Details of Disappearance
Jennifer was last seen at approximately 5:30 a.m. on May 5, 2005. She had been at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino with a friend earlier that morning. Afterwards she went to the Reno Sparks Cab Company, her mother's place of work, in the vicinity of the 400 block of Gentry Way in Reno, Nevada. She stopped by there to visit her mother, but her mother was not there at the time.
Jennifer was very intoxicated and didn't have enough money to pay her cab fare. She ran from the taxi, breaking her high-heeled shoes in the process, climbed over a fence at the back of the establishment and disappeared. The business is only half a block from Jennifer's home. A few minutes before she vanished, Jennifer called her father in Las Vegas, Nevada and said she needed to go to that city, but she apparently never arrived there. She has never been heard from again.
According to Jennifer's husband, Sean Ross, he came home the night before her disappearance and found her drunk, with cuts on her wrists, and saying she needed to leave. She had her clothes and family photos packed in a bag. Sean stated he initially tried to change her mind, but he let her go after Jennifer insisted. Sean stated Jennifer left behind two handwritten notes, stained with her own blood. The notes directed who should be permitted to have contact with her young son if anything should happen to her, and stated her possessions should go to Sean.
Jennifer was unemployed at the time of her disappearance; she had been working as an exotic dancer, but had been fired from this job a week before her disappearance. She had previously been a professional ballerina. That career ended due to a tailbone injury, but she still gave dance lessons. She was deep in debt and her credit cards were maxed out.
Sean reported Jennifer's disappearance to the police on May 10, five days after he last saw her. When he initially told Jennifer's mother she was missing, he stated he thought she might be dead and in the river.
Jennifer's mother doesn't think she wrote her daughter wrote the goodbye notes herself; she stated that her daughter and Sean had often practiced writing in the other's hand. According to Jennifer's mother, Sean lied numerous times to the media about Jennifer's case and also to the police. He gave numerous different stories about Jennifer, saying she suffered from postpartum depression, had gone missing before and had been fired numerous jobs, and that she had had affairs during the marriage. None of those things were true.
In his initial statement to the police, Sean didn't mention the bag of belongings his wife supposedly had, the letters, or the cuts on her wrists, but those details were later added to his story. He told police Jennifer didn't have a dentist, which was untrue; she had only recently gotten her orthodontic braces removed and Sean was aware she had regular dental care. Sean also sold Jennifer's van before the police got to look at it.
According to Jennifer's mother, Sean missed five days of work in a row after Jennifer disappeared and left their son in the care of a babysitter during that time. He filed for divorce just three months after her disappearance and took custody of their son.
Jennifer was raised in Pocatello, Idaho and graduated Highland High School there; she moved to Reno in 1995. She attended Truckee Meadows Community College and then transferred to the University of Nevada at Reno. She was a Dean's List student and majored in veterinary medicine before switching to biomedical engineering. She also tutored in physics and mathematics. She was one year away from completing her degree at the time of her disappearance, and had dreamed of finding a cure for autism or cancer.
Foul play is suspected in her case, which remains unsolved.