A member of the ‘‘Humboldt Five”, was Jennifer Wilmer a victim of a serial killer?
Jennifer was a spunky young woman. Her family described her as “restless, with an adventurous spirit.” Jennifer was an excellent student. A graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, Jennifer had received a full academic scholarship to St. John’s University in New York. She quickly became disillusioned after enrolling in St. John’s and dropped out after only one semester. A member of the “Deadheads,” Jennifer would follow the Grateful Dead around the country attending their concerts. Jennifer’s mother fondly tells a story of how Jennifer once asked her if a bunch of Deadheads could stay in their backyard while the band was playing at the Nassau Coliseum. She agreed and said she woke up the next morning to a “street full of VW buses” and “wall to wall sleeping bags.” It is perhaps no surprise then that Jennifer decided to move to Arcana, California - a mecca for the counterculture movement - with a friend to find her own “utopia.” Despite being so far away, Jennifer remained in close contact with her parents. She called her mother to collect every few days.
A few months before she was murdered
Jennifer left her home on Long Island and traveled to Arcana, California with the intention of enrolling in the College of the Redwoods. Upon arriving though, she learned that the registration was full. She tried waitressing but soon ended up on public assistance. Jennifer embraced the counterculture movement, trading in her frosted locks for dreads that she often wore on top of her head. She spent time at a local landmark, the Arcata Plaza.
When her roommate in Arcana decided to move away, Jennifer moved in with her local boyfriend, Tro Patterson. He along with three other people rented a house in Hawkins Bar.
The day she went missing
Soon after moving in, Jennifer spoke to a friend about getting a job at the local farm where she worked at. Her friend recommended she show up on Monday. That Monday, September 13, 1993, she did just that. Around 7:30 am, Jennifer set out to hitchhike Rt. 299 to the farm. She left a note: "Bye everybody, Went to my 1st day at the farm. Wish me luck! Good luck to you, Mingo and see you in a few months. If someone could give food to the kitten as needed I'd appreciate it. Hopefully I'll see you folks later. ❤️ Jade" She left behind all her belongings indicating she intended to come back.
Two days after she leaves, friends stop by for a visit at the farm. They learn that she never made it. The local police were informed and Jennifer’s parents were called.
Branded as a “free spirit”, local law enforcement was slow to respond to Jennifer’s disappearance. They suggested to the Wilmers that she simply ran away or was traveling with the Deadheads. When they learned that their daughter’s name was not entered into the national missing persons database, they got a Nassau detective to do it and then flew to California to investigate themselves. Their outrage continued to grow as they learned that none of her roommates had been interviewed. They began a massive letter-writing campaign to get the state involved. When other young women in the area began disappearing, interest grew even more.
Where the case stands today
After her daughter’s disappearance, Jade’s mother, Susan, helped push through Jennifer’s Law which required states “to report information concerning unidentified bodies into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. This procedure provides easier cross-referencing of missing persons and unidentified victims in the US.
Jennifer was officially declared dead in 2002, but the quest to learn what happened to their daughter has never ceased. If you know anything about the disappearance of Jennifer Wilmer, please contact the Trinity County Sheriff's Office at (916) 623-2611.