June 2007

Kelsey Smith was only 18 years old and had just graduated from high school two weeks ago. Last Saturday she was shopping at Target across the street from a mall where I shop for clothes. As she entered her car, someone rushed up from behind her, overpowered her, and drove off with her in her own car. Two hours later her car was found parked at a Macy’s across the street from the Target. Kelsey was missing.

I followed the case with trepidation, watching news reports, reading the paper. The news showed video footage of her entering and leaving the target store. Then there was grainy footage of activity at her car that was interpreted as a struggle. The following day there was footage of a person of interest leaving the store, with nothing in hand, just before Kelsey exited. The guy was casually dressed, wearing shorts and a white T-shirt. He had very short hair, maybe some facial hair under his chin. He was thin with an angular face. As he walked through the foyer he looked side to side, as if scanning the parking lot.

The day after that there was footage of a Chevy pickup truck entering the parking lot, parking in the same lane as Kelsey’s car, and leaving about two hours later. Everyone immediately realized that the driver of the pickup was most likely the person who abducted Kelsey. The footage of the pickup was very distinctive. It seemed like only a matter of time before someone recognized it.

Her body was found at a semi remote location near a local lake. She had been strangled. Searchers were able to triangulate on signals from her cell phone that had pinged various towers as she was being driven to the spot where she was killed.

Her dad is a big guy. It was tough to see him on the news in so much pain while she was missing. She vanished in broad daylight in a busy parking lot on a Saturday. Her body was found on Wednesday. I knew he had hardly slept in between.

Today there was a motorcycle ride in Kelsey’s honor. I saw the flyer on the door as Kim and I entered the cafĂ©. More than 200 motorcyclsits rode around Kansas City on the 435 loop. With each bike paying 20 dollars to a memorial fund, the group raised more than $4000. Kelsey’s parents joined the ride. I was really sorry I missed it. Having followed the story so closely, it would have been nice to connect with some other people. The highway ride with 200 other bikers would have been quite a memorable experience.