[This story first aired on October 24, 2020. It was updated on July 10, 2021.]
In January 2006, Jennifer Kesse’s family and friends say she was on top of the world.
“… she was in love. … She had a great job. She had just gotten promoted,” her mother Joyce Kesse told “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant.
“She had just bought her first condo with her own money,” said Jennifer’s father, Drew Kesse.
On the morning of January 24, 2006, Jennifer, 24, left her apartment and headed to work — but she never made it there.
“We got a phone call,” said Joyce, “‘Was Jennifer OK?'”
Immediately, those who knew her knew something was terribly wrong.
“The Orlando Police Department … they worked it very hard,” said Louis Bolden, an investigative reporter for WKMG in Orlando, who has covered the case since Jennifer Kesse went missing.
After years went by with no breaks in the case, Jennifer’s parents sued the Orlando Police Department to get Jennifer’s case file – and won. Now, Drew and Joyce Kesse hope they will solve their missing daughter’s case.
DREW KESSE: We don’t have her. We need her.
JOYCE KESSE: Where is she? You know aliens didn’t abduct her.
DREW KESSE: Please help us.
Louis Bolden | WKMG investigative reporter: To meet the Kesses is to love the Kesses. They’re just good people.
Louis Bolden: Joyce and Drew Kesse … were very vulnerable. … And you could sense that, and you can feel that …
Louis Bolden: People just wanted to help them.
Louis Bolden: If you had told me then, in 14 years we would still be looking for Jennifer Kesse, I would not have believed it.
Lauren McCarthy | Jennifer’s best friend: Can I just have a second? [Takes a deep breath with tears in her eyes]
Lauren McCarthy and Jennifer were best friends since childhood.
Lauren McCarthy: She was extremely safety conscious. … She was very aware of her surroundings. … She carried pepper spray with her all the time.
Lauren McCarthy: The reasons she bought the place that she did was because it was a gated community with a guard.
On Sunday, January 22, 2006, Jennifer returned from a vacation to St. Croix with her boyfriend Rob Allen.
Rob Allen: My best friend said to me after the trip, he’s like, “Oh you’re in love and you just don’t want to admit it.”
They had been dating a year.
Rob Allen: You’ve got the bug. You’re all in.
Even though Rob lived in Fort Lauderdale, about 3 hours from Jennifer’s condo in Orlando.
Rob Allen: We did the long distance, but after the initial date we started spending virtually every weekend together.
On Monday, January 23, on her way into work as a project manager for a time-share company, Jennifer called her mom.
Joyce Kesse: Jenn shared every detail about the trip. … She was just really happy. She was on a cloud.
But that evening Jennifer spoke with Rob. And their conversation didn’t end well.
Rob Allen: We had a disagreement.
Long distance was taking a toll on their relationship.
Rob Allen: She was a little emotional … saying, oh, you know, that “you don’t love me. I’m not with you “… and a little insecurity.
They spoke around 10 p.m. Rob had no idea that it would be the last time he would ever hear her voice.
Rob Allen: That’s just not something that even came in my mind. … You unfortunately take things for granted.
The next morning was when Jennifer didn’t show up for work and didn’t answer her phone.
Lauren McCarthy: She was always on the radar with everybody.
It was so out of character for Jennifer to not respond, her friends and family rushed to her condo.
Drew Kesse: We were probably on the road within 5 minutes. … We were very frantic. … “OK, call the hospitals again. OK, call the police again.”
When they arrived at the condo in the early afternoon, a building manager opened Jennifer’s locked apartment.
Peter Van Sant: What did you see the first time you walked in?
Joyce Kesse: Her travel bag. … it was like she walked in the night before and just dropped her suitcase right where it was. The rest of the home looked like a maid had been there …
Except for Jennifer’s bathroom.
Joyce Kesse : God love Jennifer. But she’s a little bit of a bathroom pig in the morning. So, makeup, curling iron all that stuff all over the vanity … wet shower, wet towel.
Back in 2008, the Kesses told “48 Hours” that while the condo appeared to be in order, they did notice that Jennifer’s purse, keys and cellphone were missing.
Peter Van Sant : What do you believe happened?
