Jessica Phelps disappeared from her Flint, Michigan home on July 1, 1997. Months later, a man digging in an area 15 miles from Flint found her remains. Her case remains unsolved.
On Tuesday, July 1, 1997, Jessica Phelps, 4, went to McDonald’s with her mother, Tamara Kinney, and younger brother, Jordan. When they returned to their east side Flint, Michigan home on Maryland Avenue, Tamara decided to take a quick shower. Afterward, she could not find Jessica but assumed the little girl went outside to play.
The houses on the block sat close to one another. Children in the neighborhood were always running from one yard to the next to play with each other. Family members believe Jessica decided to play with the neighborhood children and went out the front door while her mom was in the shower.
An early report stated that Tamara last saw Jessica playing by herself near their house.
Tamara called the neighbors, but no one had seen the little girl. She asked friends to help search the neighborhood. They did not find Jessica.
When Jessica never came home, Tamara called the police and reported Jessica missing at 7:00 p.m. The search for Jessica Phelps began.
Hundreds of volunteers assisted in the search and helped put up fliers around the area the next morning. Volunteers brought in horses and dogs to search along Kearsley Creek and Flint River. Police even lowered part of Flint River, but they did not find a body.
Authorities looked at video surveillance tapes from several area stores, but those tapes did not produce any leads. Weeks and months went by without any sign of the little girl.
America’s Most Wanted featured Jessica’s case on the show. An anonymous tipster phoned in about a young girl matching Jessica’s description. Investigators followed up, but the little girl was not Jessica.
At 1:15 p.m. on April 2, 1998, a man excavating a stretch of Horton Road for a county ditch project uncovered skeletal remains. The location is about 10-15 miles southeast of Flint in Atlas Township. Pieces of clothing found next to the remains resembled Jessica’s.
“I remember a blue shirt, with a pink…ballerina type thing I guess what it was,” Schmaltz said.
A medical examiner performed an autopsy and used dental records for identification purposes. Two days later, the remains were identified as belonging to Jessica Phelps.
The ME could not determine the cause of death due to her body’s decomposition, but authorities believe Jessica Phelps was asphyxiated. The ME ruled the death a homicide, but her killer has never been found.
Jessica’s case remains active with the Flint Police Department.
If you have any information in Jessica Phelps’ case, please contact the Flint Police Department at 810-237-6800 or Crime Stoppers of Flint & Genesee County at 800-422-5245.
You can also submit an anonymous tip online.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
My daughter is 10 months younger than Jessica. It’s part of the reason I wrote about her. The other reason is to bring more awareness to this horrible crime.
I emailed Angie Spade, the cousin of Jessica. She was 19 when the little girl was killed. I was hoping to get an email interview from her, but she never replied.
Jessica’s clothes were found next to her body. That tells me the motive for abducting her was sexual assault. Either that or the killer wanted it to look like a sexual assault/murder.
I looked up Maryland Avenue on Google Maps, and the houses on that street appear to be a bit rundown, so the area must be low-income. These types of areas attract all kinds of bad people – drug dealers, sex offenders, etc. If Jessica was outside by herself and the neighbors were gone, or in their homes, it would have been easy to lure a 4-year-old away.
It seems weird to me that no one saw the abduction. It happened in broad daylight in the summer. Maybe Jessica’s killer is someone she knew and trusted and lived nearby.
I hope this is not one of those cases closer to home. I don’t want to think of a family member being responsible, but can we rule it out? Not really. Not while the case is unsolved.
Another case with a lot of questions, but few answers.
I don’t know what happened to Jessica, but I do know her case needs attention. If that is all I can provide for her, so be it.