Details of Disappearance
Trenton was last seen on August 27, 2006 at Windemere Apartments in the 1400 block of Griffin Road in Leesburg, Florida. He was living there with his mother, Melinda M. Duckett, at the time. Melinda stated she put her son to bed at approximately 7:00 p.m. When she went into his room to check on him two hours later, he was missing. The bedroom window's screen had been slit, leading authorities to speculate that an abductor had gained access to the room through the window and carried the child away.
Authorities initially announced they believed Trenton had been abducted and made an appeal to the public to search for him. Several days after his disappearance, however, investigators stated they had no reason to believe the child was deceased or had been taken out of the local area, and that his parents were the focal point of the investigation. Melinda and Trenton's father, Joshua Duckett, had begun dating in high school and got married in 2005. Photographs of both of them are posted below this case summary. They were in the process of a heated divorce and custody battle in August 2006. Their relationship had been a contentious one, with numerous allegations of domestic violence between the couple, and abuse of Trenton before and after the marriage. Trenton was often in the care of Melinda's grandparents or in foster homes. Melinda won a temporary restraining order against Joshua in July 2006, after accusing him of threatening her life and Trenton's. Joshua denies the allegations. He has been cooperative in the disappearance of his son and has passed a polygraph test.
Joshua's father, James "Jimmy" Duckett, is on death row in Florida. A former police officer, he was convicted of the rape and murder of a young girl in 1988. Joshua was only a toddler at the time his father was incarcerated, but they have maintained a relationship with each other. Trenton had visited James on death row and Melinda kept up a written correspondence with him. Authorities investigated to see whether Trenton's disappearance was related to his grandfather's crimes, but found no evidence to support this theory.
About a week after Trenton went missing, police stated they were not certain he had disappeared at the time Melinda said he did. No one other than Melinda reported having seen Trenton since his mother picked him up from day care a full day prior to his reported disappearance, and witnesses reported seeing Melinda alone in the hours prior to her son's going missing. Melinda refused to take a polygraph, and she failed a voice stress test. Investigators found photographs and sonogram images of Trenton, and some of his toys, in the trash bin when they searched Melinda's apartment after the child's disappearance was reported. It is unclear why someone tried to throw those items away, but their presence in the garbage made police suspicious.
Melinda had told her attorney she took her son and a shotgun to a shooting range at the Ocala National Forest on August 27, then became lost and drove around central Florida for eight hours. A photograph of Melinda's vehicle, a silver 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse, is posted below this case summary. Police are anxious to talk to anyone who may have seen it on August 27, so they can verify Melinda's story. Witnesses reported seeing her in Leesburg at the time she was supposedly lost.
On September 8, thirteen days after her son vanished, Melinda was found shot to death in a closet in her paternal grandparents' home in Lady Lake, Florida. She had taken her own life at the age of 21. She left two notes, neither of which disclosed any information as to what happened to Trenton. Melinda's family cited the stress of her son's disappearance and the subsequent media scrutiny as the reason for her suicide. She had a history of depression and two previous stays in mental hospitals, mostly recently in 2005, after she either harmed herself or threatened to.
Melinda's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Nancy Grace, a television talk show host, and CNN, her network, in December 2006. Grace conducted an aggressive interview with Melinda shortly before her death and her parents argued that she had been pushed over the edge as a result. Melinda committed suicide before the interview aired. In November 2010, the lawsuit was settled; CNN agreed to set up a $200,000 trust fund to finance the search for Trenton. If Trenton is located alive before his 13th birthday, the money will go to him; otherwise, the money will be donated to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.
On September 21, nearly a month after Trenton went missing and two weeks after Melinda's death, police officially named her as the prime and only suspect in Trenton's case. They stated they did not necessarily believe she had harmed him, however. Authorities investigated the possibility that Trenton had been sent to his mother's native South Korea. Melinda had been adopted by a New York couple shortly after birth and never knew her biological parents, but she said she'd like to locate her Korean relatives and get Trenton in touch with his roots. Authorities found no evidence that the child had ever left the United States, however.
Almost a full year after Trenton disappeared, investigators stated they had ruled out several theories in his case: they no longer believe he was abducted by a stranger or that his mother gave him to another individual to hide from Joshua. Authorities remain hopeful that Trenton is alive, and continue to actively investigate his disappearance. His case remains unsolved.
Left: Melinda Duckett;
Center: Joshua Duckett;
Right: Melinda's car