Joyce Kesse : She slept for sure. And I think she got up for work as she normally would. … OK, I’m going to work. I have a meeting. It’s busy, locks the door of her condo. That’s where the mystery starts.
Logan Kesse : [emotional] It’s your sister, it’s your family, it’s your blood. I love her.
That afternoon Jennifer’s brother, Logan, began to question some of the construction workers at the complex. He said they were uncooperative.
Logan Kesse : It didn’t feel right.
Peter Van Sant : Did you sense somebody knew something?
Logan Kesse: : Yeah, 100 percent.
At first, the Kesses say police infuriated them by not taking their daughter’s disappearance seriously.
Drew Kesse: I’m like, “Come on! Start to work. Get to work!”
Police say they did not believe Jennifer’s case met the criteria for declaring her missing. They kept suggesting that she must have had a fight with her boyfriend and would be back.
Drew Kesse: Joyce used to complain to me, she’s like, “call them. I don’t hear helicopters in the air.”
But, by early evening, when there was still no sign of Jennifer, police officially declared her missing. And despite evidence that she was at her condo that morning, police pursued a theory that Jennifer may have been abducted the night before. Cell tower data was analyzed, and it indicated Jennifer was out of her apartment and not at home.
Joyce Kesse: Police kept insisting that Jennifer went out in the middle of the night … And we’re like, “you don’t understand that is not how our daughter’s brain works.”
But upon further investigation, police realized the cell tower data was misinterpreted, and she actually wasn’t out that night.
Lauren McCarthy: She 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.
Joyce Kesse: We all along have felt that she was abducted in the morning.
Drew Kesse: But police were very quick to shut us down on certain things.
As the hours went by, their panic became unbearable. They feared that time was running out
Drew Kesse: We have to find her as quickly as possible because the more time that passes the less chance we have and the worse it’s going to be.
Using Jennifer’s apartment as their headquarters, they began their own media blitz.
Louis Bolden: You could go to any … part of town, and everyone knew Jennifer Kesse’s name and they knew her face. Because there were posters … There were billboards. Her face was everywhere.
Lauren McCarthy: The searches were massive. … There were hundreds of people that came out.
Louis Bolden: The community just rallied. … I had never seen anything of this magnitude.
But, still, no one knew where Jennifer was.
Joyce Kesse: As you can imagine we were basket cases.
Drew Kesse: We were flipping out.
Then, two days after her disappearance, police found Jennifer’s car.
Joyce Kesse: I think that my heart stopped … Sheer panic.
THE SEARCH FOR JENNIFER
Sgt. Roger Brennan | Orlando Police Department : The most frustrating thing’s not knowing where Jennifer’s at… Not knowing where to look next …We can sit around and discuss different ideas and different theories, but not having a concrete, solid avenue to go down to bring resolution to the family is the most frustrating part of this case right now.
As the desperate hours went by, Sergeant Roger Brennan and his team of investigators searched the streets of Orlando looking for Jennifer Kesse.
Sgt. Roger Brennan : We’re going through canvases of areas that she would travel or that she might be at.
“48 Hours” interviewed him in 2008.
Sgt. Roger Brennan : As we were driving around the area around her complex, we were trying to identify different areas that her vehicle may have been seen.
Jennifer’s car had been seen the morning she disappeared. A couple said they saw it swerving out of her apartment complex at around 7:40 a.m.
Det. Joel Wright | Orlando Police Department: It appeared that somebody was fighting over control of the car.
Detective Joel Wright was one of the original investigators.
Det. Joel Wright: Unfortunately, the witnesses couldn’t say which way the car went once it got out onto the surface road.
Then, two days after Jennifer vanished.
Sgt. Roger Brennan : The Orange County Sheriff’s office received a call about Jennifer’s vehicle being … in the Huntington on the Green condominiums … approximately 1.1 miles away from her condominium. … What was concerning about this was the area it was located is not an area frequented by Jennifer. … It’s actually a complex that’s been known where stolen cars were — would be recovered from.
Rob Allen: You have that initial hope, like, OK, we found the car, it’s only going to be a matter of time before we find Jennifer.
In an unexpected move, detectives summoned boyfriend Rob Allen to meet them at Jennifer’s car.
Rob Allen: When the police officer asked me to follow with him and to look at the inside of the car and the inside of the trunk, my stomach was churning as far as, “What could you find, you know?”
