UNION, Mo. — Jessica Ann Kinsey, 14, attended seventh grade at Union Middle School, about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis. She spent the Christmas holiday with her family, opening gifts and enjoying a warm meal. She received a new jacket, gloves, purse, and scarf as gifts and could not wait to show them off to her best friend.
On Dec. 26, 1995, Jessica’s parents worked at home while Jessica visited her friend. At 2 p.m., she called her mother, Mary Klein, to let her know that she was staying a few more hours. She promised to call back at 5 p.m. if she would eat dinner with her friend.
Jessica did not call home, and her family never saw her again.
At 5:30 p.m., Klein called the friend’s mother, who told her that Jimmy Hopkins, 23, picked up Jessica and that Jessica had asked her to let Klein know, but the woman neglected to do it.
Klein had known Hopkins since he was 11 when he moved to Union to live with his mother, Klein’s friend. Both Klein and her daughter knew him well.
Klein called the Union Police Department to report her daughter missing when Jessica failed to return home and because she did not trust Hopkins’ intentions with her teenage daughter.
Mark Henderson told police that Hopkins paid him to drive Hopkins and Jessica to Cloverdale, Indiana, in Henderson’s aqua two-door 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier.
Henderson stated that Jessica was quiet in the car’s backseat and kept her head down the entire trip.
Once in Cloverdale, the trio checked into the Dollar Inn motel at 1010 N. Main St., now the Econo Lodge. Jessica and Hopkins were in room 222 while Henderson stayed next door in room 224.
Henderson said he had heard a lot of banging noises coming from room 222 in the middle of the night that “sounded like a body hitting the wall.” He went next door and knocked. There was no response for about five minutes, and then Hopkins hollered out that everything was fine; he and Jessica just had rough sex.
But Henderson slightly changed his story, according to Klein. He first said that Hopkins came to the door fully dressed but blocked Henderson’s view of the room and would not let him inside.
When Henderson awoke the following morning, Hopkins and Jessica were gone, along with Henderson’s car. Henderson reported the vehicle stolen to the Cloverdale police, but they failed to enter the report into the National Crime Information Center database for more than 30 days.
Hopkins told Henderson that he and Jessica were going to Niagara Falls to marry, claiming Jessica was pregnant with his child. Hopkins showed Henderson some wedding rings, one of which was his grandmother’s engagement ring. A relative of Hopkins’ who lived in Cloverdale would give them a ride to New York, Hopkins said.
Klein did not believe her daughter was pregnant and said she had a medical reason to know this was not true.
On Dec. 27, 1995, Hopkins sold the wedding rings at a pawn shop in Paris, Tennessee, 300 miles southwest of Cloverdale.
About a month after Jessica’s disappearance, Henderson’s vehicle turned up clear across the country in Compton, California, after Cloverdale police finally entered the car into NCIC. An unidentified black male dropped the car off at a garage on Jan. 6, 1996.
The following spring, police learned that another acquaintance of Hopkins said he had last seen him with a girl matching Jessica’s description. Union investigators then discovered that Hopkins worked at a yogurt shop at Sunset Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway in the Los Angeles neighborhood, Pacific Palisades. The shop’s owner confirmed to the police that a young girl had often visited the shop while Hopkins worked his shift.
Hopkins returned to Missouri alone in June 1996 and hooked up with his second wife, Anna. He refused to cooperate with Union police investigating Jessica’s disappearance.
In October 1996, Hopkins and his wife and her teenage brother, a reported runaway, traveled to California where the police detained them in Mono County because of her brother’s juvenile status.
Hopkins returned to Union again in 2004. Union detectives tried talking to him, but that led nowhere. In December 2005, the Union police chief spoke to Hopkins “informally.” Afterward, he told Klein that he believed Hopkins had killed Jessica. However, he could not use Hopkins’s information because officers had not read him his Miranda Rights.
Whatever was said between Hopkins and the police chief is unknown.
The Joplin Globe reported in a 2008 story that “Union police did not formally question Hopkins until November 2006 when the Franklin County prosecutor had him extradited back from California on some warrants for passing bad checks in the Union area in the days leading up to Jessica’s disappearance and along their way to Indiana.”
Hopkins denied killing Jessica. He said that he last saw her at a Hollywood hotel with a Mexican man named ‘Capone.’ When police learned of the hotel’s address, they discovered it was a vacant lot.
Klein and the Union police believe that Hopkins killed Jessica, likely in California.
But Hopkins would take the secret of Jessica’s fate and the location of her body to the grave. On April 12, 2008, Hopkins, 35, shot and killed his second wife, Anna Hopkins, 30, before turning the gun on himself inside their home at 2125 S. Grand Ave. in Joplin. They had two young children, and Hopkins had three teenagers with his first wife. The couple had dropped off their young children at a babysitter’s home. The babysitter went to the couple’s home when the Hopkins failed to pick up their kids. When no one answered the door, she called the Joplin police, who found them both dead inside their home.
Police believe that someone else has vital information about Jessica’s disappearance and have made public appeals over the years. However, no one has come forward.
Jessica’s mother and stepfather relocated to Independence in 1998. Mary Klein passed away on Sept. 30, 2019, in Independence. She was 59 years old. Jessica’s brother, Jeremiah “Jerry” Kinsey, lives in Union with his family.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I think Jessica left her friend’s house after speaking with her mother. She might have lied to Klein about staying longer at her friend’s house but had plans with Hopkins instead. Maybe she had a crush on him. He was older, and she had known him a long time. Plus, at 14, she was probably vulnerable.
I believe Jessica had every intention of returning home that day and only expected to hang with Hopkins for a short period.
I don’t necessarily believe Hopkins killed Jessica at the Dollar Inn in Cloverdale, mainly because people had confirmed seeing a girl matching her description with him in California.
Hopkins might have assaulted her in the motel room, though, to force her to be compliant possibly, but I don’t necessarily believe Henderson’s story. One, he changed his story, and two, if he thought he heard loud banging that sounded like a body thrown against the wall, why didn’t he do more to make sure Jessica was safe?
Henderson or the motel staff did not find it unusual that a teenage girl was with Hopkins and checked into a room together? Maybe Hopkins told Henderson she was 18.
Why would Hopkins steal Henderson’s car when he knew Henderson had no way of getting back to Missouri? He might have initially planned to go to New York but changed his mind last minute, or something happened to change his mind. Because what was the point of driving to Indiana if he intended to go to California?
If he did kill Jessica in the motel room, I’d wager he disposed of her body between Cloverdale and Paris, TN. But, I think he forced her to go to California for whatever reason. I doubt it was another young girl at the yogurt shop.
Hopkins likely killed her there or sold her to someone. I mean, she was only 14, so how hard would it have been for him to sell her? He had to know people out there. Who was the black male who dumped the Cavalier? Or did he merely pay the man to do it?
I believe Jessica is dead, and Hopkins killed her. If she had stayed in California, she would have contacted her family at some point, and she never did.