Andrea Michelle Knabel had a passion for helping families find missing loved ones. So much so, she was an active missing person investigator with the group: Missing in America.
According to Andrea’s family, Andrea was a precocious child, always mature for her age. She had been an excellent student throughout school and was a mother figure to her younger sisters.
It was also said that Andrea never met a stranger. Everyone that came into contact with her, was immediately a friend. And she was passionate and loyal, no matter what she was doing.
Andrea was exceptionally passionate about missing person cases and helping families find their loved ones. She volunteered with Missing in America and spent countless hours talking to people, walking the streets, and even going undercover to get information on a case.
On August 12, 2019, Andrea was having a rough day, although the specifics aren’t completely known.
She had been staying with her youngest sister and that day they had a fight. She went to visit her other sister, and they sat on the porch and chatted about it for a while. It was 1:00 in the morning when her sister, Erin, drove her back to where she was staying.
But at 1:30, Andrea knocked on Erin’s door. Apparently, her other sister wouldn’t answer the door when Andrea went home and for some reason, Andrea didn’t have a key. Erin said she couldn’t stay with her, and Andrea walked back home.
She made it back to her house, or the house she was staying at, but allegedly couldn’t get inside.
From there, Andrea vanished.
Where is Andrea Michelle Knabel?
Andrea was born on January 7, 1982. She was the oldest of her siblings, and she often took a motherly, nurturing role when caring for her two younger sisters, Erin and Sara.
Andrea was a very intelligent child, mature for her age, and a good student. School came easy to her. Andrea, and both of her sisters, Erin, and Sara, attended a Catholic School in their Audobon Park neighborhood. Audubon Park is a very nice suburb of Louisville.
Her parents would divorce when she was 13 years old, and Andrea would go on the graduate from the University of Louisville with a marketing degree.
As an adult, Andrea herself would go on to have two boys of her own, with two different men. She wouldn’t stay with either of them, but she would have joint custody of her boys with their fathers.
In 2009, Andrea took on a job as an analyst with the health insurance company, Humana.
Now let’s fast forward to 2017.
On September 1, 2017, Andrea had a childhood friend that went missing. With great determination, Andrea became obsessed with searching for and finding her friend. This friend had a troubled past, however, and many people had thought she had just taken off on her own. She also had an active arrest warrant, and her boyfriend was allegedly a known drug dealer in the area. So many people brushed off her disappearance.
But not Andrea
She was worried that her friend had been abducted for trafficking, or that something bad had happened to her. Andrea was frantically searching for her friend but wasn’t getting any help.
This is how she came across the group, Missing in America.
Now, this group is a volunteer group of women, who help search for missing persons in America. They are not affiliated with the Dateline series, Missing in America.
After Andrea reported her friend missing, she heard from a woman named Nancy Shaeffer. Nancy was the founder of Missing in America, and she offered to help Andrea in searching for her missing friend. Andrea was grateful for any help.
A few weeks later, Andrea met Nancy in Lexington, Kentucky, about 80 miles from Louisville, to search for Heather.
This friend was found, living with a boyfriend in Lexington, and Andrea had just let everyone know that this friend was okay, and they just hoped that she would make better choices in the future and that Andrea would be there for her if she ever needed it.
But the search for her friend had brought Andrea and Nancy close. And Andrea found a passion for the work that Nancy did- volunteer searches for missing people.
While Nancy was working in the Lexington area, she got involved in another missing person case, and through this, she met private investigator Tracey Leonard. Leonard was an ex-army veteran who also had a passion for finding missing persons, and made this his life work. Nancy asked him about possibly working on a documentary together, and introduced him to Andrea.
He was immediately struck by Andrea, saying that she was much more articulate and professional sounding than the other members of the group he had spoken to.
Together they worked on a case in Lexington, and together, they solved it, finding a teenager being held captive in a basement out of state. Tracy credits Andrea with doing much of the legwork. Andrea was good at this investigative work and was super passionate about it.
So as the next couple of years went on, Andrea continued this investigative work with Nancy, who had now brought in some other volunteers. She had also hired a film crew to film their searches in the hopes of having a reality show or a documentary.
Andrea was in her element. But Andrea might have had some other things going on behind the scenes that people didn’t know about.
In late 2017, Andrea began dating a man by the name of Brian. When Andrea’s family met him, however, they were initially skeptical. He seemed troubled and had a bit of history. Although we don’t know much more than that.
At that point, Andrea’s father noted a change in his daughter.
By August 2019, Andrea was in a bit of a slump. She had lost her job due to mass layoffs at Humana, lost her house, and was temporarily living with her sister, Sara, and her sister’s fiance’, Ethan, at a house owned by their mother.
