http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2007/dec/31/missing-without-a-trace-missing-van-disappeared/Gone without a trace
Missing Van disappeared along with Kirsten
By Don Wade
Monday, December 31, 2007
Print a poster: http://www.projectjason.org/aan/AAN_KirstenKryszak.pdf
She would be 25 now.
She would still have her looks -- the smashing smile, the big brown eyes, the killer dimples -- and maybe she would have settled down. Or if not settled down, calmed down, grown up.
Tonight, in the heart of Midtown's Cooper-Young area -- Memphis' mini-Greenwich Village -- Kirsten Kryszak might have strolled past the funky little storefront that is Goner Records.
Dropped in for a quick bite at Dish Mediterranean Tapas Lounge and said hi to Scott, the roadie-turned-cook she would know from the old days and, like her, a recovering drug addict.
Landed at the Young Avenue Deli for tonight's Lucero show. Hung out with some of her musician and wannabe-musician "friends" from back in the day -- Brent, Josh, and the guy everyone called "Tolly." Maybe even run into Angela, assuming that wild kindred spirit still draws breath.
Or maybe, as she did seven years ago, Kirsten Kryszak would have gone to a party. That's what you're supposed to do on New Year's Eve, right? Go to a party,
have a good time, let the last night of the old year bleed into the first day of the rest of your life?
That's what Kirsten, then 18, did on a cold and snowy Sunday night.
Maybe it is what she would do again.
Maybe this time, she would make it home.
* * *
"I knew the minute I heard she was missing," says Kirsten's mother, Karen St. Mary. "I just knew."
Seven years later, there is no evidence that Kirsten Joy Kryszak is dead. Her body has not been found.
Neither is there any evidence that she is alive. For seven years, her Social Security number has been inactive.
In the days and weeks after she disappeared, an investigator from the Memphis Police Department's Missing Persons Bureau interviewed several people. The sum of those interviews: Kirsten was last seen driving away in a 1988 blue Ford Aerostar van owned by Bradford S. Toland -- "Tolly" to friends.
Toland, Josh Anders and Brent Wolverton, who was semiboyfriend to Kirsten, said then and says now that she stole the van on New Year's Day.
Anders also said then and says now he drove her around for "four or five hours" before she stole the van. They were the last people to see her.
No detective from Missing Persons has spoken to any of them in at least six years. Sgt. Barbara Olive, who has had charge of the case for several years, has never talked to them.
The van, like Kirsten, has disappeared. Database searches using the van's vehicle identification number show no activity since 2000. And the MPD's Central Records returns no document showing that Toland reported the van as stolen.
Twelve days ago Toland, in a brief telephone conversation he ends by hanging up, says he did report the van stolen.
Sgt. Olive says it is possible a formal report was never processed because Toland and Kirsten knew each other. Olive also says: "She's not really the auto-stealing type."
Toland does say he was at the New Year's Eve party. But he refuses to discuss Kirsten or how she came to allegedly steal his van. He doesn't even want to talk about the old days of making a little music with Anders and Wolverton in a band called Interstate.
"Man, I moved on," Toland says. "That's a part of my life I don't want to recall."
* * *
Kirsten grew up in northern Indiana, the daughter of Robert and Karen Kryszak. She had a younger sister, Ashley, who's now 22 and living in Water Valley, Miss., with her boyfriend and their daughter, Sarah.
As Ashley holds Sarah in her lap, feeding her a bottle, she remembers Kirsten loving Mom's Ragu spaghetti and strawberry-flavored ice cream. More than once when speaking of Kirsten she instead says "Sarah." It unnerves the young mother.
"I don't know why I'm saying Sarah," she says, her eyes moist.
When Kirsten and Ashley were little, their parents divorced, the father eventually moving to Memphis, where he still works as an auto-body man and lives with his new wife and their young twins.
Karen also remarried. The divorce, as divorces do, hit the girls hard and perhaps in ways they didn't understand. By the time Kirsten was 13, she was using drugs and sneaking out of the house. At 16, she moved to Memphis to live with her father.
She attended White Station High School for at least parts of two years before dropping out. Twice, her father put her in Lakeside for drug rehab. It didn't take. She kept using and he kicked her out of the house.
