I am passionate about missing persons cases due to a personal family experience of having someone go missing in my family.
Jennifer Lee Martin was 11 years old when she went missing on June 28, 1987. She went missing from Reno, Nevada, and her case is classified as a non-family abduction. She was 4’6'' and around 49 pounds when she went missing. She has brown hair, blue eyes, a star-shaped scar on the inside of her upper right arm, white bumps on her back, a coffee stain–type birthmark on her right hip and two small scars under her chin. She also has facial freckles and pierced ears.
Jennifer was last seen wearing a gray-purple sweatshirt dress, and she was barefoot.
Jennifer Lee Martin was born on January 14, 1976. Her family lived in Clearwater, Florida, before moving to Reno, Nevada. Her older brother had just had a baby, and Jennifer was excited to be an aunt and doted on her little niece. Jennifer was a homebody and loved her family; she even heard her sister-in-law was going to have another baby.
On June 28, 1987, Jennifer Martin walked to the 7/11 store on Lemmon Valley Drive, just about five minutes from her home. She had walked down to this 7/11 store many times before, sometimes up to three times a day. This time, she bought some candy and soda and headed back to her home on Surge Street but never arrived. She had made this trip so often before without incident, so what was different this time?
She was known to be a very independent child who was able to assert herself around adults. She never would have gone willingly with a stranger and had no history of running away. She was fearful of strangers but wasn't shy about confronting adults. She was a smart child who was always aware of her surroundings and took her safety very seriously.
After about 20 minutes had gone by and Jennifer hadn't arrived home, her older brother Charles got worried and went looking for her. He went to the 7/11 to look around but found nothing and had to head back home. The clerk at the 7/11 saw Jennifer leave the store and take a left heading back down the street to her home. Nobody saw her again after that.
Neighbors and local law enforcement conducted a search for Jennifer that evening but found nothing. They canvased the local Lemmon Valley neighborhoods, even clogging traffic from the amount of people in the search effort, but they still came up empty. On the following Monday, police searched a wider area of Lemmon Valley and had air searches as well as ground searches. They questioned the 7/11 clerk and the one other customer who was in the store, a male asking for directions. They also came up empty. With no evidence and no crime scene, they had to classify her as a missing person instead of an abduction.
There was a girl in an Arizona shelter for runaways who reported another girl resembling Jennifer in the building. The Martins arrived but found it wasn't their daughter. With their hopes ripped away, they knew Jennifer was still missing.
It has been more than 30 years since Jennifer’s disappearance, but her sister Colleen keeps hoping to see her sister again. Colleen has kept the same family phone number in case Jennifer calls one day. She says she thinks about her sister every day and hopes she’ll get to see her again or at least get some closure as to what happened to her.
Authorities still have not found any suspects. As of 2015, they are still investigating leads and hoping they will someday be able to find out what happened all those years ago.
No official theories have been made, but I found one on WebSleuths that caught my attention. Please note that this is just a theory!
A defrocked priest, Stephen Kiesle, was a suspect in Jennifer’s case back in mid-2002. He had been arrested and charged in 1978 with the molestation of 3 young girls at the Santa Paula Catholic Church in Fremont. He had worked there from 1968 through 1971. Authorities searched his yard extensively in June 2002 with cadaver dogs, radar, and a backhoe. They were looking for any evidence in several missing persons cases involving young children, including Jennifer Martin, Jaycee Dugard, Amber Swartz-Garcia, and Anthony Franko.
Kiesle’s vacation home was in Truckee, Nevada, and it was excavated on June 5th. Cadaver dogs had shown something might be buried at the home. The dogs picked up scents of either human or animal remains on the property. Kiesle was found to be living just 1 1/2 blocks from another young girl that went missing in 1988, Amber Swartz, who was only seven years old. Authorities claim they didn't find any evidence on the vacation property or Kiesle’s home in Pinole, California.
This is the only theory I could find, but it has no official or solid police evidence linking it to Jennifer Martin’s case.
Can You Help?
If you have any information on Jennifer Lee Martin, please call the Washoe County Sheriff’s office at (775) 328-3001 or (775) 328-3369.
Her family is still looking for her and will never stop until they get some closure.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.