It is unclear where her mother was residing at that time.
Ethan worked in construction and was currently remodeling that house.
But something happened on the night of August 12, 2019. Andrea had an argument with Sara and Ethan. We don’t know the full details, but it was possibly because Sara and Ethan wanted Andrea to move out.
Andrea went to her other sister’s house, not far away. She sat on the porch with her sister, Erin, and vented about the situation late into the night. Erin wasn’t sure what she could do, but listened to Andrea and encouraged her to go back home and try and work things out.
Around 1:00 a.m., Erin drove Andrea back to the house and dropped her off.
But around 1:30 a.m., Erin woke up to the sound of knocking on her door. Andrea was back. She had walked back to Erin’s house, saying that no one was answering the door at the house and she had nowhere to go.
Erin told her to go back home, they’d have to let her in. Erin herself had to get up early the next morning. All of the family’s personal drama hasn’t come out which is okay- but it’s safe to say that the family was having trouble with Andrea during this time. Erin had let her father know that Andrea had come back to her house, and it was his advice that Erin tells her to go back to Sara and Ethan’s.
Andrea started walking back home at 1:38 a.m., and Erin watched her walk in that direction before heading back to bed herself.
And then Andrea Knabel was never seen or heard from again.
Andrea was an adult- 37 years old- so at first, everyone thought she was just maybe at someone else’s house and they hadn’t figured out who.
On the morning of August 13, Andrea’s mother sent out a group text to the family asking if anyone had seen Andrea. Her sister, Erin, was curious. Where was Andrea? She tried reaching her, with no success and started reaching out to the friends she knew of to see if they had seen her.
No one had
By August 17, 2019, Andrea was reported missing.
Andrea’s friends with Missing in America were finally contacted as well, and Nancy Shaeffer, the founder, made the trip to Louisville to help search for her friend.
Law enforcement wasn’t sure what to think. Andrea was an adult, and she was in a tough spot- no job, no home, and they thought it was possible that she had just left town to start fresh somewhere else. But no one believed she would leave her two boys.
The public also wasn’t sure. Was this a stunt? Was this a hoax? Andrea was active in missing person cases, and then she herself disappears. Many people thought it was a hoax.
Andrea’s father, Mike, and sister, Erin, started to pound the pavement searching for Andrea. Erin was so distraught because she had turned Erin away that night and believed if she had let her stay, she wouldn’t have disappeared.
Mike had a strained relationship with his daughter and he also felt guilty about that. Together they hung up flyers, knocked on doors, and talked to everyone they could.
First of all, they talked to Sara and Ethan. They knew Andrea had left Erin’s house at 1:37 a.m., but they weren’t sure from there what happened to her. Both Sara and Ethan said they never heard Andrea return and hadn’t seen her.
They contacted a private investigator- the same one that had worked with Missing in America, Tracy Leonard- and he asked to look at Andrea’s laptop.
Since she had her google location turned on, he was able to trace her movements via her phone from that night- or early morning.
Here is what we know based on her google location activity:
1:38 a.m.: The phone is at Erin’s house, and making the walk back towards her mother’s house where she was hoping to stay with her sister.
1:54 a.m.: The phone shows that Erin arrived back at the mother’s house. It can’t be verified if she made it into the house or now, but it did ‘pingback at her mother’s house at that time.
3:53a.m.: The phone shows active, still at the mother’s house and then stops pinging.
6:31 a.m.: The phone once again pings at the mother’s house- active. The phone they goes dea*d or turns off, and is never turned back on again.
The family once again questions Sara and Ethan, and this time, they said that yes, they heard Andrea knocking, but they didn’t want to let her in.
The authorities also question Sara and Ethan, and conduct a thorough search of the house. Nothing was found. No sign of Andrea. No signs of a struggle. And no sign of Andrea’s phone.
It was learned that she did text, call or message a few people during that walk looking for either a ride or a place to stay. Some attempts to reach someone — anyone- were also made just after 2:00 a.m.
One of those people was her good friend, Suzette, who was also with Missing in America. Suzette said that Andrea tried to facetime her at 2:12 a.m. But Suzette said she didn’t answer. She texted Andrea back at 2:13 a.m., and Andrea never read it. She tried to message Andrea a few more times after that, with all messages now going unread.
From here, a bunch of odd theories would develop. We are going to come back to those in a little bit, one of them being a very scary story of a case that Andrea had gone undercover in, an unsolved missing person case.
The ladies of Missing in America would soon become divided, and eventually, their volunteer group would disband, although they would reunite later down the road.
Andrea grew up in a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky called Audobon Park. According to their website, Audubon Park is described as “An urban jewel in the midst of metropolitan Louisville”.
