http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews/news/538994,4_1_JO02_DUVALL_S1.article Above Images:
Jeri, circa 1990Still missing
SEARCH CONTINUES FOR SHOREWOOD MOTHER WHO VANISHED IN 1990
September 2, 2007
By JANET LUNDQUIST Staff Writer
The story could have been printed last spring.
A mother of two disappears without a trace. Her credit cards and bank account remain untouched, her car still parked in the garage.
"This is not like her at all," her construction worker husband says, adding that it wasn't like her to go anywhere without her children.
But this isn't the story of missing Plainfield mother Lisa Stebic, whose disappearance has drawn extensive media coverage and captivated the public's interest since she vanished April 30. This missing-person case has been open for 17 years.
Jeri Lynn Duvall was last seen by her husband Bob Duvall on the night of June 8, 1990, at their Shorewood home. On the insistence of Jeri's mother to notify the police, Bob reported her missing four days later.
Since those horrifying, yet still hopeful early days of her disappearance, Jeri's family has been awash in grief and anger -- but today is resigned to the belief that the worst has likely come to pass -- a heart-wrenching lack of closure.
"Your logical side says after so much time that we know what happened," said Jeri's sister-in-law, Lynn Arwood of Manhattan. "But there's always that little piece of you that would love to see her walk in the door."
Still on the case
Shorewood police Lt. Jeff Hanley, who was first assigned to the case, has traveled out of state to follow up on leads as recently as this year.
"I'm obsessed," he said. "I'm fixated. One of my fears is that we missed something, that I missed something."
No traces of Jeri or clues to her whereabouts were ever found. Her car remained in the garage, disabled by her husband. Bank accounts she had secretly set up in her and her children's names were never touched.
"Every holiday since Jeri turned up missing has been tragically different for that family," Hanley said.
Jeri's family faces conflicting emotions at each family gathering: Do they celebrate without her? Do they verbalize the fact that she's not there?
"You feel guilty if you try to celebrate," said Jeri's sister, Judy Smith of Plainfield. "I know I do. I don't want to celebrate. You celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving because it's a holiday, but there is no celebration."
Jeri's twin brother, Terry Arwood of Manhattan, hasn't celebrated his birthday since his sister's disappearance. His daughters, born after their aunt vanished, didn't always understand why.
"We do little things at home -- 'This is for you, but it's not a birthday present,'" Lynn said. "My girls desperately want to celebrate it for him. But it's not a birthday. It's just another rough time."
Without their mom
Jeri's disappearance has brought despair and devastation to every generation of her family, including the one that has grown up without her.
Heather was 12 when her mother went missing. She and her sister Lisa, who was 8 at the time, had spent that weekend in Michigan with their grandparents. When they came home, their mother was gone. Their father, with scratches on his arm and face, picked them up from Jeri's parents' house.
Heather remembers her parents arguing before she and Lisa left, a quarrel that began with their dad's refusal to attend a nephew's graduation.
"I honestly didn't want to leave her with him," Heather said. "I wanted to stay with her. She told me that everything was fine and that it would be OK to go. And I did, and that was the last time I saw her."
The argument she'd witnessed that day was actually one of the more civil disagreements between her parents, she said. She remembers other fights when her father choked her mother; siphoned gasoline out of her car then threatened to burn the house down; and chased her mom around the neighborhood with a knife.
"He got mad at her one time, I don't know what they were fighting about, but he busted out the wall of our house with a sledgehammer," Heather said.
After a fight, Jeri would be showered with gifts, she said. Bob bought Jeri, among other things, a diamond ring, a billiard table and a car.
Her mother never said anything about the rocky relationship, Heather recalled. Not even after a particularly heated fight moved Jeri to bring her daughters along to the safety of a hotel room.
When the fights occurred, Heather said, Jeri would hide her purse.
"Whenever he would get mad at her, he would do something to disable the car so she couldn't leave," Heather said, speculating that her mother hid her purse so she would have her ID and credit cards if she needed them.
Several months after Jeri disappeared, the girls found her ID and credit cards stuffed into a pocket of a snowsuit.
Heather gave them to Bob, who said he'd give them to police. He never did, police said.
Bob did not talk about what happened the night her mother disappeared, Heather said. As children, Heather and Lisa were never allowed to talk to police.
"Instead of being a 13-year-old girl looking at boys, (I'd) look at adult females and wonder if one of them was my mom," Heather said.
After one incident when police were called to the house, Heather asked them to take her away from her father. She went to a foster home while he fought her grandparents for custody.
Heather moved in with Jeri's parents when she was 16 and never spoke to her father again. She entered the military after high school and moved out of the area.
