A decade without answers
By Kathie Colgrove
NCR Reporter Wednesday, December 22, 2010 3:30 PM EST
Oni, a paint horse, nibbles the plastic carrot nose on an inflatable snowman. The 17-year-old gelding lives at the Wilson farm in Hilliard. Photo by Kathie Colgrove
Jackie Markham has been missing 10 years.
Her family still grieves for the loving mother and grandmother who disappeared from her Callahan home. They will spend another Christmas without her as they continue to wait for someone to come forward with new information about her whereabouts.
"It's been 10 years," said Todd Myrick, Markham's son-in-law. "It's certainly been a cold case at this point. Our hope is that somebody who knows has a change of heart of not keeping that secret and coming forth with the information."
Markham, 51, was last seen at the former Eckerd store just after 7 p.m. Dec. 14, 2000. She was scheduled to leave on a trip to visit family in the Tampa area the next afternoon. The grandmother had planned to celebrate an early Christmas and the birthdays of two of her grandchildren. Since her disappearance, two more grandchildren have joined the family, which includes Markham's three children: Scott NeSmith, Melissa Myrick and Lisa Chapnerkar.
"She was there and then she was supposedly heading home and her car was at her house," said Myrick who serves as the family spokesperson. "They think it started at her house. Š We know her car got there."
During the initial investigation, Nassau County Sheriff's Office detectives, under former sheriff Ray Geiger, searched the Spring Lake Estates home but found little physical evidence and no signs of a struggle, Myrick said.
"There really wasn't a crime scene," he said. "She just disappeared."
NCSO Lt. Tommy Reeves was brought in a few months later to investigate, but the investigation yielded few clues and no real suspects. Markham's purse was found months later near an abandoned boxcar on Jacksonville's northside.
The fact that she remains missing has been an emotional hardship on the family who continues to seek answers.
"There's still that hole there, that wound, you know. There's no place to go to mourn her," Myrick said.
He recalled happier times just a few weeks prior to when she went missing.
"The last time we saw her was at Thanksgiving in 2000," Myrick said. "Her frame of mind was very good. She had gotten her house, she had moved from her apartment and had decorated and had all the family there for Thanksgiving."
The family was immediately concerned when they received the news that Markham did not show up for work Dec. 15, 2000, at Cheetah Transportation in Jacksonville where she worked as dispatcher.
"We got a call the next morning by 9 a.m. by her coworkers saying they couldn't get a hold of her," Myrick recalled. "They knew something was wrong."
Within the hour, family members headed to Jacksonville to search for Markham, who Myrick said was always available by cell phone and usually called often.
He added that in the first few weeks of the investigation, family members spent hours driving around Jacksonville and surrounding areas checking garbage cans and ditches for signs of Markham.
"You think about everything - housing developments, checking dumpsters," Myrick said. "We drove around for weeks after this happened. We'd check a garbage bag that was lying in the ditch. The fear now is that a body was taken out to sea or something like that because nothing has turned up."
Because Markham was an adult, an assumption is that she may have left her home at her discretion.
"When someone says 'went missing' the first assumption is that they just walked away," Myrick said. "It's very non-committal. The thing that we saw about the whole thing is a child gets abducted but when it's an adult it's 'went missing.'"
He continued, "It's not like 'poof' they're not around anymore. There's a big reason why the person went missing."
Sheriff Tommy Sea-graves said the case remains an active case although nothing new has surfaced. Reeves came out of retirement to work on the case exclusively from June 5, 2006 through Feb. 20, 2007. Witnesses were again interviewed as Reeves conducted a timeline leading up to Markham's disappearance as a supplement to the original investigation.
"(There was) nothing significant that would lead us to where she was or what happened," Sea-graves said.
He said that these days more time is spent securing and processing crime scenes at the onset of an investigation than was spent in years past.
"Looking at the file, there could have been some things that could have been done differently than they were," Sea-graves said.
He added that policies and procedures and law enforcement training pertaining to missing adults have increased.
"I know it's important for the family to have closure," Seagraves said. "It's got to be frustrating. They only have memories to hang on to. If anyone has any information we would like to know what happened to her - Her whereabouts and what occurred. I would love to know what happened to her to put some closure in the family's life."
Despite expressing appreciation for all the efforts NCSO has done during the initial and subsequent investigations, the uncertainty surrounding Markham's disappearance has left its mark on the family. Myrick said that his mother-in-law was a kind, loving person who went out of her way to help others, often to her detriment.
"The family wants everyone to know that she did matter," he said. "We don't know where she is. We want this solved. We want this to be an end to this chapter. The unknown is so difficult to deal with. We can't explain the ending to grandchildren (with) no funeral, no grave - she doesn't have one. We never found her."
Anyone with any information about Markham's disappearance is asked to call the sheriff's office at 879-1563 or 904-225-0331.