Despite being more than 200 miles away when Jennifer disappeared, Rob was suddenly a person of interest.
Drew Kesse: I think they wanted to open the trunk in front of him to see his reaction if, in case Jennifer was in there.
When police opened the trunk, Jennifer wasn’t there. There were no signs of a struggle. In fact, everywhere they looked, everything seemed normal.
In 2008, Sgt. Brennan shared evidence photos.
Sgt. Roger Brennan : This is the interior of Jennifer’s car as we found it. Several items were located inside the vehicle … her cellphone, charger … sandals and shoes … Nothing appears to be disturbed in the vehicle at all.
Sgt. Roger Brennan : It didn’t appear that it was a robbery. Didn’t appear that it was a car theft. It didn’t appear that is was a carjacking.
Det. Joel Wright: : When that car was found, we jumped all over it. We immediately started asking everybody walking around if they had seen anything. The canvassing started then and then it got more intense as the days went on and we eventually had horses and helicopters and everything else up in the air looking around.
Sgt. Roger Brennan : We didn’t come up with any solid leads of anybody who saw Jennifer, saw anybody park her vehicle here.
But when police checked security cameras, it looked like they finally caught a big break.
Drew Kesse: We have film of the car being dropped off …
Around noon on the day Jennifer disappeared, one of the cameras captured a person driving Jennifer’s car.
Drew Kesse: He … pulls into a … parking spot next to the pool area … backs out to even straighten himself in there, sits in there for 32 seconds … gets out, walks away, never looks back.
The phantom figure walked away in the direction of Jennifer’s complex.
Joyce Kesse: It was beyond frightening.
Drew Kesse: In my mind, it was “that person took my daughter. And how fast can we find that person?”
Sgt. Roger Brennan [at the parking lot]: This is the camera that caught the person that parked Jennifer’s vehicle here.
But to the Kesses’ frustration, the person caught on that camera could not be identified.
Sgt. Roger Brennan [at the parking lot in 2008] Apparently this video, when it films, captures every two to three seconds as it’s filming, so that’s why you only see the subject on one side of the gate and then the opposite side of the gate and he’s blocked by the posts on either side of the gate.
Louis Bolden: Technology then was not what technology is now. … what are the chances of that happening? But it did.
Lauren McCarthy: [emotional] … seeing that tape of Jennifer’s car … that was probably the worst moment. … It was like being hit with a ton of bricks. … And then also anger, just anger because the-the person was so casual … something really bad obviously happened … and they were just so casually dropping this car off like they were, you know, getting home from work.
Sgt. Roger Brennan:  We printed out pictures and then we brought them out here. … We were hopeful that someone would recognize just the gait or just the general appearance or the stature or maybe the hairstyle or some aspect of this individual … but that didn’t happen.
Peter Van Sant : What does that image tell you of that individual in front of the gate?
Det. Joel Wright : It’s difficult to tell. It looks like a man. … by the walk. By the gait … And someone with pretty big feet for his height is the information we’ve been getting.
In 2008, Detective Wright and Sergeant Brennan analyzed the surveillance tape with “48 Hours.”
Peter Van Sant : What do you know about this person’s height?
Det. Joel Wright : We’ve done quite a bit of measuring and work with the camera angles. And also had people of different heights walk by. … And we’ve come up with a height – between 5’3″ and 5’5″. This has been backed up by the FBI who also are down and checked out the figures.
Det. Joel Wright : Now the clothing looks to be maybe someone who is a painter or some type of worker.
Peter Van Sant  What do we know was going on around Jennifer’s condominium at that time?
Det. Joel Wright  We know there was quite a bit of a renovation going on inside her complex.
Joyce Kesse: The workers made her feel uncomfortable.
Drew Kesse: She just said, you know … “there’s a lot of workers here and they tend to like just stop when I’m walking by or going to my car. And they just look.”
Complicating the investigation – many of the workers disappeared before police could talk to them.
Det. Joel Wright: Some of the people who were working on the property … left.
Joyce Kesse: A lot of your day laborers are, um, not here, uh, legally. So … I think they were scared.
Investigators then went to check the security cameras at Jennifer’s condo complex, but there weren’t any — just a security guard who was supposed to log names and license numbers of visitors.
