Jennifer Kesse disappearance: Family says it's 'close' to answers in 15-year-old cold case
ORLANDO, Fla. - The parents of Jennifer Kesse say they are "closer than ever" to uncovering answers in the disappearance of their daughter, who vanished 15 years ago from Central Florida, in a case that has long baffled investigators.
"We may have answers this year," said the woman's father, Drew Kesse, noting that new information received in recent weeks has prompted him to expand his team of private detectives leading the investigation.
"We're making a lot of headway and we're closer than ever to bringing Jennifer home," he said.
On the morning of Jan. 24, 2006, Jennifer Kesse, of Orlando, Fla., failed to report to her job as a finance manager at a well-known timeshare company. The 24-year-old woman was last heard from at around 10 p.m. the night before when she spoke by phone with her family and boyfriend from inside her condominium.
RELATED: Jennifer Kesse disappearance: Newly released police photos suggest violent struggle
Investigators say they believe Kesse was targeted after leaving her home for work on the morning of the 24th. Her car, a black Chevy Malibu, was found abandoned two days later at an apartment complex in a high-crime area about one mile away from her condo. Authorities uncovered surveillance video showing an unknown person parking Kesse’s car near the pool area of that complex at 12 noon on January 24. The person of interest – believed to be male and dressed in workman’s clothes – has never been identified and no arrests have ever been made in the case.
"This person holds the key to solving the case," said Michael Torretta, a former federal agent and private investigator hired by the Kesse family.
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The Kesse family sued the Orlando Police Department in 2018 for all the records to date in their daughter’s case. Frustrated by the police handling of the investigation, the Kesses demanded the files be released to them in a legal battle that was unprecedented in a missing person case. An agreement was reached, and the Kesses in turn received some 16,000 pages of records, which Fox News examines in its true crime podcast, "House of Broken Dreams: the Jennifer Kesse story."
The podcast, which debuted Nov. 12, received more than one million downloads in its first month. After the podcast's release, Drew Kesse said he and his team received credible new information in the case. Kesse declined to elaborate on details given the sensitive nature of the investigation.
"Everyday there are active interviews and actions being taken to find the people responsible for taking Jennifer or the people with the information to piece it all together," said Kesse. "It's painstaking work."
Evidence photos previously obtained by the Fox News Investigative Unit suggest a violent struggle took place on the hood of the young woman’s car. Excerpts of police files also reveal that authorities immediately suspected a physical assault on the hood. Detective Julius Gause of the Orlando Police Department wrote of the police at the scene, "While observing the front of the victim's vehicle, these detectives observed what appeared to have been someone being pushed across the head of the vehicle."
"It looked like someone was thrown down on the top of the hood – arms spread out and then dragged back almost like off the hood to the point where you can almost see fingers scribbling down the hood," Drew Kesse told Fox News.
In an open letter to their daughter on the 15th anniversary of her disappearance, the Kesses, who maintain a GoFundMe page for the investigation, said they remain "relentless" in their pursuit of answers.
"We will not cease until we have found her, for the good or the bad. Jennifer is loved by us, her family, so many friends as well as strangers around our country and the world," the family wrote.
"Jennifer, we love you in a place where there’s no space or time."