The way the city is laid out, Audubon Park is surrounded on all sides by the city of Louisville. Audubon Park has about 1400 permanent residents.
Now, Louisville, Kentucky sits right on the Ohio River and borders Indiana. This will come up later in the discussion of theories.
Louisville is also the largest city in Kentucky. It’s a big place. Home to Andrea’s Alma Mater, the University of Louisville, an international airport, the Kentucky Derby, and even home to the KFC franchise- Kentucky Fried Chicken.
It’s a busy city, and brings in its fair share of tourism, in addition to the over 1 million residents in the area. This was Andrea’s home for her entire life.
We know that Erin lived in the 4000 block of Fincastle Road in the Audobon Park area of Louisville. We know that her mom’s house was within walking distance, on the other side of the golf course. Literally, a country club and golf course sit in the middle of the two houses.
It is a very residential area, with little to no waterways. It’s probable there are small ponds on the golf course, and of course, the Ohio River is just north of here- but quite a distance away from this neighborhood.
Google maps tells me that it would take 28 minutes to go from Erin’s house to the other side of the golf course. But we know that Andrea’s walk took her 16 minutes. She was at Erin’s house at 1:38 a.m. and at her mom’s house at 1:54 a.m. Is it possible she cut through the golf course? She must have taken a shortcut somewhere.
It’s also understandable that no one saw Andrea- it was almost 2:00 in the morning, in a residential area/neighborhood. And if she did take a shortcut, it would be even less likely that she would have been seen.
There are a few small patches of woods, but if she had an accident or someone had ended up in those woods, she certainly would have been found by now- over 3 years later.
I’d be curious if investigators pursued any CCTV footage- either from RING doorbell cameras or security cameras at homes or even the golf course.
Erin said that she walked all over the area many times after Andrea vanished, looking for clues or signs of her sister. She felt terrible being at home, safe and warm with her family, while her sister was missing.
But she never found anything to give her any answers.
It was also rumored that Andrea had begun hanging with an unsavory crowd of people and possibly been dabbling in drugs.
At first, that all seemed quite out of character for this super-intelligent mother, who was a college education and who dedicated so much of her life to investigating missing person cases. And of course, the loves of her life- her two young boys.
Sara Knabel and Ethan Bates
Sara and Ethan blamed Andrea for their fight that night citing her behavior and drug activity.
Later another version came out- Sara and Ethan had been staying there just so Ethan could do some work in a bathroom that had a burst pipe. But months later, very little had been done, leaving some in the family to accuse them of living rent-free and doing no work on the house.
Andrea had an argument with her mother that evening, basically stating her displeasure with Sara and Ethan and her belief that they were taking advantage of their mother.
Sara and Ethan had two different stories at first about Andrea that night. First, they said they never heard her come back to the house, and that’s why they didn’t let her in. Later they said, yes, they heard her knocking, but they ignored her.
They claim that they never let her into the house.
Since Andrea’ google history does lead to their house and stops there, many people have kept Sara and Ethan on their radar. Ethan does have a criminal record, mainly with drug charges.
But other than being the last possible place that Andrea was seen, there isn’t anything else to connect Andrea’s disappearance to Sara and Ethan.
Sara is currently estranged from the rest of her family, claiming that they blame her for what might have happened to Andrea. But her family claims that is completely false. In a tragic sense, in losing Andrea, they have also lost their other daughter, Sara, as well.
But Sara and Ethan aren’t the only ones that have raised some suspicion in the disappearance of Andrea Knabel.
MISSING IN AMERICA
Missing in America has its fair share of accusations as well. And this gets complicated, so I’m going to break it down into two main points that have come up.
First, Missing in America was a volunteer group of women who took it upon themselves to investigate cases. Nancy, the founder, and the leader, also worked to gain a reputation for Missing in America, which seemed to rub people the wrong way. She was occasionally accused of making things up for publicity, and she was working hard to get a documentary for her work. She hired film crews and even tried working with YouTube channels to gain some popularity.
This turned people off, thinking Nancy was only doing this for fame.
In fact, when Andrea first vanished, many people blew it off thinking it was a hoax or a stunt perpetrated by Nancy for attention.
All over social media, when Andrea’s missing person flyer was posted or someone posted about her disappearance, the comment sections were flooded with people calling it a hoax and for people to stop buying into it.
This of course caused her case not to be taken seriously and affected searches for Andrea.
Missing in America women conducted their own searches, and went door to door in the Audobon Park area of and other areas of the city, but their presence wasn’t really welcomed.
The second negative publicity for Missing in America happened at the hands of Nancy herself.
