried in Florida this past session, we did not make it all the way through and we will try again next year, but it is on how to treat missing people, not missing children, but missing people as well as unidentified human remains in a timely manner and get them into the databases needed so states that participate can at least come into Florida and check against our database and we can go to other states too.
TODD: You know, Florida’s the 3rd highest count of unidentified bodies, right behind New York and California. Huge amount. And it seems like everybody migrates to these coastal areas so I know some of the unidentified bodies are migrant people that travel about and just end up in different areas where they’re not from but you know, a great deal of them are our loved ones.
DREW: One thing that just gives us really great hope though Todd, is that absolutely nothing has been found of Jennifer’s to say that she has passed from us.
TODD: uh huh
DREW: And, on the contrary, nothing’s been found to say that she is still with us, so when you have the choice of the two, we still choose to think that Jennifer is out there alive and waiting for us to come find her as her parents, until someone can prove it differently to us.
TODD: Now, you were lucky enough to have actual footage, I think, of an abduction?
JOYCE: Right. Well…
DREW: Well, of the last person to drive her car basically 4 hours after she was taken.
TODD: Okay, what will somebody see in this video?
DREW: Well, the video is very, very grainy but if anyone is familiar with Jennifer’s case, we have 2 stills of a person walking by a gate, which was a pool area, and each time the surveillance camera took a picture, which was a 3-second interval, the person was lucky enough to be behind…
JOYCE: …like a fence post.
DREW: Yeah, a main brace of a fence post, so we could not get the face, but we did get the entire body, the gait of the walk, all the...well I think, the important things outside of the face.
TODD: uh huh
DREW: The film was actually held for quite a long time, hoping that we could find the person and basically make a case against the person. It became, after a year or so, very obvious that we needed to let that film out.
TODD: uh huh
DREW: To correlate that the person that we said was a person of interest, was actually the person that dropped Jennifer’s car off. It’s a very grainy film. It’s been done by NASA to the best of it’s ability but it shows the person parking Jennifer’s car, getting out of Jennifer’s car and then walking around the side of the pool area to where we can get the best pictures of the stills that people see on Jennifer’s website which is www.findjenniferkesse.com. So we know that she was not the last person to drive her car and she did not make it to work.
JOYCE: Nothing of hers has been found.
DREW: Or used.
JOYCE: Or used.
TODD: Well could any DNA evidence be taken from the suspect? From the car?
DREW: It is our understanding that there is DNA evidence within the car…
TODD: uh hum
DREW: …however, nothing has shown up in any database.
TODD: Which it goes back to, somebody maybe never having been convicted of a crime before.
JOYCE: Correct, or the potential backlog and it hasn’t been entered either.
DREW: Or an illegal alien who has not been in trouble.
TODD: What do we know about this person now? I know that we were actually able to see something. We were able to get a stature, pretty much a physical description of this person, aside from the face.
DREW: Yes, the only thing we really have is that the person is, in height, between 5’3” and 5’5” and, honestly, we truly believe, Joyce and I truly believe it’s a male, but we really can’t be sure if it’s a male or female. So, we’re not only missing Jennifer, we’re honestly missing a second person…
TODD: uh huh
DREW: There absolutely seems to be no trail to be found.
TODD: Because you really don’t know if this person is friend or foe really, I mean, there’s really nothing to tell you that but it’s obviously somebody that you need to talk to. Whether it’s somebody who’s done something or not, they know something.
DREW: You know it could be as simple as someone being paid to drop a car off.
TODD: Easily. You know, one thing, we need better surveillance tapes. Look at all these tapes and they always have to take these tapes to NASA to try to clear them up and all of this and, to me, we have the technology to have better surveillance camera, because how many cases have been like this?
JOYCE: Right Todd, you know what, unfortunately it all comes down to money.
