Details of Disappearance
Jersey was last seen in St. Ignace, Michigan on August 14, 2002. The state had removed her from the care of her mother, Mindy Arnett
, shortly after she was born. Child protection authorities had received reports from family members that Mindy was mentally unstable, abused drugs, and neglected her daughter.
In the summer of 2002, Mindy's sister in Flint, Michigan received temporary custody of the baby. Mindy was living with her parents in Stockbridge, Michigan during this time period. She was taking psychiatric medication, attending weekly parenting classes, and making progress towards the goals she needed to reach in order to regain custody of her daughter. She visited Jersey frequently.
At 6:30 p.m. on August 14, Mindy's sister and her husband left Mindy alone with Jersey at their home while the couple went out to dinner. When they returned, both mother and daughter were missing.
At 2:00 a.m. on August 15, Mindy's 1992 Honda Civic Del Sol was found parked midspan on the Mackinac Bridge, about 200 feet above the Straits of Mackinac. Investigators determined Mindy had driven across the bridge to the toll booth area, turned around and went back the other way, briefly got onto Interstate 75, then returned and drove north on the bridge.
A motorist reported seeing a vehicle matching Mindy's car parked in the northbound passing lane. A woman was standing outside the vehicle reaching inside the rear door. An hour later, Mindy's car was found abandoned at that spot. Jersey's car seat was in the backseat. Mindy's purse, her keys, a diaper bag and a half-empty baby bottle were also in the car. There was no sign of either of them at the scene.
Authorities believe Mindy jumped off the Mackinac Bridge with Jersey. She had tried to take her own life earlier in 2002, and had previously threatened to kill herself and her daughter. An extensive search of the Straits of Mackinac turned up no sign of them; their bodies have never been found.