Details of Disappearance Van Gelderen was last seen in Atlanta, Georgia on August 19, 2017. She was house-sitting for her parents at their home in the Druid Hills neighborhood at the time; her parents were on a vacation in Canada. She texted a friend at 2:00 a.m. to say she was going to lie down. This is the last time she used her phone; she has never been heard from again.
She left the lights and television on in her parents' house, their elderly cat unfed, and the doors locked. She also left her makeup, shoes and two phone chargers behind, but took her two cellular phones.
Oddly, an Egyptian tapestry was discovered to be missing from the wall of the home; it was removed from the frame and a corner of the glass was cut off and then replaced. The tapestry is described as hand-stitched and five feet by two feet in size. It was a family heirloom, part of a set of three complementary pieces purchased by Van Gelderen's grandfather in the 1940s, but it was of little monetary value.
Van Gelderen's vehicle, a dark blue 2010 Mazda 6 with the Georgia license plate number PWH5902, disappeared with her, as did the suitcase she took with when she arrived to house-sit. Her phone last pinged near Fairburn, Georgia at 7:45 a.m., but her car was sighted in the northwest/west midtown area of Atlanta at the same time.
The Mazda was found on September 5, two weeks after her disappearance, parked along Defoor Place northwest in northwest Atlanta, about seven miles from parents' home. It was almost out of gas, and the driver's seat had been pushed back to accommodate a driver taller than Van Gelderen. Her missing suitcase was inside the car, as were her shoes, wallet, and glasses, and an unidentified person's shoes and phone charger. Both of her phones are still missing. One is a T-Mobile in her father's name; the other is an Android in her own name.
Van Gelderen originally attended Georgia Gwinnett College, but dropped out after three years and transferred to Gwinnett Technical College, where she earned a certificate in office administration in 2016. Her parents described her as a very regimented person, and stated her disappearance is completely out of character for her.
About six months prior to her disappearance, she lost the only full-time job she ever had and was charged with misdemeanor theft after she stole $3,000 from the pet store where she worked. Her parents didn't approve of her friends, stating they took advantage of her and didn't have her best interest at heart; they think the money she stole was for her friends.
Her father had accessed the records for her cellular phone, because he was concerned about her relationships with friends, and he confronted her about her friendships. Van Gelderen was angry about this. She had moved out of her parents' home and refused to tell her parents were she was living. She also got a second cellular phone, one that wasn't on her parents' family plan, so she could talk to her friends without her parents knowing.
Authorities learned Van Gelderen was living in a room she rented from a friend. Her roommate told police he planned to throw her belongings out in the street, as her rent wasn't paid for September 2017. He refused to let the police search the apartment, but he has not been named as a suspect in Van Gelderen's case.
Van Gelderen's boyfriend told investigators she had stopped by his house on the evening of August 18th, the day before her disappearance, and that he had broken up with her at this time. He also told them Van Gelderen was a prostitute and drug addict, something that hasn't been independently corroborated. Her only criminal record is the theft charge from her former place of employment.
Although there's no hard evidence of foul play in her case, Van Gelderen's family fears she is being held against her will. Her case remains unsolved.
- ODekalb County Police Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 15, 2019; medical conditions and details of disappearance updated.