Det. Joel Wright: However, the logs that we went through didn’t appear to be complete.
They also couldn’t count on getting any reliable forensic evidence from Jennifer’s condo.
Drew Kesse: It was never secured by Orlando Police. By the time they took it seriously, we had 14 people in the condo. And they said, “Well you ruined the crime scene.” And I said, “are you kidding me?”
They had no better luck with the forensics inside Jennifer’s car.
Det. Joel Wright : We didn’t find any fingerprints on the steering wheel.
Peter Van Sant : Do you think the car was cleaned by someone?
Det. Joel Wright : Possibly wiped it. … The surveillance footage does tell us … that there was about 30 seconds of time when the person was inside the car. That person could have taken the time to wipe down the steering wheel and the rearview mirror or what have you.
And what about DNA?
Sgt. Roger Brennan : There was some vacuuming samples taken from each section of the vehicle that were subsequently sent off to the lab for evaluation.
But the samples were inconclusive.
Drew Kesse: So, to me, they don’t have DNA.
At every turn, the detectives kept coming up empty and the case was going cold. But the Kesses refused to give up on Jennifer.
Joyce Kesse: I refuse to let her be forgotten until she is found.
A FRESH LOOK AT THE CASE
In 2008, on the second anniversary of Jennifer’s disappearance, family and friends gathered on a street corner in Orlando.
Lauren McCarthy [at the 2008 gathering]: There’s just no other place I could be today. My heart is here. … It’s just difficult not having her, you know, she’s like my other half so [wipe away tears] I just miss talking to her.
They held up signs, just as they had done the day Jennifer went missing, with the desperate hope that someone passing by knew something.
Drew Kesse : A wrong has been done and a person has been taken against her will and that’s my daughter and she needs to come home to her family.
DET. JOEL WRIGHT [at the 2008 gathering]: Maybe the right person will see us.
Detective Joel Wright was still trying to solve this confounding mystery.
Det. Joel Wright: There were an unbelievable amount of man hours went into this case.
In 2009, Detective Wright decided to take a fresh look at the case. One of the people he interviewed on audiotape was a former housekeeper at Jennifer’s complex. The woman had not been questioned back in 2006:
DETECTIVE WRIGHT [2009 audio tape]: Do you remember a person by the name of Jennifer Kesse that turned up missing?
TRANSLATOR [2009 audio tape]: Yes, she remembers the case.
When he showed her that security camera photo of the unidentified suspect, she gave him a possible new lead.
Det. Joel Wright: She did look at the photo and … said, “That looks like Chino.”
The housekeeper said the phantom figure’s walk, clothing and hair style resembled a man she knew from the complex named Chino, but she could not be sure it was him.
Chino was a name Detective Wright had not heard before. But he learned Chino used to live in another building at Jennifer’s condo complex and was a former maintenance worker there. In fact, Chino had done work in Jennifer’s condo just one week before she disappeared. And that’s not all he learned.
Det. Joel Wright: I put just the name Chino into a leads tracking system … and one tip did come up. A Crime Line tip had been received in the first week of the investigation
The tip was anonymous and suggested Chino may have been involved in Jennifer’s disappearance, but it’s unclear if police had looked into it or talked to Chino at all.
Det. Joel Wright: At that point I thought the investigation was kicking into gear.
It wasn’t hard to find Chino. He was serving time in a Florida prison for statutory rape of a teenage girl – a crime he committed two years after Jennifer disappeared.
Det. Joel Wright: I knew that Chino had been arrested for a sex crime. And … that was part of the development of him as a person of interest.
In 2009, Detective Wright interviewed him and asked him about working in Jennifer’s condo:
DETECTIVE WRIGHT [2009 audio tape]: … when you did the work in her unit, uh – was she present while you were doing it
CHINO: Yes, she was.
DETECTIVE WRIGHT: …how did you get into the condo?
CHINO: She let us in.
DETECTIVE WRIGHT: Was everything normal?
CHINO: Everything was normal. … She got ready for work and left.
Chino was then asked about the pictures — the ones that the housekeeper said may have looked like him:
DETECTIVE WRIGHT [2009 audio tape]: …you know the photos that you looked at earlier – the guy walking by the gate?
