Skip to content

The Disappearance of Jenna Van Gelderen

The Disappearance of Jenna Van Gelderen

 

 Case File Overview

 

In August of 2017, 25-year-old Jenna Van Gelderen was housesitting/petsitting for her parents in the Druid Hills neighbourhood of Atlanta, Georgia while they were vacationing in Canada.

It’s believed that Jenna vanished during the early morning hours of August 19th shortly after talking and texting with a friend.

Jenna had plans to meet a friend at her parents’ home later in the day on the 19th. But when the friend arrived, Jenna and her vehicle, a dark blue, 2010 Mazda 6 sedan, were missing.

When Jenna’s brother Will arrived at the home on the 19th to check on his sister, he discovered the door to the house was locked and the TV and lights had been left on. Jenna was nowhere to be found.

After 24 hours had passed, and no one had heard from Jenna, her brother reported her missing.

On September 5th, the police located Jenna’s vehicle parked along Defoor Place off Chattahoochee Avenue in northwest Atlanta. A witness had contacted the police when she recognized the car on her way to the gym after seeing information about the case on Facebook. Jenna’s car was almost out of gas, and her suitcase was found inside.

The police have not made public the condition of the car or if any other evidence was located inside or around the vehicle. Jenna’s father has mentioned to the media that police reviewed video footage from a camera placed on a recording studio near where Jenna’s car was located. The content of the footage has yet to be shared.

Jenna Van Gelderen

Photo of missing person Jenna Van Gelderen
Image source: Help Find Jenna Van Gelderen Facebook page 

Jenna is 4-foot-11 (150 cm), weighs 140 lbs (64 kg), and has dark brown hair and brown eyes. She also has high-functioning autism.

Jenna remains missing.

 

Case File Theories

 

Jenna ran off to start a new life

Did Jenna run off to escape her family and enjoy the freedom of a new life? This theory is often discussed in most missing person cases. Even though Jenna has high-functioning autism, she works hard to be independent. She earned an Office Administration certificate from Gwinnett Technical College. Also, Jenna moved out of the family home during the spring of 2017 and refused to share her new address with her family. When Jenna realized that her cell phone attached to the family account was monitored, she sourced a second cell phone to ensure her privacy. Jenna is a young, vibrant woman, and it appears as though it’s important for her to feel independent.

Regardless of her desire for independence, though, Jenna was typically in daily contact with her parents or brother. Moreover, as a result of her high-functioning autism, she has developmental disabilities that affect her social interactions, making it unlikely that she would be able to fend for herself too long without contacting her loved ones for support. Could Jenna have orchestrated an elaborate plan to escape what she may have perceived as an overprotective family? I don’t think so. Even more, she was an active social media user and texter with a large social circle. After her communication with her friend during the early morning hours of August 19th, Jenna’s digital footprint, like Jenna herself, disappeared. I find it very unlikely that Jenna would cut off all contact with friends and family and be able to maintain this silence for such an extended period of time.

Also, although Jenna’s suitcase and two cell phones were missing from her parents’ house (with the suitcase being found later in her car), her phone chargers, shoes, and cosmetics were left behind, all items that she would likely take with her if she planned on being away for long. This leads me to believe that the suitcase was planted in her car to make it appear as though she left of her own volition.

Although I’d love to believe that Jenna is off living a happy, carefree life under an assumed name, I doubt this is the case. Jenna’s father, Leon, told the media, “There was no reason to believe she would leave unexpectedly.” Until I get proof otherwise, I trust his parental instincts.

Jenna was abducted or killed by a stranger

Did a stranger abduct and/or murder Jenna from her parents’ home? To me, this is more likely than the suggestion that Jenna decided to run off and begin a new life. However, I think this theory is almost as improbable. Jenna could have been stalked by someone, I suppose. Or maybe a burglar had noticed her family leaving for holidays, seized the opportunity to break into the home, and happened upon Jenna. Strangely, a World War II tapestry was missing from the home; it had been carefully cut out of a frame on the wall. This is especially odd, as it was worth only a few hundred dollars and other items of more obvious value were left behind. If a burglar had been interrupted during a robbery attempt by Jenna, why not just flee the home? Why abduct and/or kill Jenna? And why take the time to cut an inexpensive tapestry from its frame? There has been little suggestion that Jenna was abducted or killed by a stranger. Unless evidence surfaces that supports this theory, I’m putting it aside.

Jenna was abducted or killed by someone she knew

Was Jenna abducted and/or killed by someone that she knew? This is the most likely theory. Jenna’s father has explained that the police have three main suspects in Jenna’s disappearance, but little about these suspects is being made public. This isn’t surprising, seeing as this is an active, ongoing investigation.

Roommate

The list of possible suspects could include Jenna’s roommate. When Jenna moved out of the family home, she rented a room from a friend. This roommate apparently told both Jenna’s father and the police that Jenna was behind on her rent and that he was going to throw her stuff outside. He also didn’t let the police search the apartment, and the authorities didn’t have enough evidence to get a search warrant seeing as by all accounts Jenna had disappeared from her parents’ house. I question her roommate’s actions and lack of concern for Jenna. Does it indicate guilt? I’m not sure. He could just be an inconsiderate and thoughtless ass.