Kirsten bounced from place to place, and apparently from man to man, in the weeks before she disappeared. This, her mother and father know, is what she came to be: troubled, unpredictable, self-destructive.
Yet not only do they still love her, they still cherish the little girl who smiled through crooked teeth before braces. They still hear that child giggling, still marvel at the way she almost seemed to take flight when running along the shores of Lake Michigan amid the dunes and the birds.
"The seagull chaser," her father says with the quickest of half-smiles as he runs a hand over his black hair pulled tight into a ponytail.
Years pass ... she never calls.
Years pass ... she doesn't send a card or an e-mail.
Years pass ... and candles are blown out on family birthday cakes, the little plumes of smoke dying before they can kiss dining room ceilings.
"Damn seagulls," the mother says, fighting tears, "she's still my daughter."
* * *
To the MPD's Missing Persons Bureau, Kirsten Kryszak is something else: a cold case frozen in time.
Sgt. Olive says at one point they tried to get Kirsten's case put before a cold case squad working out of homicide, "but before we could get them to take it, (the unit) kind of dissolved."
The bureau receives an average of 400 new missing person cases each month. Retiring Lt. Stephanie Hanscom says they have a 97 percent clearance rate.
"Our cold cases get pushed aside for what we have on a daily basis," says Hanscom.
Kirsten disappeared on New Year's Day. But her mother didn't know until Jan. 3 when a man named Earl called to say Kirsten hadn't been home since Dec. 31. Earl had recently started letting Kirsten stay with him in a duplex in Orange Mound.
Karen didn't find this all that unusual because Kirsten had run away before, in Indiana. And in Memphis, her father had filed a runaway report in August 2000. Turned out to be a road trip to South Dakota, where she and several other people were busted for drug possession.
At 5:30 in the morning on Jan. 7, Karen received another call from Earl. Kirsten still hadn't shown up. Karen called Memphis police.
The missing persons unit had just been formed in October 2000 and the department initially staffed it with retired detectives. A retired detective worked Kirsten's case. Over the years, the case has been handed off to one detective and then another.
Olive, a 25-year MPD veteran, is a pleasant woman. Lt. Hanscom describes her as "kinda nonchalant, but she has a way with people -- they start telling her stuff."
Olive goes over Kirsten's case quickly:
Kirsten "made a little scene at the party." Her boyfriend, identified as Brent Wolverton, was there. She was last seen driving the van owned by Toland. She left in the van alone "as far as we know," Olive says.
Detectives spoke with Toland and Wolverton, Olive says, but "then it got to where they wouldn't return phone calls."
Olive hasn't spoken to Wolverton, Toland or Anders, she says, because the addresses and phone numbers gathered in 2001 are no longer good.
As for what happened to Kirsten?
"It's a hard thing to say," Olive says. "But whatever happened, it was possibly the end result of her choices."
* * *
Late in summer 2000: Kirsten had taken her hippie persona -- the beads and homemade jewelry, the patchwork dresses, the affectation for reggae singer Bob Marley -- a step beyond.
"She had dreadlocks," says her sister Ashley, who with her mother, stepfather and half-brother came for a visit over Labor Day weekend and stayed at The Peabody. "It looked so bad."
The family met her boyfriend at the time, a guy named JaJe Garibaldi.
"He looked a lot like my ex-husband (Kirsten's dad) in his youth," Karen remembers. "Dark hair and dark eyes."
The family also met a girl named Angela on the trip. A "chunky bleach-blond" as Karen recalls, Angela worked as an exotic dancer and seemed to be on her cell phone a lot.
Seven years later, what's certain is that Kirsten had surrounded herself with an interesting cast of characters:
* * *
Kirsten briefly stayed with a mysterious man of Middle Eastern descent nicknamed Victor. He rented a house on Spottswood by the University of Memphis. Shirley Janovich was Victor's landlady.
"Paid his rent," Janovich says with a grin. "In cash."
* * *
The man from Orange Mound named Earl, who first called Karen to say Kirsten was missing, told Karen he did not have a romantic relationship with her daughter, even though they had met in a bar.
