Delores Kingsley placed the large white envelope on a couch in her son’s Lorain home and spread out its contents.
Christine Kingsley, age 16
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It included a few family photos taken decades ago, a couple of portraits used to mark each passing school year and one computer-generated image of an adult woman with laugh lines, blonde highlights and faint crow’s feet around her blue eyes.
The woman in the photo had a smile on her face.
Delores eyed the image as she talked about her middle child — the rebellious yet loving one who wouldn’t dare talk back to her mother but never was afraid to skip curfew or run away for days at a time.
Could this be what her daughter Christine Kingsley, now 38, would look like today?
As Delores searches her phone for another picture of Christine — maybe a one that better shows how she looked as a teenager — she said one of the last photos taken of her daughter dates to the spring of 1995.
It’s a school picture taken right after Christine turned 17.
A few months later, on June 6, Christine left for school just as the year was winding down. It was a normal day. She walked with her older brother, Jason Kingsley, from the family’s West 10th Street home to Lorain High School when it was on Washington Avenue.
When school let out, Jason, who was into sports, had other things to do and didn’t meet up with his younger sister.
No one knows what Christine did that afternoon. What everyone does know is that she never made it home.
It’s been more than 21 years since that day — a day on which Delores said she assumed her daughter ran away. She’d done it before, and her pattern was to leave home for a couple of days, hopping from friend’s house to friend’s house until Jason tracked her down and brought her back.
When Christine left in June 1995, Delores said she called police, made a report and she was told not to worry because her son would find her again.
But he never found her, and the family continues to search for Christine. It has been a search mostly outside the public spotlight.
Tuesday afternoon, when Elyria and Lorain police officers and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation used a backhoe to dig up the Kingsleys’ old West 10th Street home in search of Christine’s remains or evidence connected to her disappearance, it renewed the public search for the missing woman.
The dig turned up nothing after hours of searching.
Delores said she was not surprised.
Her mother’s intuition, she said, tells her Christine is alive and for whatever reason can’t or is choosing not to come home. But that doesn’t mean she will ever stop looking for the girl everyone called “Daffy,” a nickname Christine got because of her love of Daffy Duck.
“We look for her everywhere,” Delores said, wiping tears from her face. “I mean, I followed a woman home from Lakeview Park all the way to Sandusky. She went in and got her husband because she thought I was trying to kidnap her kids. I said, ‘No, you look like my daughter and you wouldn’t pull over.’ No wonder this lady wouldn’t pull over. This was before cell phones. She thought I was going to harm her. I just thought she was my kid. ... It’s been a long time.”
“When I lived in Cleveland, I thought I saw her,” Delores continued. “I think I see her all the time — even on my job. You always look and look and look. It’s hard. You go to bed every night. You pray you are going to see her in the morning and it never comes. You don’t give up your hope. You keep praying and searching. That’s all you can do because once you give up, you don’t have anything.”
‘She just disappeared’
Police have little to go on in Christine’s disappearance.
When she never returned home from school that June day, police tagged her as a habitual runaway.
On June 22, 1995, Delores said she received a phone call from Elyria police with news that Christine was in the city and being taken to a transitional juvenile facility known then as The Junction. Delores was told she could pick her daughter up there.
But between that phone call and Delores driving from Lorain to Elyria, Christine took off again.
That part of the story angers Delores. Even though she knows The Junction, which operated very similarly to today’s Turning Point as a non-secure residential facility, was not a lockdown facility, she wonders how her daughter was able to slip away.
“If they had her, why did they let her leave again?” she said. “Why didn’t they just wait for me to get there?”
Amanda Sebastian, Christine’s older sister, said the system failed her sister.
“How do you just let someone fall through the cracks?” she said.
Elyria Police Capt. Chris Costantino said the renewed search for Christine started about six months ago after a review of cold cases. Detective Sgt. Don Moss and Detective Dan Sumpter zeroed in on the disappearance of Christine.
“We got involved because after looking into it, all the avenues pointed nowhere,” Costantino said. “With the time that’s passed it makes things more difficult, but not impossible. We are dedicated to bringing closure to this family.”
