Details of Disappearance
Pentilla left her home in Missoula, Montana in late September 1991. She planned to travel to San Diego, California to meet with a missionary group.
Pentilla was in Las Cruces, New Mexico in mid-October 1991. She was riding her new white Fuji mountain bicycle and carrying her backpack, a sleeping bag, a tent and other camping gear, $450 in cash, two Bibles and books about Mexico. She had decided to bike to Mexico and work with another mission assisting the poor.
Pentilla called her mother in Montana eight times between October 1 and October 13 to report her trip's progress. She called home the last time on October 17 from Deming, New Mexico. She placed the call a pay phone from the Shell gas station on Main Street, which is no longer in operation. Pentilla said her next stop was Las Cruces, New Mexico.
She said she heard Mexico could be dangerous for a single woman traveling alone, so she had changed her plans. She was thinking of traveling to Minnesota to visit a friend instead. Pentilla's mother offered to pay for her transport to Minnesota or back home after she made more concrete plans, and Pentilla agreed to call her mother that evening with her decision. She never called back, never arrived at the friend's home and has not been heard from again.
Pentilla's camping gear, backpack, bicycle helmet and journals were discovered by hunters under a tree about a mile off State Road 26, seven miles from Hatch, New Mexico, in 1992, approximately one year from the time Pentilla had disappeared. The road leading up to that site is on a marked private hunting preserve and blocked by a fence and a locked gate. Hatch is approximately 46 miles northeast of Deming, New Mexico.
There has been no trace of Pentilla since that time, and her bicycle has never been found. The bike is described as a white Sundance Fuji bicycle with green lettering, a front battery-operated headlight, black saddlebags on the front and rear, Jennifer's aunt's name engraved on the underside, and the serial number F 9101771.
Multiple witnesses said they saw Pentilla with Jesus "Chuy" Vasquez on the day of her disappearance, after her call with her mother. Vasquez's ex-girlfriend stated she saw a leather bracelet on Vasquez that was similar to Pentilla's leather friendship bracelet, and when she asked Vasquez about it, he stopped wearing it. Vasquez later killed his brother in a fight and served four years in prison for manslaughter. He returned to the Deming area after his release.
Another person of interest in Pentilla's disappearance is Henry Apodaca, a farm laborer from Hatch who reportedly bragged about kidnapping Pentilla. Apodaca was never charged in her case, and died in 2011.
Pentilla is originally from Great Falls, Montana. She moved to Missoula, Montana shortly before beginning her travels in September 1991. Her mother stated she had previously traveled to as far as Africa with religious groups. Pentilla's case remains unsolved.