* * *
Former North Mississippi Allstars roadie-turned-cook Scott Carter says Garibaldi, Kirsten's ex-boyfriend, was a "ladies man" with "a dark side."
* * *
Brent Wolverton, now 31, married and working a construction job, today describes his relationship with Kirsten as "nothing serious, man. It was cool for the time being."
* * *
Toland, the owner of the van, refuses to discuss her.
* * *
And then there's Josh Anders, who said he drove Kirsten around for "four or five hours" in Toland's van on New Year's Day. He said she couldn't find the house she was looking for and she stole the van when he returned to Wolverton's Midtown apartment and got out of the van.
By any measure, it is a peculiar story.
Now, in December 2007, a stranger approaches the tall and angular Anders one morning in his gravel driveway outside the little yellow house he shares with his wife and their two dogs and three cats in Byhalia, Miss.
Anders, 28, wears blue jeans, an old pair of black tennis shoes and a brown jacket over a black sweatshirt. He is about to climb into an exhaust-spewing pickup and drive to work at a granite shop.
A pack of Marlboros rests in his jacket pocket, and he carries a plastic cup of yogurt and a banana.
The stranger mentions the missing girl's name. Anders rubs his hand over his light brown goatee, and his eyes go searching.
"Kirsten Kryszak?" he finally says. "That name sounds familiar."More info:
Missing in Memphis
In 2006, 4,344 people went missing in Memphis, according to Memphis Police.
This year, through Dec. 17, 4,127 missing person cases have been filed.
The missing persons bureau receives an average of 400 new missing person cases each month, and according to retiring Lt. Stephanie Hanscom, 97 percent of those are cleared.$10,000 reward
Kirsten Kryszak's mother and stepfather, Karen and Pete St. Mary, are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the resolution of Kirsten's Jan. 1, 2001, disappearance. Anyone with information on the case should call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH (901-528-2274).
"I knew the minute I heard she was missing. I just knew."
Karen St. Mary, Kirsten's motherhttp://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/jan/01/missing-today-different-stories-arise-missing/Pair now give conflicting tales of last time missing girl was seen
By Don Wade
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
"Always tell the truth. That way, you don't have to remember what you said."
-- Mark Twain
Seven years ago today, Kirsten Kryszak and the van she supposedly stole disappeared from the planet.
Josh Anders and Brent Wolverton, who once played in a local band called Interstate, are by their own admission two of the last people to see 18-year-old Kirsten Joy Kryszak and that 1988 blue Ford Aerostar van.
"I could see her taking off, to like, California," says Wolverton, who at the time was Kirsten's latest quasi-boyfriend and is now 31, married and living in a Southaven apartment complex.
"She probably sold the van. I'd say for drugs," says Anders, 28, who shares a small Byhalia, Miss., house
with his wife. "If she was smart,
she'd head out of the city. Because if you steal somebody's vehicle. ..."
You vanish forever?
Wherever she is, she hasn't used her Social Security number in seven years, hasn't called her family, hasn't followed her pattern when she still lived in Indiana and would run away.
"She always came back," says Jeffery Brown, 24, a friend who lives in the same Chesterton, Ind., subdivision as Kirsten's mother.
In fact, just days before she disappeared after the New Year's Eve party, Kirsten had gone back to Indiana to visit family. Part of that time, Brown says, she was "frantic looking for coke."
But part of that time, she was a little girl again. Her mother, Karen St. Mary, and sister, Ashley Kryszak, recall the three of them spending Christmas morning snuggling and giggling, finding a precious moment when all was still right with the world.
The previous year, even amid the drama in her own life, Kirsten called Ashley on her 15th birthday and sang on the answering machine.
"She loved her sister," says Wolverton. "She showed me a picture a couple of times, said her sister looked up to her."
Is this somebody who chooses to disappear?
"I don't see Kirsten killing herself or just taking off," says Brown, her Indiana friend.
But suppose she was ready to run. Would she leave behind all her other clothes and belongings?
Would she drive away on a snowy winter's day in a miniskirt and a light jacket -- the clothes Anders and Wolverton recall her wearing?
