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6 Things To Know About The Case Of Jenna Van Gelderen, Who Vanished From Atlanta In 2017
The night the missing 25-year-old disappeared, a large Egyptian tapestry was stolen from her family’s home.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 19, 2017, Jenna Van Gelderen texted a friend that she was going to lie down. It was the last time anyone heard from the 25-year-old, who has now been missing for the past two years.
Police have released limited information about the investigation, and while theories continue to circulate online, there are still no definitive answers in Jenna’s disappearance.
“Searching For,” a original series on Oxygen.com, is reexamining several key pieces of information about the case, shedding light on the months leading up to Jenna’s vanishing and the days following it.
Here are the six things to know about the case as Oxygen takes a closer look in “Searching For.”
1. Jenna Van Gelderen vanished on Aug. 19, 2017.
Jenna went missing from her parents’ home in the Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, on Aug. 19, 2017. At the time of her disappearance, Jenna had been housesitting and watching the family’s elderly cat, Jessie, while her parents, Leon Van Gelderen and Roseanne Glick, were on vacation.
On the morning of Aug. 19, a veterinary nurse arrived at the home to administer an injection to Jessie, but when he knocked on the door, no one answered. The nurse then called Jenna’s brother, Will Van Gelderen, who came over to let him inside.
According to Will, the doors of the house were locked, and the lights and TV had been left on. Will found no trace of his sister, and her handbag, cell phone and car were also gone.
2. A family tapestry was stolen the night Jenna disappeared.
Another item Will noticed missing from the home was a large, heavy Egyptian tapestry that hung in the living room, according to Crime Stoppers Greater Atlanta. The family said it was stolen from its glass frame and then replaced on the wall.
It would have taken at least two people to remove the frame from its spot, according to the family. The tapestry was of sentimental value and had little monetary worth, leading the family to question why a thief would have targeted it.
“It’s the strangest part of this case,” Leon Van Gedleren told “Searching For,” an original series on Oxygen.com, adding that police told him they “had never seen anything like it.”
It remains missing to this day.
3. Jenna’s car was found two weeks after she went missing.
On Sept. 5, 2017, Jenna’s dark blue 2010 Mazda 6 sedan was spotted along a road in northwest Atlanta, reported NBC News. The car was found unlocked, and her handbag, suitcase and clothing were inside.
Leon told “Searching For” that the car was covered in leaves and various debris, and that compartments were open with items strewn about the interior. There was also evidence that another person other than Jenna had driven the car.
The driver seat pushed back, indicating 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.
Police found no further evidence inside Jenna’s car, and it has since been returned to the family.
4. Jenna had a second cell phone her family didn’t know about.
After Jenna vanished, her parents found out she had two cell phones — one on their T-Mobile family plan, and another on a private account.
Jenna’s second cell phone pinged a tower in Fairburn, Georgia, about 20 miles away from her home, at approximately 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 police are “very confident that the car and the phone were not in the same place,” said Cpt. Ford.
5. Jenna was being pressured to leave her parents’ house the night she went missing.
Following Jenna’s disappearance, Will was able to access her phone records and social media accounts, and through a series of Google chats, the family learned she had spoken to an unknown individual the night she vanished.
The individual was pressuring Jenna to leave her family’s home and return to her apartment, according to Leon. The Van Gelderens, however, have not been able to determine who sent the messages to Jenna.
6. Jenna’s family believes she was being exploited before she vanished.
Jenna was diagnosed with high-functioning autism in 2016. Although she was independent and had moved out of her parents’ home in the months prior to her vanishing, Leon and Roseanne explained to “Searching For” that Jenna was extremely trusting and vulnerable, and that she could have been easily manipulated.
While working at a local pet store, Jenna had been coerced by “certain men” to steal approximately $3,000 from the company, which led to her termination, said Leon. When the family later accessed Jenna’s records, they discovered she had been making payments to someone though Western Union since 2015, and that the transfers stopped in the months leading up to her disappearance.
Leon believes Jenna was unwittingly involved in nefarious activity.
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 GBI 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.