Details of Disappearance
Modafferi was an industrial design major at North Carolina State University in 1997. She arrived in San Francisco, California on June 1, 1997 to attend a summer photography course at the University of California at Berkeley.
She was employed part-time at the former Spinelli's coffee shop (now called Tully's Coffee) at the Crocker Galleria in San Francisco's financial district during the work week. She worked at Cafe Musee in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art during the weekends. She lived with a roommate on Jayne Avenue in Oakland, California at the time, and was also taking a dance class.
Modafferi asked a co-worker at Spinelli's for directions to Baker Beach, which is located next to Land's End Beach, on June 23, 1997. Her shift ended at 3:00 p.m. that day, but she was seen approximately 45 minutes later on the Crocker Galleria's second floor with an unidentified blonde woman.
The unidentified blonde woman with Modafferi has never been located. Witnesses said that she was holding a green Jansport backpack, like Modafferi's, at the time they were in the Crocker Galleria.
Modafferi's family believes that it may be possible the female and Modafferi had plans to meet at the Galleria and may have departed together. The manager of Spinelli's, however, told authorities that Modafferi left the building by herself on June 23. Regardless, she has never been seen again. She never picked up her last paycheck, which was for $400.
Authorities utilized bloodhounds in the ensuing search for Modafferi. The dogs tracked her scent to the Geary Street Number 38 bus from the stop outside the Crocker Galleria. That bus travels across San Francisco to the Sutro Park Beach area near Land's End Beach.
Modafferi's scent was also traced at Sutro Park Beach, but the dogs lost the trail at the shoreline. No other evidence was located at either scene.
Modafferi's personal belongings were searched and a newspaper personal advertisement from the San Francisco area was among her possessions. The advertisement contained the following message: "FRIENDS: Female seeking friends to share activities, who who enjoy music, photography, working out, walks, coffee, or simply the beach, exploring the Bay area! Interested, call me."
It is unknown if Modafferi placed the advertisement herself or if she answered the ad. All records from June 1997 have since been destroyed at the newspaper's office. It is also unclear if the advertisement is related to her disappearance.
An anonymous caller contacted KGO-TV, the ABC affiliate in San Francisco, on July 10, approximately two weeks after Modafferi was last seen. The caller said that he knew the identities of two women who abducted and murdered Modafferi and placed her remains under a bridge in the Point Reyes area of Marin County, California.
The women in question told authorities that they believed the phone caller was Jon Onuma. A photo of him is posted with this case summary.
The females had apparently been harrassed by Onuma due to work-related problems they encountered with his girlfriend at the time, Jill Lampo. The women were preparing to fire Lampo from her position when Onuma allegedly began harassing them. Law enforcement officials questioned him about the incident and he admitted to making the phone call to KGO-TV to cause problems for the women.
Another female witness came forward and stated that Onuma allegedly abused her and threatened to kill her after Modafferi disappeared. The witness said that during the encounter, Onuma told her, "Now you know what happened to Kristen Modafferi."
Three other women stated that they had incidents involving Onuma and Lampo as well. Lampo allegedly lured the victims to Onuma and were subsequently abused by him. Authorities searched Onuma's residence and discovered Lampo's journal, which was missing pages from the time Modafferi vanished in June 1997.
It is not known if either Onuma or Lampo is connected to Modafferi's case and no one has been charged with involvement in her disappearance due to a lack of evidence. Onuma has since moved to Hawaii.
Investigators looked into the possibility that Robert Durst was involved in Modafferi's case. Robert's first wife, Kathleen Durst, disappeared from New York in 1982. Her case remains unsolved and Robert is considered the prime suspect, although he has never been charged in connection with her case.
Robert was charged with the 2001 Texas homicide of Morris Black. He claimed he murdered Black in self-defense, and was acquitted in 2003. In 2015, he was charged with murder in the 2000 shooting death of Susan Berman.
Authorities don't believe Durst was involved in Modafferi's case, but he's still being considered in the 1997 disappearance of Karen Mitchell from Eureka, California, and the 1971 disappearance of Lynne Schulze from Middlebury, Vermont. Robert and Kathleen owned a health food store in Middlebury in 1971, and Schulze visited it the day she went missing
Modafferi's case remains open and unsolved.