TODD: uh huh
JOYCE: Because, Jennifer had moved into the…it was a 2-year-old apartment complex in Orlando that had undergone condo conversion in August, she bought the condo in October, moved in November, brand new, very upscale right across from the Mall at Millennia in Orlando, Florida, and they had no surveillance cameras. They went up 2 weeks after Jennifer’s abduction. Now, like 1.2 miles away, where Jennifer’s car was ultimately dropped off by the suspect, that Huntington On The Green condominium complex is very old, a crime area but it actually had video cameras on the pool clubhouse, and thank God for that.
TODD: What do you think about having more cameras? You know a lot of people don’t want these cameras, it’s invading, you know, when you’re walking down the street, you know a lot of people don’t want to have camera on them. I think there needs to be more cameras.
JOYCE: We live in a different world and, honestly, I for one, am all for having cameras in public places and I’m definitely for putting cameras at intersections that are heavily-trafficked and known for accidents and are known for speeders because, unfortunately, the police can’t be everywhere, and, once again, why? Because of budget, and unfortunately everything revolves around money and every organization has a budget and how do you utilize those dollars the best possible way? And we thank God, Huntington On The Green, although the cameras that they had out there were old, the film had been re-used multiple times, at least they had cameras. I would love to see nothing more than laws changed that in all new, I mean, you couldn’t possibly mandate everybody, but why not start with any new construction or any new apartment to condo conversion?
TODD: uh huh
JOYCE: Mandate security cameras.
TODD: Especially in areas where there is a crime rate. You know, I live in a small town, the crime right here is nearly…it’s very small, just small crimes, nothing really big, you know I don’t see a need for a lot of video cameras but in an area where there’s a lot of traffic, a lot of people, a high incidence of missing persons, obviously there’s a need for this.
DREW: And really, out in public, Todd, as long as you are not breaking the law, who cares?
TODD: Yeah, really. I mean you give up a little privacy for some security.
TODD: You know anybody that can talk to somebody like you guys can understand, “hey there’s a trade-off here, and it’s very important.” If they could trade places with you for about 10 minutes, I think their whole outlook would change.
TODD: Because nobody wants to be you. You know, nobody wants to trade places with somebody like you guys.
DREW: Nobody wants to be Jennifer.
TODD: No. No, absolutely not. But you’re going through a very difficult journey now. I know this. I’ve talked to people that’s had to be in your shoes for many, many years. I don’t know how they did it but you guys are doing a lot of good work. I see a lot of activity where you have tried to be visible, you have spoken out, and you know, some people pull out when this happens to them but you’ve done well.
DREW: Awareness is actually everything Todd, and honestly, if the awareness goes away, the story goes away, Jennifer goes away, and that’s just something we will not let happen. We have unconditional love for Jennifer and she knows it and the fact of the matter is that even if something bad has happened to Jennifer, she is ours, she needs to come home so we can take care of her properly, and that’s all there is to it, period. For the good or that bad, we are not about to give up, and if we did give up, Joyce has said it many times, that just means that ‘that bad won twice.’ That’s not going to be.
TODD: Yeah, you allow them to win, and that’s why I like the idea of taking You-Tube and taking MySpace and these things, and of course, there are bad things there, but I think there’s a lot more good that we can do with it that outweigh the bad. I love to see people logging on there and actually making something good out of it.
DREW: Well you know, one good thing, bringing that back up, You-Tube, there are a lot of police departments now starting to put their Top 10 Most Wanted on You-Tube and it is working. We know for a fact that it’s working, so, you know it’s a great tool when used properly and it will help.
TODD: You know the Amber Alerts are there too now. You can subscribe to that in your area; it shows up, and I think it’s going to be a great tool with a little work on it. Can you talk to me at all about her boyfriend, Robert Allen?
DREW: Sure. Absolutely. We think that he’s a fantastic young man. He’s been here the whole way for Jennifer and us and our family.
JOYCE: He is a member of our family and always will be.
DREW: He is a member of our family. He spends a lot of time with us. He slept on Jennifer’s couch for…
JOYCE: The better part of 7 months.
DREW: …the better part of 7 months, slept on her couch every night, you know, in her condo when we were sleeping in Jennifer’s bed for 6 months and he has not given up on her one bit and he only knew her for a year but we truly believe that he came to love her…
TODD: uh hum
DREW: …and did love her.
