Almost two years later, Jenna Van Gelderen still missingJenna Van Gelderen. Photo obtained via Nextdoor
By Christopher Rosselot, contributor
Jenna van Gelderen was reported missing on August 20, 2017 while house sitting for her parents. Her brother came to the house expecting to find Jenna, 25 at the time, but was met instead by a locked door and no leads to the whereabouts of Jenna or her car.
The DeKalb County Police Department took the case because the Druid Hills home is in DeKalb County. The Van Gelderens, however, wanted cross-county collaboration because Jenna’s car was later found in Fulton County, as were signals from her phone. They wanted the GBI contacted immediately, which Jenna’s father, Leon van Gelderen, points out was done following the disappearance of Tara Grinstead.
While on vacation in Tennessee in mid-July 2019, the Van Gelderens received a phone call from a GBI agent telling them he was assigned to their case and wanted to meet with them in three-to-four days. The Van Gelderens were relieved that, almost two years later, and with the lobbying of State Senator Elena Parent, the GBI had taken the case. Nelly Miles, Director of the GBI Office of Public Affairs, confirmed to Decaturish that, “The GBI will work jointly with Dekalb County PD and the FBI on the case.”
However, according to Leon, the agent never followed up, and when Leon called to check back in on July 31, they were told that it might be months before the GBI could talk with them about Jenna’s case.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Leon asks. “Why did he say he would get with us in a couple of days? What happened?”
In the interim, Jenna’s family has been busy trying to track her down. In addition to employing a private investigator, they have also continued to run “Help Find Jenna Van Gelderen” Facebook and Twitter pages, and continually increase the reward for information, which is currently at $50,000 (split between the family and Crime Stoppers)..
In August 2018, the DeKalb County Police Department asked the Van Gelderens to attend a press conference, marking one year since Jenna’s disappearance. At the time, Mollie Tibbetts’ disappearance was regularly discussed on national news. Leon thought about how the police and FBI immediately interviewed Tibbetts’ neighbors in Brooklyn, Iowa. He decided to see if the same was done in Jenna’s case.
“We went around the next day to everybody in the neighborhood,” Leon said. “Not one of them were contacted by the police, even though they’re all retired and home all day.”
One neighbor asked Leon to come over to her house. There, she told him that she remembered seeing an investigator digging around her yard about two weeks after Jenna’s disappearance. When she questioned the person, she was told that they were canvassing the neighborhood, “That’s how they canvassed the neighborhood,” Leon said. “What does the word canvass mean?”
DeKalb County Police could not comment on the specifics of their investigation because the case is still open.
Jenna’s disappearance haunts Leon.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said, “a daily nightmare.”
Still, Leon keeps hope that his daughter’s disappearance will eventually be solved.
According to Leon, two witnesses (both acquaintances of Jenna), have come forward in the last month to talk to him.
In addition, Leon was contacted in April by a TV producer from Oxygen who wanted to produce a feature on Jenna’s case. Leon recently spent a week filming with the Oxygen crew, and the special is set to air in October.