Lisa stayed with Bob. They moved between Michigan and Florida several times throughout the 1990s.
Today, Heather, 29, is married and the mother of a 4-year-old daughter with another daughter due in December. Lisa, 25, is in a medium-security Florida prison on an auto theft conviction.
"Now, when I look back and understand everything that she was going through, she was extremely protective of me," Heather said. "Bob never disciplined us whatsoever. Now I understand that it was probably out of fear that he would hurt us."
Heather, who went to see Hanley for the first time when she turned 18, keeps her phone number unlisted to avoid contact with Bob.
"I have a 4-year-old daughter and have a baby on the way," she said, her voice breaking. "She wasn't there for my wedding. That's the hardest part. I can't pick up the phone and call her and ask for advice."
Still a suspect
Bob Duvall remains the sole suspect in Jeri's disappearance. During his only interview with police, Hanley said Duvall's story was different than what he had told reporters covering the case.
"I remember telling him, 'You will always be under suspicion,' until he can clear his name," Hanley said. "Until he can provide sufficient alibis, which he couldn't. And can't."
Reached twice on his cell phone, Duvall, who now lives in Florida, asked The Herald News to call him back "another time." Subsequent calls were sent to his voice mail and unreturned.
Bob Duvall has never been charged in connection with his wife's disappearance.
However, he is no stranger to police. In 1981, he missed a court date in Will County on a charge of felony aggravated battery, accused of working with another man to break the legs, wrist and arm of a third man with a steel pipe.
Duvall's lawyer missed that court date, too. When summoned to court, the lawyer said he wanted off the case, that Duvall "roughed him up" twice and landed him in bed for a week.
About two weeks later Duvall was arrested in Los Angeles with Jeri, who was also wanted by the court. Her first husband had been awarded custody of their 1-year-old daughter and the baby was with the couple in California.
Duvall was later convicted of the felony aggravated battery charge, Hanley said.
Six months after Jeri was reported missing, a classified ad seeking lingerie models was published in the newspaper with Duvall's number as the contact.
Investigators looking into the modeling business learned that Duvall had weapons in his house. In December 1990, Shorewood police searched the house and found a .22 caliber handgun. Duvall was later arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
In 1994, Duvall faced felony assault charges in Ludington, Mich., accused of shooting at a car with four people inside. The charges were later dropped because police reportedly were unable to serve most of the witnesses.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Department in Florida has a record of arrests for Duvall dating to 1996, including charges of disorderly intoxication; driving under the influence; and sale and delivery of marijuana.
Jeri had run away from Duvall before, Hanley said, but never vanished. The day she disappeared, she and Duvall were supposed to close on the sale of their house on the 400 block of Campbell Street in Joliet -- not an opportune time to leave.
Jeri's family believes, as Hanley does, that Bob had something to do with Jeri's disappearance.
"I witnessed the type of man he was, I witnessed what he did to her," Heather said. "I know that's what he's capable of. Nothing else fits or makes sense."
Even though Jeri has been gone for more than 17 years, in some ways she's still with her family. Their children have her eyes and her spunky personality.
And her family still looks for her.
"I won't stop looking. I won't stop trying to find her," Judy said. "I don't care what has to be done, I'm not going to stop. Until the last day I breathe, I'm going to look for her."
They have even followed strangers they saw in public, thinking they could be Jeri.
"We grieve, but at the same time you don't want to grieve. Because if you grieve you give up hope, and there still is that little bit of hope," Judy said. "Her girls need to know what happened. They need the truth."
"It's been a lifetime," said Jeri's father, Charles Arwood of New Lenox. "My life's almost over with and I'll never know (what happened to Jeri)."
Jeri also visits them in their sleep. Terry, Judy and their mother, Dot Arwood, all have had the same dream about her, sometimes on the same night. In the dream, Jeri tells her family, "I'm here. Find me. Help me."
"(Terry) tells me what his dreams were, and not long after that, I'll get a call from (Judy) and it's the same dream," Lynn said. "I don't know if it's a family that has lost her and desperately wants to find her, or if she's asking for help. I know that sounds odd, but it's the same dream they always have."
Judy says the dreams come throughout the year, but are the strongest around June, when Jeri vanished, and July, when she and Terry were born.
"I've had dreams where she's sitting on the side of my bed, and they're so vivid," Judy said. "I wake up and it's almost like I expect her to be there. That's the bad part about dreaming. When you're dreaming, you're with her, but then you have to wake up and then she's gone again."
Contact Janet Lundquist at (815) 729-6014 or firstname.lastname@example.org