JOYCE: They talked about getting married.
DREW: We don’t believe he’s a suspect.
TODD: Well does he do now as far as trying to reach out and help you guys with this case?
JOYCE: Oh, he has, from the get go…the big push for us is the Internet.
TODD: uh hum
JOYCE: Emails and her website, but he has done everything from passing out flyers, business cards, holding signs, you know, for the first 3 months after Jennifer was taken, we had huge, 2-foot by 3-foot signs and we stood out at the busy intersection near her home where her car would have traveled, been driven by whoever took Jennifer, in hopes of raising awareness; Rob actually stood out there holding those signs with us as well as our son, Logan.
DREW: And including many of her friends.
JOYCE: And support; he continues to be a support and they, actually all of Jennifer’s friends, continue to support and talk to one another on a weekly basis. You identify more with people that know and have a loving relationship with Jennifer because all of us are in the same place emotionally and as far as sometimes, when you need to vent or need that shoulder for support, we all just continually reach out to one another and Rob has just got really big, broad shoulder and he’s just been a really wonderful, wonderful asset to this extensive team of families, friends and volunteers of trying to find Jennifer.
TODD: How has your family changed now? What do you do different? Because you’ve had an incredible amount of knowledge forced on you, knowledge that you didn’t want to know but you had to know.
JOYCE: Well life, as we knew it, has forever changed. And as we try to forge a different life, without Jenn for now, it’s made us very aware, honestly, of how precious life is and to truly not sweat the small stuff, and you just realize that the people that are in your life, how fragile life is and how important it is that when you see those people and you talk to them, that you let them know how much they mean to you. I think that for all of Jenn’s family and friends, I think that that’s probably one of the best things that’s come of this and the other thing, honestly, is a more increased awareness of safety and paying attention to the world around us and being willing to help someone in trouble.
DREW: From the time, I think from the second we get up in the morning until the minute we have the ability to close our eyes at night, absolutely everything is different from what we knew of life. I think we were pretty much your basic American family, we didn’t have too many problems, you know, every family has problems in life but we didn’t have too many problems and all of a sudden, this comes along and since Jennifer has gone, just a few months back, our 23-year-old son had to move on with his life and he had a career change and path that took him out to the Midwest, the other side of the country, so we are empty-nesters now, so to say and we were very close with our children, we still speak everyday, multiple times to Logan, but everything you do right down at the end of the day, work is incredibly difficult for us. I can’t even, I don’t think we can express how hard work is, but we have to.
JOYCE: You have to pay your bills.
DREW: You have to pay your bills.
TODD: You’ve got to eat.
DREW: The bills aren’t even what it takes to find Jennifer, so far, and just to make dinner sometimes is…
JOYCE: A chore.
DREW: That might happen 2 times a week otherwise it’s being heated up in the microwave or it’s coming out of a can, really so everything that you do changes in life and it will never be the same again.
TODD: It’s like another full time job just being placed on top of you because you are constantly having to review this data because I know that you’re working on it yourself too. You know you have a phone number; I think you have an active tip line, right?
TODD: Can you give that tip-line number now?
DREW: Sure. 407-722-2162. And that is actually a phone that we have personally with us and you can just leave your information, name and telephone number if you want someone to call back and we will handle it.
TODD: What if I have an anonymous tip? How would that be handled?
DREW: A few ways. Number one, you can call Crime Line in Orlando, which is 1-800-423-TIPS, which is 8477. You can, if you wish, call our line and just simply leave the information. You can go to a lawyer, clergy, you can go to anyone that you feel comfortable with to give the information and not pass your name on to the authorities. You can do that. Just as long as we get the information, we do not care who gets it, where it comes from, what manner of which it comes from, we simply want, need to get the information to get Jennifer home to us.
TODD: Sometimes leaving an anonymous tip is not real easy because there’s a point where some people don’t want to get involved in something but their heart tells them that they need to tell and I think they struggle with it. In fact, I’ve known people that have been in situations like that and it’s not easy to give an anonymous tip. Sometimes it’s hard to leave your name and give a tip, to get to the right person.
