Details of Disappearance Jennifer was last seen walking home from school. She was one block from her family's residence on 15th Street and 109th Avenue in Tampa, Florida on November 15, 1982 at approximately 3:00 p.m. Jennifer asked a friend to watch her as she continued to her house; her friend turned away for a moment and Jennifer disappeared. She has not been seen again.
Jennifer's parents were divorced in 1982, and she lived with her father and stepmother, but her mother had legal custody. Jennifer did not get along with her stepmother, and members of her mother's family had contemplated removing the child from her father's home. Both sides of her family accused one another of hiding Jennifer after her disappearance. Eventually all her relatives were ruled out as suspects in her case.
Authorities suspected that Thomas Peter Welnicki, a family friend of Jennifer with an extensive criminal history for charges ranging from theft to drug possession to minor assault, was involved in her case. A photograph of Welnicki is posted with this case summary.
When questioned by police, he claimed to have a psychic vision of Jennifer's abduction and murder. He said she was abducted and strangled by two men. One of them, he said, was in his forties and had a criminal history, and the other was a blond man in his mid-twenties whom Jennifer knew and trusted, and whose conscience troubled him deeply after the child's death. Welnicki himself matches the description of the blond man.
Authorities believe Welnicki's "vision" was actually a confession, but he denies this. He failed a polygraph about Jennifer's case, but this may have been because he was taking medication to prevent seizures. Welnicki he has never been charged in connection with Jennifer's case.
At the time of her disappearance, Jennifer was a second-grade student at Lassie C. Shaw Elementary School, which was one miles from her home. She was a good student and well-behaved. Her presumed abduction remains unsolved. Her mother self-published a book about it in 2011, titled "Jennifer, Where Are You?"
- Tampa Police Department
Updated 9 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated August 4, 2018; distinguishing characteristics and clothing/jewelry description updated.