DETECTIVE WRIGHT: is there any reason why somebody would – would say that was you?
CHINO: No, not really.
And Chino is 5’9″ — taller than the figure’s height estimated by police.
Det. Joel Wright: Chino was very cooperative. He was familiar with the case. … And he, … denied any kind of wrongdoing.
Chino agreed to take a lie detector test. He passed.
Peter Van Sant: And what did that tell you?
Det. Joel Wright: It told me that he passed the polygraph. … But I would never rule someone out just because they passed a polygraph.
Wright also re-interviewed another maintenance worker who had done repairs with Chino in Jennifer’s condo.
DETECTIVE WRIGHT [2009 audio tape]: Nobody mad about anything? Getting along fine?
WORKER: Everybody getting along fine, regular conversation. Just letting us know what she wanted to be done in her unit.
Detective Wright then interviewed the building manager at Jennifer’s condo to find out if there were any issues between Jennifer and Chino — or anyone else:
DETECTIVE WRIGHT [2009 audio tape]: Are you aware of anybody that might’ve had a problem with Jennifer that worked there or lived there?
Again, the case stalled. Then in 2010, Detective Wright was moved off the case. As time went by, the Kesses felt abandoned by the Orlando Police Department.
Joyce Kesse: We asked them for several years to make her case cold because there’s more resources available for cold cases. And they kept saying, “Nope, her case is extremely active.”
Peter Van Sant: Do you believe anyone realistically has been working this case in recent years?”
Drew Kesse: No. No.
In 2016, it had been 10 years since Jennifer went missing. She was declared dead by the State of Florida.
Drew Kesse: That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I stood in a courtroom alone while a judge declared her deceased.
Fed up, the Kesses then made a dramatic move. They sued the Orlando Police Department to get Jennifer’s case files.
Louis Bolden: At the time, we thought, “They want what? They want the police department’s files?” I had never heard of that happening.
In 2018, Orlando Rolon became the Orlando police chief. Although he wasn’t in charge during the initial investigation, he sympathizes with the Kesses.
Chief Orlando Rolon: I can understand why they’re frustrated. I can understand why they would feel … that maybe an agency like ours has not delivered on what they would expect for an agency to do.
Chief Rolon gave his investigators six months to work the case. When they came up with no new leads, he made the unprecedented decision to finally release the files to the Kesses.
Chief Orlando Rolon: After the number of years that we have spent trying to solve Jennifer’s disappearance, I think it was time to also honor the wishes of the family.
Chief Orlando Rolon: The family wants closure. We want closure. We wanna find the person responsible for her disappearance. … I think it’s a win-win for all.
Peter Van Sant: So, these are just some of your daughter’s case files?
Drew Kesse: Yes. I mean, we probably have at least three times more in boxes of this.
In all, the Orlando Police Department handed over more than 16,000 pages of documents and 67 hours of video and audio to the Kesses. But under the agreement, the Orlando Police Department would no longer lead the investigation.
Drew Kesse: So, at this point in time, the only people that are truly investigating what happened to Jennifer is us and our team.
Michael Torretta: When you talk about challenging investigations, this is the one.
Michael Torretta is the Kesses’ private investigator.
Michael Torretta: I’m looking through these 16,000 documents for something that might have been missed by the Orlando PD, the FDLE, maybe even the FBI who have had parts in this investigation.
He says when he reviewed the files, he was amazed at what police didn’t do and who they didn’t speak with.
Michael Torretta: There’s never been one quarterback on this case. … There’s a lot of information that could have been developed that I believe wasn’t in the most critical hours of this investigation.
IN SEARCH OF NEW CLUES
Private Investigator Michael Torretta says he has gone through the more than 16,000-page case file at least three times.
Michael Torretta: We all have kids that this could’ve happened to and … as parents we need to help out each other. And that’s what I’m doing.
He’s hoping to find new clues as to who could have abducted Jennifer Kesse.
Michael Torretta: I always told the Kesses what I like to do with this investigation is put a puzzle together — one piece at a time.
One of the first things he did was go back to the scene of the crime and speak to people who lived at Jennifer’s complex.
Peter Van Sant: You were there at the same time as Jennifer Kesse. Did you ever meet her?