DREW: In that case Todd, I would say that the best thing that anyone could do is go to a lawyer because there are certain protective rights that that lawyer give you and we’ll never know where it came from; we do not care where it came from as long as the information gets to us.
TODD: That’s a very interesting tip you’ve given. Very interesting. Now, you have, for a very limited amount of time, you have a $1,000,000 reward for Jennifer’s safe return.
TODD: Now, safe return, that means ‘alive and well’.
DREW: Alive and well. If someone brings us to Jennifer, walks out with Jennifer, you will have $1,000,000 and that is on until July 4th, 2007.
TODD: Now, why the rush? Why July 4th? Now I’m asking you for the benefit of the audience.
TODD: Why this limited amount of time? Why are you crunching it down to a short period like this?
DREW: It is our belief that you cannot give someone of a criminal mind, the time that they want.
TODD: uh hum
DREW: You can’t let this go on until they feel that they’re done with Jennifer, as well as, we really don’t need that person to step forward, you know there’s such a thing as a mad girlfriend, a mad mother, an aunt that can’t take it any longer and that she knows something. This person, he or she, may just piss somebody off one day…
TODD: uh hum
DREW: There are many ways that, all of a sudden, somebody looks at this person differently and says, “Hey” and in fact, when we were trying to get this person to come forward as a person of interest, this person may have said that this is somebody who approached he or she, and that’s you, and he may have said, “Hey, it is me, but I was walking to work. I had no idea, I have no trouble with the cops, I don’t need any trouble” and all of a sudden the film comes out and that person goes back and says, “You lied to me” and they make the call.
TODD: You know circumstances change daily with these cases; you know relationships change just like you spoke of, at the right place and the wrong time for somebody, I think somebody will say something.
DREW: That’s right.
JOYCE: And almost, if you will, creating a sense of urgency.
TODD: Yeah, a sense of urgency.
JOYCE: Last year, there was a $250,000 reward put out by a very kind gentleman in Orlando and he is the same gentleman who put out the $1,000,000 and that $1,000,000 reward has been out since May 17th, and you know July 4th is right around the corner. If it was about money, I really feel in my heart, that the $15,000 reward that has been out there all along, that we would have had some answers, and when the $250,000 reward came out last year, again, that same hope?
TODD: uh huh
JOYCE: And…nothing. And now, I mean, $1,000,000 is a lot of money. So is $250,000 but this is truly, truly a life-altering amount of money for that one person who has been sitting on the fence and trying to decide, “Do I finally reveal what I know or do I continue to keep it inside?” A million dollars is a wonderful motivator.
TODD: Oh yeah. Well I would be terrified, if I was a person of interest and I knew that somebody could make that phone call and I knew my relationship with them was a little shaky, this would drive me crazy.
JOYCE: uh hum
TODD: And hopefully, it’s putting on that type of pressure.
JOYCE: And that’s what we’re hoping is happening.
TODD: Can you speak any about the gentleman that actually offered this reward?
DREW: Yes. It is actually the owner of the company who she worked for which is Westgate Resorts in Orlando, Florida, a timeshare company. He’s an incredible individual, obviously extremely caring and really, to be quite honest with you, puts his own family and safety on the line when he does this. He has offered many times to do whatever is needed to try and find Jennifer. I will be quite honest with you; he never met Jennifer. He is an employer of over 6,000 people in Central Florida and has never met Jennifer, but yet, she’s one of his employees.
TODD: Obviously he thought of her as part of his extended family.
DREW: Exactly and I can’t say enough about the gentleman.
JOYCE: We’re humbled at his continued support.
TODD: How do you say thank you to somebody that made this type of offer to you?
DREW: I think those 2 words, I don’t even know if you could really do anything to really thank someone other than say, “Thank you.” What do you say?
TODD: Have you met him in person?
JOYCE: Yes we have.
TODD: Wow, sounds like an incredibly caring person.
