(A 2007 article)
LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Call it mother's instinct, or maybe that suspicious nature as a Richland County sheriff's deputy, but the Lexington County Sheriff's Department called in members of the Gutierrez family Monday. We can't give you the details of what they talked about, because it could hamper the investigation.
This is happening on Jessie's birthday.
One of the people questioned was the little girl who was sleeping right beside Jessie the night she disappeared. Now, for the first time, Jessie's sister Rebecca is sharing her story.
"No one should have to live through this nightmare we have lived through since '86," Rebecca says.
If the lead suspect in the disappearance of her sister Jessie goes to trial, she could be the key witness. That night, June 7, 1986, six-year-old Rebecca was sleeping in the same bed with her little sister, a scene that haunts her 21 years later. "That man standing over our bed and him bending over to pick Jessie up. I see his face every night before I go to bed."
It's a face she described from the beginning, the man with the magic hat.
Authorities have suspected a West Columbia man from day one, but have not charged him. Authorities say his fingerprint was found at the scene. He's a man who raped a women days after Jessie disappeared.
He's now a convicted sex offender who did time, who authorities say told a cell mate that he killed a little girl in Lexington County, that he wore a cowboy hat as he took her.
"I relive it every night since '86, every night I lay my head down and go to sleep," says Rebecca. She says she was paralyzed by fear that night. She couldn't scream, couldn't move.
Rebecca says Jessie never woke up as the man walked out of the room, her sister slumped over his shoulder.
Instead of telling her mom right then, Rebecca pulled a blanket over her head. To this day, she hasn't stopped blaming herself and reliving the night. "I see it like I'm there all over again, except this time I jump on his back. I scream, get on his back."
Debbie Gutierrez-Garnsey says, "I don't blame my daughter today. I love all of my children. I blame the person that took Jessie, not my daughter."
Twenty-eight now and a mother of two, Rebecca named her daughter after the sister she didn't have time to get to know. "She was only four. What hurts the most, I couldn't tell you what her favorite music is - just the little things, her favorite food, favorite cookie, her seeing my daughter and son, being an aunt."
While both feel the system has let them down in the past, they say this time they have new hope. This time will be different.
Debbie says her faith tells her so. "I know I was led by God. God's not going to let this go - heard today, forgotten tomorrow. We're going to get results."
Rebecca says, "We want them to follow through with what they should have been doing back in 1986. We want justice, closure. This is something we'll have to live with all of our life, but it would be a little easier knowing the person who did this goes to jail and pays for what he's done to my sister, our family."
So where does the Lexington County Sheriff's Department stand? Will there be an arrest?
A spokesman reiterated Monday afternoon that until they take definitive action they won't talk about the case.
|Case Type: Non Family Abduction |
DOB: Dec 3, 1981
Missing Date: Jun 6, 1986
Race: White Age Now: 29 Height: 3'0" (91 cm)
Missing City: LEXINGTON
Weight: 32 lbs (15 kg)
Missing State : SCHair Color: BrownMissing Country: United States
Eye Color: Brown
Case Number: NCMC601626
Jessica's photo is shown age-progressed to 25 years. She was last seen at home and became missing between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.