Seven years ago, Josh Anders and Brent Wolverton more or less told matching stories concerning Kirsten Kryszak's disappearance:
She was at the same Midtown New Year's Eve party they were, near Wolverton's apartment on Clark Place. Bradford S. Toland -- "Tolly," the owner of the blue Ford Aerostar van -- also was there. A band was playing up in the attic at the party and Wolverton was working the lights. Kirsten was "high."
As Wolverton recalls events, Kirsten kept playing with the lights and he told her: "You're (expletive) up the show."
Wolverton took Kirsten outside the party. But Anders says Wolverton became irritated for other reasons.
"I remember Brent saying, 'Don't act like this is a strip club,' " says Anders.
Fast forward to mid-morning New Year's Day 2001. Kirsten asks Anders for a ride home and he borrows Tolly's van.
Anders, according to what he and Wolverton told police then, drove Kirsten around for several hours and she couldn't find the house she was looking for. So they came back and parked near Wolverton's pad on Clark Place.
When Anders walked up to Wolverton's front door, she slid behind the wheel and took off.
But seven years later, Anders and Wolverton tell conflicting stories in vivid detail.
The New Year's Eve party went late. Wolverton says after he escorted Kirsten from the party, he next saw her at 3:30 a.m. standing outside where people were milling about.
"I didn't go anywhere else," he says. "I probably sat around my apartment and (shot the bull) with a few folks."
Anders says Kirsten awakened him about 10 a.m. on New Year's Day. He had slept on the couch at the Midtown apartment of Tolly's brother, Bobby.
Taking Wolverton's and Anders' stories together, that leaves an unexplained gap from 3:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
"There's this whole lapse of time when no one seems to know where she was or what she did," says her mother, Karen St. Mary.
Karen and Kirsten's stepfather, Pete St. Mary, came to Memphis several weeks later in 2001. They talked to Wolverton and Toland without satisfaction.
Wolverton, recalling her family's visit, puts forth another theory: "My personal thought was that she overdosed because of the path she was on."
The MPD's Missing Persons Bureau and a private detective firm conducted short-lived investigations and posted flyers with Kirsten's picture throughout the Cooper-Young area in Midtown.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't find evidence of a crime," says Memphis police Sgt. Barbara Olive, who has had the case for several years -- but has never spoken to Anders, Wolverton or Toland, the last three people to see Kirsten.
"She's wanting a ride home," Anders says now of New Year's Day. "I've got a hangover. My car won't start."
This, he explains, is how he came to borrow Toland's van. Anders says he and Kirsten went to CK's Coffee Shop for breakfast, and then came back to his apartment for him to shower and change clothes.
"She stayed in the van, with the heater running, so she could stay warm," he says.
Was this not the perfect opportunity for her to steal the van?
Yet, she didn't. Anders says he drove her "all over God's country," an odyssey that took them to West Memphis, "into the 'hood," and finally Mississippi.
"By the time we got back, I'd put gas in that damn van twice."
As he tells it, she first directed him to West Memphis and a big house set back off the road. She told him it was either her mom's or grandparents' place, but then said, "Nobody will be home."
And so it went, he says. He drove to one place after another, but never the right place.
The roads were snowy and slick, yet he kept driving. Her behavior was bizarre -- "she's happy one minute, sad the next, laughing, then crying" -- and yet he let her keep telling him where to go.
She wouldn't talk most of the time, he says, but she tried to put the moves on him by "dancing in her seat" and asking him to pull over.
"I shot her down," he says.
So Anders covers three states, rejects Kirsten's advances and says they return to Clark Place after dark -- "the street lights were on, I remember that" -- and that's when she steals the van at the moment he walks up to Wolverton's door.
"I get out of the van, stupid me, and the van's still running, the heater's still going, and she takes off," he says.
Not forever, though, because he says she came around the block and was "laughing and pointing at me" as he chased her, adding, "she damn near hit me."
As Anders tells his tale one morning, he sits in his living room before going to work at a granite shop. He is tall and lean, a little pale, with a thin goatee. He holds a coffee cup -- "my wife's cup," he says with a smile -- that depicts Winnie the Pooh tumbling, finally landing on his head.
"The way the road conditions were, I'm surprised she didn't get in a wreck right off the bat," he offers, filling the silence.
Was Wolverton home when he went to the door and she took the van?