JOYCE: Very, very compassionate and big-hearted, very big-hearted.
TODD: Now you spoke of you son, I think his name is Logan?
TODD: How about him? How is he doing? Now you say he’s moved to the Midwest, how have things changed for him? Obviously things have been completely changed for him in some ways, but it sounds like you’ve been able to put his life somewhat together.
JOYCE: It has taken a long time, Todd.
TODD: uh hum
JOYCE: Logan was 21, when Jennifer was abducted and in April he turned 22, and for anybody in this situation, it’s extremely difficult for the parents, it’s really, really tough for the siblings, and we just have Jennifer and Logan and this has been very, very difficult for him.
TODD: You know often people have younger children and they have to work on trying to make their life normal, you know out of fairness for the child that’s not missing, and they’re young and they need support and they try to make their life normal. You guys say that you’re empty-nesters, so you’re kind of free to do what you have to do and devote your time to finding Jennifer.
JOYCE: Right, but while, I mean Logan only moved away 2 months ago and in the 15 months that he was here, you know he lived with us in Bradenton, and it was very difficult for him to move forward, as it was really and continues to be for us, but as Drew mentioned, I look it as ‘evil stole Jennifer from us’, I can’t let evil rob our family of our family and of us having a life because then, ‘evil will have won twice’. And if you just try to keep that in the forefront of your mind everyday, on those really tough days that it’s hard to get out of bed, and you just sit and you think along those lines, that’s what helps get you out of bed. Because otherwise, evil will have robbed us, not only of Jennifer, it would have robbed Logan of us as parents, Logan from having a happy life and is it difficult? It’s hard as hell. It’s hard as hell to go on not having answers, and being in limbo is really the hardest place to be when you have a family member that’s been abducted. Obviously we pray for the miracle, we’re not delusional. Jennifer may have been murdered already but ‘hope’ is such a powerful four-letter word, and with the police not having anything of hers been found, you know? It keeps us moving forward and keeps us hoping and fighting for Jennifer. For the love of Jennifer, we won’t give up.
TODD: I think it’s harder to try and struggle like you guys have been doing than to just shut down. You know you can just…some people do, they just shut down; they’re not able to do this. It’s definitely not easy what you’re doing. You’re holding out hope and struggling.
JOYCE: The alternative is not an alternative for us. For the type of people that we are, that really wouldn’t enter our minds to not continue to fight for Jennifer’s life.
DREW: I mean, the deal is, to find Jennifer, failure is not an option. I’m sorry, it’s just not an option, period.
TODD: You have no choice. You just have to keep going.
JOYCE: We’re not kidding, we’re not going anywhere. We’re not going to go away. We both have big mouths and we will continue to use them to try to make sure that Jennifer is not forgotten until she’s found.
DREW: And you are helping us and we thank you very much.
TODD: We’re going to keep trying. We try a lot of different things to try and help people and get their stories out there. You know, basically the audience that listens to this program, I ask them to look at the website because, we’ve not focused a great deal on the website as far as the content of the website; I want people to read the website and then I’m asking you the questions that come to my mind when I read the website, so I try to fill in the gaps with, “What do I want to ask this family?” and “Tell me what you’re going through.” You know, that’s what we try to do. This is a very…now this is the most difficult part; this is the hardest part of the show. I don’t know if you’ve listened to them before, but, if you could, and as if you were speaking directly to her, what message do you have for her?
JOYCE: We love you. We love you. We will never stop until we find you.
DREW: And we will.
JOYCE: And we will find you.
DREW: Don’t ever give up. We know that you’re strong. We know that you can do it. If anyone can do it, we know you can, and you know that we are out there looking for you.
TODD: And you’re not going to let go.
DREW: No. Absolutely not.
DREW: What would we be if we gave up?
TODD: I don’t think I could, but you know, living, like maintaining your normal life too, as far as your jobs and that type of thing, that’s the thing that I think would be difficult for me.
JOYCE: It is very difficult.
TODD: Concentrating, you know, how do you concentrate?
