What Happened To The Car Of Jenna Van Gelderen, Who Vanished From Atlanta In 2017?

Jenna Van Gelderen, along with her car and two cell phones, vanished from her parents’ home in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Searching For Jenna Van Gelderen
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Searching For Jenna Van Gelderen

In August 2017 in an attractive Atlanta suburb, 25-year-old Jenna Van Gelderen is house-sitting for her parents when she vanishes. Does an antique tapestry that went missing from the house at the same time hold the key to the case? Did Jenna’s autism play a role in her disappearance? Jenna had a second cellphone that her family didn’t know about; what clues does that reveal? With a $50,000 reward not yet yielding answers, Stephanie Bauer visits Atlanta to look into Jenna’s story.

On Aug. 19, 2017, Jenna Van Gelderen disappeared from her parents’ home in the Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. The 25-year-old had been housesitting when she seemingly vanished without a trace, leaving behind several personal items and the family’s elderly cat.

To this day, Jenna has not been found, and limited information has been released about the case. The last known time anyone heard from Jenna was around 2 a.m. the morning she went missing, when she texted a friend that she was going to lie down, according to an incident report obtained by Oxygen.com.

Two weeks later, on Sept. 5, her dark blue 2010 Mazda 6 sedan was spotted along a road in northwest Atlanta, reported NBC News. Jenna’s handbag, suitcase and clothes were inside the unlocked Mazda, according to her father, Leon Van Gelderen. 

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In conversation with “Searching For,” an original series on Oxygen.com, Leon said the car was in disarray — covered in leaves and various debris, and compartments were open with items strewn about the interior.

Police also found evidence that someone else other than Jenna had driven the car. The driver seat had been pushed back, suggesting a taller person might have been driving it, Dekalb County Police Department Capt. Anthony Ford told “Searching For.”

A cell phone charger that did not match either of Jenna’s phones was also found in the car by her brother, Will Van Gelderen, according to Leon.

After the car was found, Leon said he “knew right away that the chance of Jenna being alive was very limited,” as he believes she would have never taken off without her personal items.

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In the weeks following her disappearance, police learned that Jenna’s second cell phone pinged a tower in Fairburn, Georgia, about 20 miles away from her home, around 7:15 a.m. on the morning she vanished. Around the same time, her car was spotted by a license plate reader camera back in Atlanta.

It is unknown if Jenna was in her car, with her phone, or at neither location, but the Dekalb County Police Department is “very confident that the car and the phone were not in the same place,” Capt. Ford told “Searching For.”

Police found no further evidence inside Jenna’s car, and it has since been returned to the family. There have been no reported sightings of Jenna since August 2017.

Jenna was last seen possibly wearing a green T-shirt with “San Antonio” on the front, a black tank top and black yoga pants. She is 4 feet, 11 inches tall, and weighs approximately 140 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

If you have any information in connection to her case, please contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477 or the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Tip Line at 1-800-579-8477. Crime Stoppers and the Van Gelderen family are offering a combined $50,000 reward for information regarding Jenna’s disappearance.

For case updates and to help us dive into these disappearances, join the Searching For Facebook group.

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An original series that dives into disappearances across the U.S., "Searching For" hopes to raise awareness about the victims' cases and seeks help from their communities through local town hall screenings. Join the discussion and connect with other viewers.

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