Colleen: I don’t recall formally meeting her. … She did look familiar.
Colleen, who asked to only use her first name, moved into the complex two years before Jennifer disappeared believing it was a safe place to live.
Colleen: We were a gated community. We had a guard house. I would say 75 percent of the time somebody was there …
But she says once workers started living in empty apartments around the complex, she felt uneasy.
Colleen: When I would come home from work, there would be a large group of men outside drinking. And whenever I would have to walk past them, you know there would be a little bit of comments or just a lot of uncomfortable stares. It — it wasn’t a great feeling. I didn’t like it.
Colleen says she complained to the leasing office manager.
Colleen: He was apologetic. But he told me there was really nothing that he personally could do.
Tami: From the very beginning there were some uneasy things that I kind of brushed off that were red flags.
When Tami, who also asked to only use her first name, moved into the complex years later, she believed workers often entered her apartment when she wasn’t home.
Tami: There was creepy things … like my underwear drawer was tossed … one time the shower was wet. … there was footprints in my closet.
And then, Tami says she caught a “peeping Tom” – a man she believes was a worker at the complex.
Tami: He was pleasuring himself in the corner of my patio.
Peter Van Sant: You opened the door and saw that?
Tami: Busted him. Caught him.
But she says he fled in a white van. Tami filed a police report and to this day she says they have never found the “peeping Tom” or the white van he was driving.
Then Torretta spoke to a woman who did not want to appear on camera. And the name Chino came up again — that maintenance worker at Jennifer’s complex. The woman claimed that Chino often approached her in the parking lot late at night when she returned from work and made her feel uncomfortable.
Peter Van Sant: How often would you socialize with him?
Ashley: A few times a week.
But a woman — who wants to be called Ashley … had a different opinion of Chino.
Ashley: I remember him being fun and friendly, talkative.
She moved into the complex just weeks after Jennifer disappeared.
Ashley: He came over to my condo quite a bit.
She says they never talked about Jennifer’s disappearance.
Ashley: I always wanted to ask him. … “You have keys to all the apartments. What do you think happened?” … That’s a really hard question to ask somebody that’s sitting on the couch next to you.
Ashley says she never was suspicious of Chino until one day nine months after Jennifer vanished, when Chino suddenly disappeared and moved out of the complex in the middle of the night.
Ashley: He had the opportunity to tell me and he didn’t.
Ashley says, at first, she didn’t reach out to police.
Ashley: I sat on it for a little bit. And it just ate away at me. So, I did. I called the crime line back then and told them and they took my statement.
But she says no one ever followed up with her.
Peter Van Sant: Why is what the woman at the Mosaic told you important?
Michael Torretta: I think it’s important because it paints a picture that I don’t believe I would have gotten from the 16,000 documents. There’s nothing in there that indicates that there were problems at the Mosaic.
After Chino’s name came up multiple times, the Kesse team was anxious to talk to him.
Drew Kesse: Chino should expect to hear from us. … Chino needs to be spoken to again.
And despite telling Detective Wright years ago he knew nothing about Jennifer’s disappearance, the Kesses wondered if Chino was being truthful. Did he know more than he had admitted?
Peter Van Sant: The last time police officially questioned Chino was back in 2009. Now we have some of our own questions we’d like to ask. So, I’m heading now to his last known address where I’m hoping we can find him.
Peter Van Sant: Hey, how are ya? Chino. I’m Peter Van Sant with CBS News.
“48 Hours” agreed not to use his full name. When we asked about Jennifer Kesse, Chino quickly reiterated that he was innocent.
Chino: I even did a lie detector test. I mean, everybody knows for a fact that I had nothing to do with Jennifer Kesse.
Peter Van Sant: You had nothing to do with her disappearance?
Chino: Not at all.
Peter Van Sant: Where were you the morning of January 24th, 2006?
Chino: I don’t have to answer any questions, but that’s for sure.
And what about that photo taken by security cameras?
Peter Van Sant: Is this you?
Chino: No, it’s not.
Peter Van Sant: Do you know who this is?
Chino: No, actually I don’t. I do not.
Peter Van Sant: Now you were the maintenance man there. You saw all the workers at that complex. You don’t recognize this figure?
Chino [talking to a woman in his home]: Mi amor. It’s OK. I have nothing to hide. I do not recognize that person.