DREW: You have to because you have to understand the total situation of what makes everything still work and we need to have money to do the things that we do to continue to search for Jennifer, and I don’t want to do it, Joyce doesn’t want to have to do it, but we have to do it for a lot of reasons on a lot of levels. I mean we haven’t even talked about things that have just come into effect that affects us just as much. I mean, just lawyers and police and wackos calling, and it’s amazing. People don’t understand how deep it goes and how many people in our lives this has affected. We probably have, as much as we lean on people, we probably have 10 to 20 people that lean on us.
TODD: Oh, absolutely, and it happens. What happens if say, everything comes out really well, and Jennifer comes home, everything’s taken care of, can you still…you’ve become part of a huge family now and it’s not easy to get out of that family. Nobody wants to be here but you have a lot of people that care and try to help you. As you have found, sometimes recklessly, people do try to do things for you, I don’t think they realize that’s negative when they’re building websites and that type of thing without your consent, but you know that happens, and I think it’s positive. Are you going to be able to continue doing this now?
DREW: You know I’ve talked about that many times and we’re very positive people, very ‘up’ people; we don’t let the negative hit us.
TODD: uh huh
DREW: We don’t have time for that. I will definitely, personally I think Joyce will too, whatever the outcome is, we are now part of a club we never wanted to belong to and I think it’s our obligation at this point…
JOYCE: To help other people.
DREW: …to help other people, and to really help America…
TODD: uh huh
DREW: …and I guess the world realize that these are forgotten people. It’s tough to think about a missing person. It’s tough to think about an abducted person. You don’t want to think about it. It’s almost cognizant that you put it out of your mind.
TODD: Oh yeah, you want to avoid that, you know at all costs, people want to avoid that type of situation. It’s just not something that you want to think about.
JOYCE: It’s too painful.
DREW: But I think we will have to stay involved and surely, honestly, because of the amount of people who we don’t know, who never knew Jennifer, we have people volunteer on their vacations from England, to go out and search for her.
JOYCE: And South America. I mean, because Orlando is such a tourist capital, it was amazing to us, the people that were coming out for searches; they were in their hotel rooms and they saw the story on the news and they’d come out, and these were people, literally, from all over the world. And even on our Guestbook, periodically someone will say, “I was on holiday when your daughter was abducted, I continue to follow the story, I’m continuing to pray.” And, I mean…
DREW: You have to give back.
JOYCE: We have to give back and we will probably try to pursue to get some of the laws changed.
TODD: Have you met some of the other families that are working on this type of thing? I think you met Kelly Jolkowski, with Project Jason?
JOYCE: Yes, actually, we have not met but have spoken to.
TODD: Well we say, in this world, we say met and we’ve never laid eyes on each other often, but you know somebody, some of my best friends are people that I have never laid eyes on, other than just a phone call or email. It’s amazing how close you can get to someone on emails.
JOYCE: Oh, absolutely. The power of the Internet.
TODD: It is amazing. What other families? There’s Janice Smolinski, she has a missing son, Billy (Episode 19), she’s working on some legislation. Jim Viola, Patricia Viola’s husband, he’s working on legislation. There are so many things going on.
JOYCE: Mark Lunsford, Jessica Lunsford’s dad; we’ve met him.
DREW: And I’ve spoken with Ed Smart, Elizabeth Smart’s dad.
JOYCE: And I’ve spoken with…
DREW: Twitty Holloway.
JOYCE: Well, (Beth) Holloway Twitty, and it is…it’s hard honestly, but we’re all bound together through the tragic circumstances of having a loved one abducted.
TODD: uh hum
JOYCE: And I really think that that’s why; you know the help and the value of the help of the many that are continuously helping you, so how could you then become a person who doesn’t help?
TODD: You know I do this because I don’t want to be in your shoes. I don’t want to see anybody get in your shoes ever, ever again. If we could prevent that, just from one person hearing this, just to prevent it, just to think about it, and you guys are great ambassadors for this cause. You know I think you got elected to something you shouldn’t really want to be a part of but you’re here now and you’re doing a great job, you’ve got a positive outlook with things and I think that you are going to inspire a lot of people. I really do. I think you are smart people and I think you know how to help make a change.
