In 1985, a 14-year-old girl disappeared after leaving her friend's Kansas City, MO home. Then, nearly 10 years later her mother began receiving threatening phone calls stating that they had her daughter.
40 years later Jody Ledkins has never returned home.
The details of Jody Ledkins’ life are rather sparse. From reports it was clear that her home life was challenging and that she would run away frequently, eventually landing in a juvenile probation program. Jody and her family moved four different times before her 14th birthday; eventually settling in Kansas City, MO. By 1981, her parents had divorced and it wasn’t long before her mother remarried, but that also ended in divorce. Then in 1985, Jody and her mother seemed to be in a place, and their relationship was strengthening.
The day Jody went missing
On the morning of May 23, 1985, Jody skips school with a friend, which was common for Jody. She had gotten in trouble in the past for skipping school. A year earlier, she had pushed a security guard which resulted in her being assigned a juvenile probation officer. The pair spends the day at her friend's, Melissa Folscroft, home located near East 14th Street and Winchester Avenue.
That evening, Jody and Melissa walk to Jody’s boyfriend’s house which was located near the 700 block of Cambridge Street in Kansas City, MO - approximately a 14-minute walk. At some point that evening, Jody got into an argument with her friends and boyfriend. Jody wanted to go to an unknown location, but they did not want to go.
Later, Jody and Melissa leave her boyfriend’s home and head back to Melissa’s home on foot. By 10 pm, Jody calls her mother asking for a ride home. That evening, Karen did not have her car and was unable to pick Jody up. Jody told her mother that she’d find a ride home with a friend. Not long after the phone call with her mother Jody leaves Melissa’s home. Jody was last seen walking northbound on Winchester Avenue and 14th street. She did not have any extra clothing or money with her. When Melissa spoke to investigators, she was under the impression that Jody was heading back to her boyfriend’s house.
The next day
The next morning, Karen realizes her daughter never returned home and contacts Jody’s Deputy Juvenile Officer to report her missing. When the Juvenile Officer learns of Jody’s disappearance, she suggests that Jody may have been upset about something, and to give her the weekend to cool off. The juvenile officer did prepare two warrants for Jody citing her as an “endangered juvenile who should be taken into police custody if found”.
That advice from the Juvenile Officer would ultimately derail the entire case. The first 48 hours when a person goes missing are the most essential. Two years later, while Karen was having a conversation with Jody’s caseworker, it was discovered that Jody was never reported missing to the police. This conversation occurred after the first warrant was canceled by the courts in July 1986.
Three years later
In 1989, Jody’s juvenile officer receives a letter from an individual claiming to be Jody. The letter states that she is okay but doesn’t explain why 'Jody’ left. When the handwriting is compared to a previous letter Jody wrote, Karen is uncertain if the handwriting matches that of her daughter.
In 1993, Karen starts getting bizarre and threatening calls where the caller would demand money in exchange for Jody. On one occasion, the caller stated “If we don’t get the money your daughter will be sent to you in pieces”. These phone calls would last for two years. Luckily, Karen was able to record all of these phone calls and report them to the police. While police were able to make transcripts and triangulate the location of the phone call to a payphone in Kansas City, the caller was never identified. By August of that year, the case would be reclassified as a probable homicide.
In 1997, two prison inmates claimed they had information regarding Jody’s disappearance. This information brought police to the Mississippi River because the tip implied that the killer would have stashed her body in a car and then drove it into the river. However, the search was unsuccessful.
Where the case stands today
Karen Stratton now lives in Arkansas but visits Kansas City a few times every year to search for her daughter. If you have any information regarding Jody Ledkins' case, please contact the Kansas City Police department at (816) 234-5140.