Peter Van Sant: Do you know of anyone who might have been involved in Jennifer Kesse’s disappearance? Anyone?
Chino: Believe me, if I did know anyone that was involved in that, the Kesse family would be knowing as well.
Chino: I met Jennifer Kesse. She was a beautiful person. She had no problem with me.
Before we left, Chino even agreed to talk with the Kesse team. And in fact, weeks later he did. But there were no big headlines and Torretta presses on.
Michael Torretta: I want to do my best and bring Jennifer Kesse home to them one day.
After all the interviews and reviewing the case file, Torretta says he now has a new theory as to what could have happened to Jennifer Kesse.
Michael Torretta: She’s locking the door and never sees it comin’.
“WE JUST WANT AN ANSWER”
Fifteen years have passed since Jennifer Kesse vanished — years of anguish for her family and friends, but they are determined to keep Jennifer’s story alive.
Lauren McCarthy: Jennifer is super funny, super witty person. … Very strong willed and very sure of herself … she knew what track she was gonna take and she knew how to get there. … Jennifer is definitely the most loyal person I’ve ever been friends with or probably ever known.
After years of working for the Kesses, private detective Michael Torretta says he has a new theory as to what he thinks could have happened to Jennifer. Based on interviews with people who lived at the complex, he believes that up to 10 construction workers were living in an empty apartment just across from Jennifer’s.
He thinks it was one or more of these workers who abducted her on January 24, 2006.
Michael Torretta: What I’m thinking is Jennifer comes out. … she locks the door. Of course, she has her back to the apartment behind her. And then is abducted by those individuals across the way.
Peter Van Sant: Across the hallway.
Michael Torretta: Yes. She’s locking the door and never sees it comin … She probably was attacked immediately upon exiting. … She’s dragged into the other apartment. … And that’s the end.
But Torretta struck out when he tried to find those workers who he believes lived in the vacant apartment across from Jennifer. And he says there is nothing in the files indicating that police ever spoke to them.
Michael Torretta: It’s impossible to find those individuals. There’s no lease.
Peter Van Sant: There’s no list of names of who was staying in which apartment?
Michael Torretta: Absolutely not.
Michael Torretta: That was one of the most shocking parts of this investigation.
As he continued his investigation, Torretta learned that 10 months after Jennifer disappeared, a person was seen dumping a rolled-up piece of carpet into a lake not far from her condo.
Peter Van Sant: What’s intriguing based on your investigation is the men that were in the apartment across from Jennifer’s were putting down carpet that day.
Michael Torretta: That’s why it’s very interesting to me.
Peter Van Sant: Based on your experience is there a possibility what this person threw in that pond was her body?
Michael Torretta: Possibly.
NEWS REPORT: For the past two days dive crews have been out on the water…
In 2019, local police came out with a dive team, but no carpet was found.
Michael Torretta: This is something that is haunting me. … We need to see what’s inside that carpet.
The Kesses have dedicated their lives and weathered enormous financial hardship to finding the truth of what happened to their beautiful 24-year old daughter on that January morning in 2006.
Joyce Kesse: It’s very, very hard to move forward. … The hole in our heart is forever there until we have an answer.
Joyce Kesse: We just want an answer.
Jennifer’s loved ones hope this report will convince someone to take the courageous step of coming forward with information that could solve this heartbreaking mystery.
Rob Allen: Because someone must have seen something. … I just think of Jennifer all the time. … Who knows what would’ve happened if this heinous crime hadn’t been committed?
Lauren McCarthy: For me, every milestone that I’ve had without her has been … like a tug of war with my emotions. … You know, getting married and having children and becoming a grownup and just living life; just having her life, you know. She deserved that.
Drew Kesse: And we just wish that one person that knows something in Orlando would just finally say it. … It’s about Jennifer. It’s not about us. And just please think of Jennifer …
The Kesses are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to Jennifer’s whereabouts.
If you have any information about Jennifer Kesse’s disappearance, please visit the “Find Jennifer Kesse” Facebook page.
Produced by Chris Young Ritzen, Tamara Weitzman and Gabriella Demirdjian. Doreen Schechter is the producer editor. Kevin Dean and Gary Winter are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.