JOYCE: Well we’re certainly going to try our hardest but first we have to find Jennifer.
TODD: That’s your number one priority.
JOYCE: Yes. Then we will put the energy into being able to help change and help, hopefully, a lot of other people with laws being just tweaked a little bit.
TODD: It’s come a long way since I first started working in this world. Back in the late 1990s, late 1980s actually it’s changed quite a bit. I’ve seen so many positive steps, but we need so many more. There are so many more steps to take in this before we get to a really good point.
JOYCE: Right and I think what would really help, I would love to see programs on, starting in pre-school, about teaching children about safety and being aware of your circumstances and how to prevent an abduction, if you will, and the more educated we can become, the safer we can become. The more people start to reach out and care about their neighbor and paying attention to what’s going on and reporting things as being suspicious, I mean, these are all things that are so easy to do but I think we’ve become, unfortunately, a society where people tend to keep blinders on.
TODD: Mind your own business. You know there’s a great temptation to just mind your own business but, you know, I don’t think we can afford to do that anymore.
JOYCE: No, not in today’s world.
TODD: Now you don’t have to be a busybody but when you see something and you know that it’s wrong, you’re guilty too if you don’t say something about it, you know you’ve got to speak up unless you just want to allow this type of stuff to go on but you just can’t allow it to happen.
DREW: We have to remember that we run our communities.
TODD: uh huh
DREW: The politicians don’t run the communities; we the people run our communities and we have the power to change any time we wish to, and sometimes, we have to change to suit the new world, so to say, and you know…
JOYCE: It begins at home.
DREW: It does. Everything begins at home.
TODD: That being said, do you think, if she knew more, if she had been better educated about abductions and missing persons, if you knew as a family more about this big world that you found, do you think that it could have been different?
DREW and JOYCE: No.
JOYCE: And the reason that we both said that at the same time is, Drew and I had actually been victims of a crime; we had walked in on a burglary in process in the home that we were living in and when the burglar came downstairs and put a gun in our face and just said, “Back out of the house”, you know, “I don’t want any trouble” and then off into the woods and into the night. When our kids were of an age that we felt if was safe to start teaching them about safety, that’s when we began teaching our kids as toddlers and pre-schoolers. Jennifer and I have a love for “Law And Order”, I am no longer able to watch the TV show, but you learn a lot from watching certain of the police dramas that are more factual-based, and amongst Jennifer’s group of friends, she was known as the ‘safe one’, always making sure that there was a designated driver, that people wore seatbelts, etc. She routinely made ‘safe calls’, and really what that is, Todd, is if she was walking from point A to point B in a parking lot, in the dark, she was on the phone with someone. “Okay, I’m leaving the Target; I’m getting into my car; my groceries are in the car; the doors are locked; I’m driving home.” So, her and I often talked about “if anybody tried to rape you, what would you do and if you ever found yourself the victim of a carjacking”, so that’s why, for us as a family, we know Jennifer is the safest 24 year old.
TODD: uh hum
JOYCE: Short of her having taken personal safety classes, she carried MACE, she carried a police whistle, you know, she was someone who paid attention to what was going on around her so that’s why for us, as her family and her friends, it’s that much harder, honestly, knowing how safe of a young woman that Jennifer is, that this could actually happen.
TODD: So that’s just more proof, you cannot be overexposed with this. I know a lot of people don’t like to hear it but you just can’t say enough about it to your child.
DREW: If Jennifer was taken, anyone could be taken.
JOYCE: That’s how strongly we feel that that’s how safe of an individual she is, and one thing that I would like to share with you and with your audience; never park along side of a van, whether or not it’s a paneled van or commercial vehicle or a passenger van that has the sliding door; whether or not there’s anybody in the front seat because you could literally be putting your keys in your car and that sliding door can open and you can be stunned with a stun gun and dragged into that van in less that 3 seconds. That’s how quick you could be abducted, so we pretty much tell people that we talk to, you know one of the smartest things to do, is don’t park along side of a van.
