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Jenna Van Gelderen Was 25 When She Vanished From Atlanta In 2017. What Happened To Her?
Jenna Van Gelderen went missing from her parents’ Atlanta-area home, and no one has heard from her since.
Dubbed Atlanta’s second suburb, the neighborhood of Druid Hills is nothing less than picturesque. Tudor and Jacobean-style homes sit behind perfectly manicured lawns, a landscaping truck always within sight. Neighbors smile and wave as they walk by, and locusts hum in the expansive trees that line every street.
It’s the type of place where it’s easy to think, “Nothing bad could happen here.”
But on the 1200 block of Oakdale Road NE is Leon Van Gelderen and Roseanne Glick’s house, the last known location where their missing daughter, Jenna Van Gelderen, was heard from, according to an incident report obtained by Oxygen.com.
Jenna vanished on Aug. 19, 2017 while housesitting for her parents, and her final communication known to authorities — a text message — was sent around 2:00 a.m., telling a friend that she was going to lie down.
In the past two years, Dekalb County Police have conducted dozens of interviews and served multiple search warrants, but they are still no closer to finding out what happened to the missing 25-year-old.
To Roseanne, the “not knowing” is the worst part of her daughter’s disappearance.
“I keep my cell phone every night next to the bed just hoping that she’ll call,” she told “Searching For,” an original series on Oxygen.com.
In spite of, or perhaps because of their immense pain, Roseanne and Leon have become tireless advocates for Jenna. Along with their son, Will Van Gelderen, the family begins their mornings by asking themselves, “What are we going to do for Jenna today? How are we going to move this case forward?”
Leon labels their call to action a “team effort,” with Will tracking down investigative leads, and Roseanne contacting police and local politicians to bring awareness to the case. In a way, it appears they each have been working to fill a role that Jenna once held as the family’s unifier.
Growing up, Jenna relied on a rigid schedule — a symptom of her high-functioning autism — and made sure her parents kept up birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, and other family events. Roseanne remembers that Jenna brought them together through her regimens.
“We were — we are — a close family,” Roseanne told “Searching For.”
Jenna also had a deep bond with the family’s 21-year-old cat, Jessie, whom she was watching the weekend she vanished, while her parents were on vacation in Canada. Her attachment to Jessie is one of the main reasons Leon and Roseanne believe she did not leave their home voluntarily.
The Van Gelderens told “Searching For” that on the morning of Aug. 19, 2017, a veterinary nurse arrived at the family's house to administer an injection to Jessie, but no one answered the door. The nurse then contacted Will, who came over to let him inside and check on Jenna.
Will found that the lights and TV had been left on, but his sister and her car were missing. Oddly, a large Egyptian tapestry of little monetary value had been stolen from its frame on the living room wall. There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle, according to a police report obtained by Oxygen.com.
After surveying the house, Will called his parents, and they immediately booked a flight back home, fearing something had happened to their daughter.
“She would never have left without making sure that the vet tech that was giving [Jessie] medicine knew, and she would have never done that,” Roseanne told “Searching For.”
Leon and Roseanne returned to the U.S. on Aug. 21, and when they pulled up to their house, Roseanne thought she “was going to see Jenna, she’s going to be here.”
She began to fear the worst, however, after noticing Jenna had left behind her sneakers, cell phone charger, and makeup bag. These were personal items Jenna took with her everywhere, part of the daily routine that she rarely broke.
“It was a strange feeling … I felt like something is not right, something has happened,” Roseanne told “Searching For.” “I knew something was wrong.”
After contacting several of Jenna’s friends, Leon and Roseanne learned no one had heard from her in the past 48 hours, which was uncharacteristic of their daughter. Roseanne said they spoke on the phone at least once a day, even after Jenna moved from their home into a new apartment in April 2017.
Leon admits, however, that Jenna’s “social life was a total mystery most of the time,” and that about six months before she vanished, she began hanging out with a group of people who “were not looking out for [her] best interests.” Concerned about these new friends, Leon accessed Jenna’s cell phone records and “confronted” her about their backgrounds. The confrontation “degenerated” their relationship, he said.
Although Jenna was independent, she was also a vulnerable young woman who easily trusted others, said Leon and Roseanne.
“[S]he was extremely gullible, extremely vulnerable because she wanted the friendships so badly, and she couldn’t always tell when their intentions were maybe to not be a good friend,” Roseanne said.
Prior to her disappearance, Jenna was terminated from her full-time job at a local pet store for embezzlement, said the family. Leon claimed that they later found out Jenna had been influenced by this group of people, and it led to her making poor decisions.
The Van Gelderens also came to learn that Jenna had acquired a second cell phone outside of her parents’ T-Mobile family plan, supposedly to contact her new friends without her father’s knowledge. Several text messages were sent to the second cell phone shortly before she went missing, but the records do not identify the sender(s).
“The second cell phone does not record information whatsoever about text messages,” explained Leon.
At approximately 7:15 a.m. on Aug. 19, Jenna’s second phone pinged a tower in Fairburn, Georgia, about 20 miles south of her parents’ home. Around the same time, her car — a dark blue 2010 Mazda 6 sedan — was spotted by a license plate reader camera back in Atlanta, Dekalb County Police Department Capt. Anthony Ford told “Searching For.”
It is unknown if Jenna was with her second phone, in her car, or at neither location, but police are “very confident that the car and the phone were not in the same place,” Capt. Ford said.
Two weeks later, Jenna’s unlocked Mazda was located along a road in northwest Atlanta. Her handbag, suitcase, and clothing were inside, said Leon. The driver seat had been pushed back, indicating someone taller than Jenna had been behind the wheel, said Capt. Ford.
While police hoped the discovery of Jenna’s car would illuminate new leads, they found no further evidence inside the vehicle, and it has since been returned to the Van Gelderens.
When Leon saw the car, he “knew right away that the chance of Jenna being alive was very limited,” because he believes she would have never left without her personal items.
Leon says they have “come to peace” with the fact that Jenna is possibly deceased, but the family is still fighting for justice and searching for closure.
“Her whole life, I advocated on her behalf,” Roseanne said. “If we stop, Jenna’s not going to be found.”
If you have any information in connection to Jenna Van Gelderen’s 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.
She 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.
For case updates and to help us dive into these disappearances, join the Searching For Facebook group.