Criminal friend(s)

Another possible suspect could be the “friend” who apparently extorted Jenna into stealing money from a pet store that she had worked at for years. As a result of this theft, Jenna was charged with a misdemeanour and lost her job. Jenna’s father explained that due to her high-functioning autism, Jenna was “very impressionable” and had “been taken advantage of by a lot of people.” Could this so-called friend have also talked Jenna into another scheme that led to her disappearance? Perhaps. Jenna’s father also reported that Jenna is “very gullible, susceptible, enticed very easily and she doesn’t perceive danger the same way the rest of us do.” Taking this into consideration, the suspect pool widens dramatically; Jenna could have been lured into a dangerous situation by an old “friend” or by someone she had just met seeing as Jenna trusts people quickly and easily.

Ex-boyfriend

No doubt a strong suspect in Jenna’s disappearance is her unnamed ex-boyfriend. He told the police that Jenna stopped by his house on the evening of the 18th. While she was there, he stated that he broke up with her. And he was the last person to see Jenna. Incredibly, he told the police that Jenna was a prostitute and a drug addict. This misinformation was believed by the police, attributed to Jenna’s brother Will and shared in media reports, and, ultimately, it led to a heartbreaking misidentification. The police reportedly mistakenly informed Jenna’s family that Jenna had been found, when in fact they had merely picked up a prostitute for solicitation who happened to be named Jenna. Is Jenna’s boyfriend involved in her disappearance? Considering that most women who are killed are murdered by someone they are in a relationship with or know well, it’s a strong possibility.

Overall, this theory brings with it more than an ample number of possible suspects. Therefore, I believe that it’s highly probable that Jenna met with foul play at the hands of someone she knew.

What do you think happened to Jenna?

Jenna’s loved ones will never stop searching for her, and they deserve answers. A very active Facebook page is maintained by Jenna’s family to help find Jenna. Be sure to check out the Help Find Jenna Van Gelderen Facebook page, and like the page to stay updated on developments in the case.

Jenna Van Gelderen

Photo of Jenna Van Gelderen missing person flyer
Image source:
Help Find Jenna Van Gelderen Facebook page

Jenna’s father recently stated on Facebook, “Someone knows something,” and it’s time for that someone to come forward.

If you have any information about Jenna’s disappearance, please contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS or the DeKalb County Police Department at 770-724-7600. There is a $25,000 reward in this case.

Related Reading and Listening

Help Find Jenna Van Gelderen – Facebook page

Jenna Van GelderenThe Vanished Podcast episode

“Jenna Van Gelderen’s car is found in Georgia, but she remains missing”NBC News article

“Family fears missing 25-year-old woman was taken against her will” – The Atlanta Journal Constitution article

“New reward offered to help find missing woman”WSB TV Atlanta article

“Family slams police report allegedly calls their missing daughter a prostitute”11alive.com article

Interested in missing person cases? Check out the disappearance of Asha Degree and mysterious vanishing of DA Ray Gricar.

Published inMissing Person FilesTrue Crime

Archives

6 Comments

  1. Todd Todd

    This is a very interesting case to me. My son graduated from Georgia Tech last year in Atlanta and works in Atlanta and my daughter got her LHD from Mizzou and does research on Autisum and autistic children.. I’m going to show her this interesting article and get her opinion… I’m leaning boyfriend or roomate.. I hope she’s safe and shows up soon! Keep up the great work Christine!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Todd. First off, you have some amazingly brilliant children and must be proud! I’d love to hear your daughter’s take on this case. Like you, I am thinking it was the boyfriend (or maybe the roommate). I really want Jenna to show up one day and have it turn out that she just needed some time away. I’m really sad to say that I have a bad feeling that won’t be the case. I hope I’m wrong. Anyways, her family deserves some answers. And if you read about the case online, it appears that the police may have bungled the case quite a bit, especially in the beginning. I really feel for the family.

  2. Todd Todd

    Phd not LHD.. I’m not very good with technology

    • Christine Christine

      Ha ha! I recently finished my PhD in English, and I also can’t get the spelling right, so no worries! 🙂

  3. Did the cops do a check to see what ex convicts live nearby? Ones especially who were rapists? Was there any video footage of her in nearby stores or restaurants? Maybe it was the befriend! Maybe she was pregnant? Did anyone talk to her doctors?

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Lorraine. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. All good questions that unfortunately the police are not releasing answers to at the moment. In the post it does mention that there was surveillance where her car was found, but it hasn’t been made public what, if anything, was usual on the footage. And, as I suggested, her boyfriend (or ex, as he said he just broke up with Jenna) is likely one the three suspects that aren’t being publicly discussed. Was she pregnant? This info hasn’t been released either. Great idea to check the area for registered sex offenders though, and I sure hope the police did. Thanks again for your insights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2017 The True Crime Files. All Rights Reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest