It was 2002, five days before Christmas.
My 13 siblings were all in different stages of their lives, some living on their own and some with their own spouses and kids. All were preparing to make the trek home to Johnsburg Il. for our big Irish Catholic family Christmas feast.
I still lived at home with my mom and dad, and a couple of the younger siblings in our small rural town located near the Wisconsin border. I grew up surrounded by lots of family, and cool wooded areas and rivers to explore.
I love my big family and they love me.
I was excited for Christmas. It was my favorite holiday. I loved helping to hang lights and decorate the tree. Mom already had a wrapped present for me under the tree.
Dec. 20, 2002 was the last day of school before Christmas break. It was a Friday and although I didn’t have to work that day, at about 6:30 p.m. I left my big white farmhouse style home where I lived for the last -and only- 17 years of my life.
I didn’t walk far. I just crossed the road to the grocery store. The store I grew up seeing everyday outside our family’s living room window. I’d worked there as a stock boy. I loved that job. Many of my siblings also worked there over the years.
The grocery store was owned by another large, well-known family from the area.
Our families were close — at one time.
I passed my older brother Eddie on my way into the store as he was going out to the parking lot to gather grocery carts.
He never saw me again.
A few employees working that night said they saw me in the store. But no one ever said they saw me outside the store again after that night.
My blood was found pooled in a produce cooler and spattered on boxes and walls leading to a back door exit. My blood also was found on boxes in an outside dumpster.
But I was no where to be found.
All the searching. All the praying. All the tears and candlelight vigils. All the rumors, accusations, finger pointing and courtroom dramas.
I have never been found.
(Watch an update to the latest twist on ABC 2020 9 p.m CT Saturday Jan. 2)