"It doesn't seem like he was, no sir."
Has he seen Wolverton lately?
"I remember seeing him at my wedding reception -- three years ago," says Anders. "I really don't think I remember seeing him after that."
Brent Wolverton recalls New Year's Day 2001 this way: He woke up to a winter wonderland. He walked outside his apartment to have a smoke. A girl across the way, whose third-floor apartment window faced Wolverton's apartment, waved at him.
"She invited me over for hot chocolate," he says, his smile showing the gap between his two front teeth. "Pretty girl. I'd been waiting for that hot chocolate invitation."
He accepted it, he says, and was standing by her window looking at his apartment, around noon, when the blue 1988 Ford Aerostar pulled up.
"Here comes Kirsten, Shaun and another guy we used to play music with." Wolverton pauses. "... Josh. I don't remember his last name off the top of my head. I really don't."
Wolverton says Kirsten walked up to his apartment door and knocked, then returned to the van. Then all of them went to the door and knocked.
"After that, they left," he says. "That was the last time I saw her.
"I got a call around 2 p.m. from Shaun (Toland) or Josh, I don't remember which one, saying Kirsten had stolen Shaun's minivan. I think they said something like they were getting out at a gas station and she had taken the car."
If what Wolverton says now is true, that Kirsten was with Anders and Toland New Year's Day and stole the van when they were at a gas station around 2 p.m., then Anders' story can't be true.
If Anders' version is true, that he alone drove Kirsten around for several hours and she stole the van after dark on Wolverton's street, then Wolverton's story can't be true.
"I feel the same way that I've always felt," says Karen St. Mary, Kirsten's mother. "Somebody knows something."
Seven years later, Kirsten Joy Kryszak is missing. Nothing less, nothing more.
For a long time, Josh Anders, Bradford S. Toland and Brent Wolverton were not totally unlike Kirsten: They had disappeared -- at least to police.
Now Toland seems unhappy to be found, via a call to his mother requesting a way to contact him.
"What if I wanted to go find your mother's phone number?" he huffs into the phone and hangs up.
Wolverton takes the opposite approach. Hours after meeting with a reporter, after saying he knew Kirsten "six months to a year, tops," he calls back.
"Hey, man, my wife and I were just sitting here talking and I was curious: What was her last name?"
Kryszak -- K-r-y-s-z-a-k.
The name that Josh Anders said sounded "familiar" when a reporter approached him on his driveway asking about the past.
Now, after talking about Kirsten for an hour, after inviting the stranger in for coffee and politely answering every question, Anders again stands in his driveway, his wife by his side.
The stranger mentions one last thing: These past seven years? They've been hard on Kirsten's family.
Anders nods a little, lights himself a Marlboro, inhales ... exhales, blowing smoke.
"I do feel for the family, I really do," he says. "Maybe they'll get lucky and she'll be all right.
"Maybe not."What happens in a cold case?
In the seven years that Kirsten Kryszak has been missing, several detectives from the Memphis Police Department's Missing Persons Bureau have worked the case.
"Kidnappings will go to the felony assault squad," says Sgt. Terry Wiechert of the Missing Persons Bureau. Homicide detectives, she says, won't get involved "unless there's a body. I'm not trying to be trivial, but typically that's the only thing they handle nowadays."
Wiechert is not assigned to the Kirsten Kryszak case. Sgt. Barbara Olive is. She says, "Unfortunately, I don't think there's going to be a happy outcome to this one."
Karen St. Mary believes her daughter is dead, too. She also believes police could have, should have, done more over the years to find her. She says her calls to Memphis police always end the same way.
"I'm always politely told I'm screwed," she says.
Kristin Helm, a spokeswoman for the TBI, says one of two conditions must exist in a case for the TBI to become involved.
"To enter a case, we either have to be requested by a local law enforcement agency, such as the Memphis Police Department," Helm says, "or it has to be at the request of district attorneys -- 'I want you to open an investigation on such-and-such a case.'"
"Unfortunately, we couldn't find evidence of a crime."
Memphis police Sgt. Barbara Olive, an investigator on the case
"I don't see Kirsten killing herself or just taking off."
friend from Indiana