TODD: And it’s easy to do that and not really think about it.
JOYCE: That’s why we constantly remind people, “Don’t park along side of a van.”
TODD: So, the public doesn’t have to be paranoid, just aware. Think about it. Pay attention to the little things.
JOYCE: Pay attention! Exactly, just pay attention.
TODD: Well, it’s been great having you guys. You guys are wonderful people and I hope to talk to you again soon and I hope we get to talk to you as a success story really soon.
JOYCE: We pray for that.
TODD: I’ll be watching for you in the news. I think we all will. You’re part of the family now, so I’ll just say ‘goodnight’ to the guests and hopefully we’ll have you back soon.
JOYCE: Okay, any time.
DREW: We appreciate it.
TODD: Alright and thank you guys for coming.
DREW: Thank you.
JOYCE: Thank you.
Orange County (Orlando Florida) deputies found the car belonging to a missing 24-year-old Orlando woman at the Huntington on the Green apartments at Americana and Texas on Thursday morning. Sheriff deputies acted on vehicle information provided from the news media.
Orlando police are leading the investigation into the disappearance of Jennifer Kesse who was last seen on Monday. Neither her family members nor friends have heard from her since then. Her family and police are hoping fliers with her picture will help track down the missing woman.
Deputies found the 2004 black Chevy Malibu belonging to Jennifer Kesse on Thursday morning.
Not knowing what has happened to Jennifer has been excruciating for the family and her friends. Wednesday, they were at the condo she moved into on her own just two months ago, hoping there will be some shred of evidence that will lead police to her.
"She is daddy's girl, she's not afraid to talk to myself or my wife about anything," said Drew Kesse, Jennifer’s father.
Jennifer is known to be extremely close to her family and friends. That's why they all now fear something is terribly wrong.
"I didn't think I'd ever talk on TV about my daughter being missing," Kesse said.
Police are calling her disappearance suspicious. Flyers with her picture are up all over the community in and around the Mosaic condos on Conroy Road, near the Mall at Millenia. Officers searched the thick brush just across from her condo.
The last she was heard from was Monday night. She called her father after getting home from work.
"That was it, just catching up, how ya doin'. We talk quite regularly. That was the last I spoke to her," he said.
She had just come back from a trip to the Virgin Islands this past weekend with her boyfriend who lives in South Florida. She drove up Monday morning from Fort Lauderdale and went straight to work at the Central Florida Investments Timeshare Company in Ocoee.
But, after speaking to her dad Monday night at her condo, she never showed up at work Tuesday morning and no one can get her on her cell phone.
Recently, she shared concerns about living at the condos, though she was proud she could afford the place just two years after graduating from the University of Central Florida.
"This was her pride and accomplishment, bought it by herself. She had some concerns with the maintenance crew," Kesse said.
Her boyfriend, Robert Allen, agreed saying she was uncomfortable with the workers around. The buildings had just recently been converted to condos and only a handful of residents live in her unit.
"Obviously, for me living three hours away, difficult hearing that with her saying I’m a little nervous here and there," Allen said.
Crist Signs Bill Named For Jennifer Kesse
Law Sets New Rules For Missing Adult Cases
2:20 pm EDT October 27, 2008
Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill Monday named in part for missing Orlando resident Jennifer Kesse that will make it easily for law enforcement to investigate missing adults.
The bill, known as the Jennifer Kesse and Tiffany Sessions Missing Persons Act, was signed during the 2008 Florida Missing Children’s Day ceremony in Tallahassee.
The bill “broadens the authority of FDLE's Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse to provide assistance on investigations involving missing adults younger than 26 and missing adults age 26 and older who are suspected by law enforcement to be in danger,” according to a news release.
Also, local law enforcement is required under the act to transmit information on missing children and adults to state and federal databases within two hours of getting a report.
Kesse was last seen in January 2006 when she was reported missing from her Orlando condominium. Sessions has been missing since early 1989, when she never returned to her Gainesville apartment after she left to exercise.
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