Details of Disappearance
Arieanna was last seen at her home in the 1100 block of Hanover Avenue in Roanoke, Virginia on September 11, 2018. Her mother, Jessica Day, stated she put her down to sleep, and when she came back an hour later to check on her, the baby was gone. She called the police at 11:00 p.m. When they arrived they found no signs of forced entry, but the residence had been unlocked.
The following day, police arrested Andrew Christopher Terry and charged him with illegal disposal of a body in Arieanna's disappearance. A photo of Terry is posted with this case summary; initially reported to be a cousin of Arieanna's father, he is himself presumed to be her father. He was at Arieanna's home on separate occasions the day she went missing, and had communication with her mother up until the police were called.
Terry lived in Blacksburg, Virginia with his girlfriend of sixteen years old and their two children, but for years he had also been seeing Jessica off and on; he'd known her since childhood.
Jessica has four older children and had told him she did not want to be a mother again. He had repeatedly offered to take custody of Arieanna, but had also suggested she place the baby for adoption. Although Arieanna's paternity has not been established, Jessica had filed for custody of her daughter and child support from Terry.
Jessica reported that around midday on the day of Arieanna's disappearance, Terry came by her apartment, put the baby down for a nap and left for work. At 9:30 p.m., Jessica breastfed Arieanna, then left the baby sleeping sleeping on her mother's bed. For the next half-hour, she was in the kitchen, on the phone with Terry at least once, and walking around the apartment. She returned to her bedroom at 10:00 p.m. and found her six-year-old asleep on the bed, but Arieanna was gone.
Jessica smelled cigarette smoke in the bedroom and, suspecting Terry had been there, immediately called him and asked where he'd taken Arieanna. He said he didn't have her. Until 11:00 p.m., Jessica spoke to Terry several times over the phone and on Facebook Messenger, at one point asking him, "Are you harming her or setting me up for murder?" At 11:00, Jessica called the police.
When police met Terry at Jessica's home after Arieanna's disappearance, they noticed his pants were wet and appeared to be muddy. He offered several explanations for this, but after he was questioned for several hours and took a break for a nap, he stated he'd fallen down a slope after digging his daughter's grave. The brown stains on his pants were never tested and it's not clear whether they were mud.
Terry gave a very different account of the crucial hours around Arieanna's disappearance. He said he went back to Jessica's apartment after he finished work, and Jessica met him out front with Arieanna and told him to take her. He said Arieanna had a slight cut and general swelling on her face. He put the baby in his lap and drove towards Blacksburg, and twenty or thirty minutes into the drive, Arieanna simply stopped breathing.
He said he tried to revive her and failed, and he didn't seek medical attention for the baby because he was scared. Instead, Terry stated he took Exit 128 off Interstate 81 in Ironto, Virginia, and continued driving towards Blacksburg. Somewhere along the way, he stopped and dug a shallow grave for Arieanna with his hands, on a bank near the railroad tracks and the intersection of Cedar Run Road and Jennelle Road. He covered her body with leaves.
On the late afternoon of September 12, Terry took police to the location, but dogs turned up no sign of the baby or a gravesite. As Terry had stated the grave was so shallow that the wind might have uncovered Arieanna's body, police asked if he'd fabricated his story. He said he was telling the truth and "I swear to you she's over there somewhere." Later that day, he said recanted, saying he had only brought police to the spot "to show she wasn't there."
When the police questioned him again on September 13, Terry returned to his story about Arieanna dying in his car and him burying her. Further searches turned up no evidence to support the story, however.
Terry was tried for felony illegal disposal of a body in September 2019, a year after Arieanna's disappearance. Jessica testified for the defense; she admitted she'd given some false statements to police about her daughter's disappearance and that she suffered from memory lapses. At various times she said Arieanna had smothered after falling asleep during breastfeeding, or that she was kidnapped by an adoption agency, or that she had sold her. She admitted none of those statements were true.
Jessica also admitted she had called Terry's defense attorney in 2019 to say Arieanna was alive and well, and that she had called Terry and asked, "Should I wait until court to say I gave her to your cousin?" She suggested Arieanna may have been injured by falling from her carrier, and that the true story was that Terry had taken her away.
Location data from Terry's cellular phone tracked his route from Roanoke to Blacksburg that night. He bought cigarettes and a lighter at a convenience store before going to Jessica's home. The data showed a pause around the intersection of Jennelle Road and Cedar Run Road for six minutes, and the prosecution said that during this time, Terry buried Arieanna.
Terry's defense attorney questioned whether the baby had actually died. After hours of deliberation, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Terry will have to be tried again.
Although police believe Arieanna is deceased, they are not sure of the circumstances of her death and both parents remain persons of interest. Her case remains unsolved, but foul play is suspected due to the circumstances involved.