Costantino said the case has a lot of red flags.
Christine’s name and Social Security number have never been used. She doesn’t pop up in any financial, employment, credit or social services databases.
“She just disappeared,” he said.
There have been glimmers of hope for the family that Christine is out there and may be choosing to be away and out of contact from those who love her.
The Christmas of 1995, older sister Amanda got a Christmas card in the mail. It was signed with Christine’s name.
“It said she was fine, but it had no postage address so I had no way of getting back to her,” Sebastian said. “She just wanted to let the family know she was OK and that was it. I got it and called (my mom) crying.
Then, in about 1999, Delores said her sister was managing a convenience store on West Erie Avenue and Kolbe Road. She was coming out of the office when she saw a woman who looked just like her niece in the store.
“She said, ‘Christine.’ And Christine said, ‘Aunt Nell’ cause she didn’t know she worked there,” Delores said. “At that point she was gone four years. She said, ‘Please don’t tell anybody you seen me. I live in Toledo. I’m good. Just don’t tell anyone you seen me.’”
Delores said each occurrence was reported to Lorain police. But nothing came from each additional report.
Then, in February, Sumpter contacted Delores.
“He found me,” she said. “I don’t know how he got involved. He came to my job. And we talked and he asked if I would submit for a DNA test. Of course, I said, ‘Yes — anything to help me find my kid.’ We went to the Lorain police station and the test was done there.”
Sumpter again contacted Delores for a picture to have the age progression image completed. It arrived in the mail March 4, the day before Christine’s 38th birthday.
And then there is the matter of the bones found at the West 10th Street home that sent the FBI digging.
When Elyria police reopened the case, one of the first calls was to Delora Hamlin. Her family moved into the West 10th Street home years ago. She told police that when the family installed a pool about 10 years ago, they found bones in the yard.
Hamlin said she didn’t think anything of it at that time although her husband said to him they looked like human bones.
“We don’t know what happened to those bones. They were disposed of, but we certainly took that information and decided we wanted to take a look,” Costantino said. “We wanted to err on the side of caution.”
Costantino said the FBI dug “several feet” but did not find anything.
“Everyone feels confident that there is no sign of her,” Costantino said.
A family’s grief
A lot may have changed in the two decades since Delores last saw her daughter, but the mother and grandmother said she is determined to make her family whole again.
She talks to everyone about her daughter and makes it a point to stay friends with anyone who once lived on West 10th Street just in the off chance they see Christine and can deliver a message. So many family members won’t leave Lorain because it’s Christine’s only home.
“We used to have a network of people that looked for Christine… We still have a network of people looking for Christine,” Delores said. “I have friends on my Facebook page named Christine Kingsley. Because every time I see a person with that name, I automatically ask them, ‘Are you Christine Kingsley from Lorain, Ohio? Do you have brothers and sisters? Were you born on this date?’ When they do respond, I tell them my daughter has been missing and we are looking for her. Then, they friend me and when they find another Christine Kingsley, they ask questions. We have it going everywhere.”
Delores said boys and drugs changed Christine almost as soon as she became a teenager. As a kid she liked to draw and had a passion for gorillas and little monkeys, but became rebellious when she grew older.
“She basically didn’t want to follow the rules,” Jason Kingsley said. “We would find her, but as soon as she talked to another boy, she would take off again.”
The first year was the hardest, Delores said.
“I just wanted to die, but I had other kids to keep me alive,” she said. “Now, every birth she missed of her nieces and nephews, every birthday and every holiday is just another year. She could have kids and a family of her own. I just don’t know.
“I just hope she’s safe and happy,” Delores continued. “If she never wants to talk to me again, I can live with that. I just want to know that she’s alive. The not knowing — that’s the hardest part.”
Elyria police are urging anyone who may have information about the disappearance of Christine Kingsley to call (440) 323-3302.
- Missing since June 22, 1995
- Missing from Elyria
- Date of birth: March 5, 1978
- Age now: 38
- Race: White
- Hair color: Blonde
- Eye color: Blue
- Height: 5 foot, 5 inches
- Weight: 145 pounds