Today’s post is a guest article written by Amanda Barber.
Growing up, my absolute favorite show was the original Unsolved Mysteries. The spooky theme song always gave me the creeps, and Robert Stack’s voice was pure eerie perfection. The ghosts and monsters profiled on the show were scary enough, but it was usually the true crime cases that caught my attention the most. Some of these segments were occasionally updated and solved over the course of the show’s run, and a few have even been solved in the past decade or so.
Sadly, there are still many profiled cases that have remained unsolved mysteries. One of the saddest that I’ve always remembered is the disappearance of Anthonette Cayedito, a 9-year-old girl who vanished from her own home back in 1986. Anthonette lived with her mother Penny and her two sisters in an apartment in one of the poorest parts of Gallup, New Mexico. On the night of April 6, 1986, Penny left the girls with a babysitter and went drinking at a local bar. She came back home around midnight, and let the girls stay up playing until 3 AM.
That night, Anthonette slept with her mother in her bed. But when Penny later woke up at 7 AM, she found that Anthonette was missing. At first, Penny thought Anthonette had gotten up early to look for a missing neighbor dog. None of her neighbors had seen Anthonette, however, and a search around the neighborhood turned up nothing.
The authorities didn’t have much luck either, and the case would stay cold for more than a year until the Gallup police department received a short phone call from a girl who said that she was Anthonette. The girl claimed to be in Albuquerque, but before she could explain anything, somebody in the background yelled, “Who said you could use the phone?” Suddenly, there was a scream, and then the call ended. While the call was too short to trace, Penny did get to hear a recording of it. She confirmed that it was Anthonette’s voice.
In 1990, another development occurred when a waitress in Carson City, Nevada reported seeing a girl who looked like Anthonette in the diner where she worked. The girl, who looked about 14-years-old, was eating with a man and woman who looked dirty and unkempt. The girl repeatedly dropped her fork onto the floor during her meal. Whenever the waitress would pick it back up, the girl would squeeze the waitress’s hand. After the trio left, the waitress noticed that the girl had left behind a note she had written on a napkin. “Please help me,” it read, “Call the police.”
That same year, Anthonette’s younger sister, Wendy, told investigators that Anthonette had been abducted. The night of her disappearance, a man knocked on the family’s front door and said that he was their Uncle Joe. Since Penny was sleeping, Anthonette decided to answer it. Two men, neither of whom Wendy recognized, grabbed Anthonette and carried her to a brown van as she kicked and screamed. Wendy did not mention this when the investigation began, because she was afraid that it would upset her mother.
The Peyotes did have an Uncle Joe, but the authorities believed he had nothing to do with Anthonette’s disappearance. That didn’t rule the possibility that she was abducted by somebody she knew though. Interestingly, Penny failed a lie detector test about her daughter’s disappearance, leading one detective at the Gallup Police Department to suspect that she knew who took Anthonette. There are also rumors, although unconfirmed, that Penny was somehow able to buy a new sports car a week after Anthonette went missing. Where Penny got this money has never been explained.
In April 1999, as Penny laid on her deathbed, investigators wanted to get one last interview from her. She died before they could get the chance. Anthonette’s case languished with no reliable leads for the next seven years, until it was ultimately closed in June 2006.
Personally, I don’t think the few leads the police had were very trustworthy to begin with. The phone call part of the story is very strange. Why would Anthonette, a 10-year-old kid, call up the police all the way in Gallup instead of dialing 911? Wendy’s account is also fishy. Say that Penny really was involved in the disappearance. Could she and the kidnappers have plotted the phone call and Wendy’s account to mislead the investigation?
Then there’s the matter of the Carson City girl. Perhaps Anthonette had been sold off to this couple, but the police were not convinced that the girl the waitress saw was truly Anthonette. She might have been a different girl, or the waitress had made the story up entirely. Looking these leads over, they are very weak. I can’t help but wonder if Penny knew more than she was willing to tell the police. Given that she passed away almost two decades ago, we can only hope that somebody will step forward soon and provide the crucial breakthrough the police need.
Amanda Barber is a true crime buff and Robert Stack enthusiast who dreams of writing a book about the many mysteries of her home state of Minnesota. If you would like to contribute a guest article like Amanda’s, please send a pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org.