Friday, September 19, 2008
ARTICLE #88) Without a trace: Christmastime will be particularly cold for the hundreds of people whose loved ones have disappeared from Las Vegas
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Without a trace: Christmastime will be particularly cold for the hundreds of people whose loved ones have disappeared from Las Vegas
Las Vegas CityLife by Matt O'Brien
This Christmas will be a particularly cold one for Maureen Reintjes. It will be her first Christmas unpacking the ornaments and decorating without her husband of 26 years, Jon Van Dyke.
Van Dyke kissed Reintjes goodbye the morning of May 19, 2005, and went to work at Citigroup financial services company on West Sahara Avenue. That afternoon, she got a call from Citigroup saying he never returned from lunch.
Reintjes hasn’t seen or heard from her husband since that morning.
“He kissed me goodbye at the door,” said Reintjes, who now lives in Kansas City, MO. “He commented on some flowers I had planted. He commented on my brother-in-law and sister, who were coming to town in a couple weeks; he was so excited they were coming. Then he went off to work.”
A week after he disappeared, Van Dyke called one of his daughters and told her to call off the search. His voice was monotone, and Reintjes thinks he was being held against his will and forced to make the call.
In June 2005, a series of withdrawals were made from Van Dyke’s bank account.
“Every horror in the world goes through your mind,” said Reintjes. “Until I know the truth, until he’s found, I won’t know exactly what happened.”
Canadian Glendene Grant knows the chill of spending Christmas without a loved one. Her daughter Jessie Foster moved to Las Vegas in May 2005 and disappeared from North Las Vegas in March ’06.
In November 2005, Foster flew home to Kamloops, British Columbia, to visit her family. On Christmas Day, the family drove her to the airport, where she caught the 3 p.m. flight back to Las Vegas.
It was the last time the family has seen Foster.
On March 28, Jessie’s older sister Crystal talked to her on the phone. No one in the family has talked to her since. Her cell phone hasn’t been used. Her credit cards haven’t been used. She hasn’t made any transactions at the bank.
“Christmastime is always the hardest time of the year,” said Grant. “Sometimes I just hate that the world keeps going. For me, everything stopped in March 2006.”
Detective Sgt. Tom Wagner of Metro’s Missing Persons Detail says 1,200 people disappear from Las Vegas a month. On Monday mornings, it’s not unusual for the department to have more than 100 missing-person cases from the weekend.
Wagner says Las Vegas has more missing-person cases than most major U.S. cities, in part because it’s a tourist destination.
“Here’s some food for thought,” said Wagner, who has worked in missing persons for seven years. “Last weekend, there was a boxing match in town. There was the NFR. And there were a bunch of other things going on. That’s what we’re dealing with here. On any given weekend, you have 300,000 additional people in town.”
But Wagner admits there’s something else going on in Las Vegas unrelated to tourism.
“We deal with adults who are running away from relationships, from financial problems ad from occupational problems,” he said. “Maybe they spent the paycheck gambling and decided that they better not go home.”
Added private investigator Eddie LaRue, “I think it has to do with the excitement of the town, the money and the freedom that goes along with it. You have 24-hour bars and casinos. It’s a strange place to live. People get caught up in this stuff like a kid in a candy store.”
Wagner says the Missing Persons Detail reviews and researches every case it gets.
It does, however, have to prioritize. For example, it may look into a mysterious disappearance of a 5-year-old before it looks into the disappearance of a teenager who has a history of running away.
Wagner says the department does the best it can- 80 to 85 percent of the people reported missing are found – with one sergeant and eight detectives. He said the department is adding another sergeant and at least two detectives this month.
Nonetheless, Wagner realizes this won’t satisfy Maureen Reintjes, Glendene Grant and the hundreds of other people who will spend Christmas without their loved ones.
“I don’t blame them for saying we’re not doing enough,” he said. “If my loved one was missing, I would want 100 percent undivided attention to their case. The unfortunate thing is we handle 1,200 cases a month. For those 1,200 cases, we have eight detectives. We really have to triage in what we can do.”
Reintjes doesn’t blame Las Vegas for her husband’s disappearance. She does, however, wish Metro would be more aggressive with his case. She said he hasn’t run away to start a new life, as the police department has suggested. There were no problems in the marriage, she said – and even if there were, nothing would keep her husband away from his daughters and grandson.
Reintjes moved from Las Vegas in August 2005. She rents an apartment in Kansas City where she has family, and this will be her first settled Christmas since her husband disappeared.
“It’s with me every second,” said Reintjes, who maintains a website (http://www.reintjes.us) about her husband’s disappearance. “It’s in every breath. It’s everything. The memories just constantly flood.”
Matt O’Brien is a CityLife staff writer. He can be reached at 871-6780 ext. 350 or email@example.com