She stated that the google activity of one of their members, Suzette, left her questioning if Suzette was telling the truth about the events of the early morning hours of August 13, 2019.
Around 2:12 a.m., Andrea had attempted to Facetime Suzette. Suzette was one of Andrea’s best friends in the Missing in America group. Suzette didn’t pick up that Facetime, however.
But Suzette did message Andrea right back. Maybe she didn’t feel like talking, or being on camera at 2:12 a.m., seems logical.
She asked Andrea what was up. But not only did Andrea never respond, she never even read it. That message went through at 2:13 a.m., just one minute after the attempted FaceTime.
Since we know according to her location history that she arrived back at her mom’s house at 1:54 a.m., this Facetime came through just 18 minutes later.
What was she doing for that 18 minutes?
And why didn’t she read the message just one minute later?
Now, I can’t confirm how this information first got out there, but soon reports start to circulate with fingers pointing at Suzette.
Her location history showed her crossing the bridge between Ohio and Indiana- the bridge that connects Lexington, Kentucky to Indiana, at around 3:00 a.m. She had told everyone that she was at home. So why was she tracked going across the bridge at 3:00 a.m.? Just 48 minutes after receiving a Facetime call from Andrea?
Then, about 15 minutes later, Suzette’s car goes back over the bridge. Many thought that maybe Suzette had taken Andrea somewhere in Indiana and dropped her off. But Suzette said that wasn’t true and remained steadfast that she wasn’t going over the bridge at that time- but yet, her history shows she did.
This started the divide among the Missing in America women, leading to the group actually disbanding for a while.
Suzette is confronted by a detective about this information and asked why her car was going over the bridge at that time. Suzette said she didn’t have any idea. She then said, “well, maybe I did but I forgot.”
So Suzette remained a person of interest in the mind of Nancy at Missing in America, and likely private investigator Tracey Leonard as well. Other members of Missing in America were conflicted.
In January 2021, retired homicide detective, Joe Fanciulli, takes on the case and flies to Lexington. He immediately begins looking into all the theories and goes to talk to Suzette. Suzette says she still doesn’t understand.
Suzette also says that she did receive a bill for a turnpike toll on the bridge from that day for $8, and she just paid it.
Another thing that makes Suzette look interesting in this story.
So detective Joe goes to the turnpike commission to investigate for himself. And he pulls the records for Suzette’s license plate that day and discovers something interesting.
Suzette’s car did go over the bridge on August 13, 2019, but not at 3:00 a.m.- rather, it was 3:00 p.m.
Talk about an odd coincidence, but it does clear up things as to Suzette’s whereabouts in those early morning hours and later in the day. At least, it sort of does. I still have questions though- like how and why did Nancy believe Suzette’s car went over at 3:00 a.m.? Where did she get that information? And if all members had google location history on, what did that show for her whereabouts? I don’t know, that whole story has holes in it, but detective Joe said there really wasn’t any additional reason to look at Suzette further.
Nancy did apologize to Suzette, and in fact, the Missing in America ladies would reunite.
Of course, those that believed Missing in America was using Andrea’s disappearance to gain fame thought this was all part of that stunt.
Detective Tracy Leonard had worked with Nancy and Missing in America on some previous cases. Nancy believed their partnership would help lead them to a documentary or reality show.
Tracy Leonard worked with his brother as a private investigator on many cases. They seemed to have some successes, although some weren’t too thrilled with their tough-guy methods.
Tracy also spoke very highly of Andrea and thought she was the most educated and well-spoken out of all the women in Missing in America and would be a good representative for the group.
Tracy and Andrea worked together on many cases.
In the beginning, Andrea’s father, Mike, believed that Tracy had good intentions and was the perfect person to help find his daughter. After all, he knew her already and with his missing person investigative skills, Mike hoped that he could use that knowledge and find Andrea.
Tracy looked skeptically at Sara and Ethan but also wondered if a past case might have had something to do with her disappearance.
It was also considered that maybe she was having such a difficult time, perhaps she just took off to start fresh.
Although, no one believed she would have left her two little boys behind.
Tracy and his brother dove in and spent months and months investigating.
So when detective Joe came on the case in January of 2021, the first thing he did was reach out to Tracy Leonard. Tracy had over a year of notes and he would be a good person to talk with as he got started.
Joe and Tracy spoke on the town and agreed to meet up once Joe got into Louisville. He would share his notes and perhaps they could come up with some answers together.
When Joe arrived in Louisville, he called Tracy and left a message. This went on for hours, then days. Tracy wouldn’t take his calls, and Joe couldn’t figure out why.
Finally, he reached Tracy and Tracy just said he had decided he wasn’t 100% sure about sharing his notes and all his hard work with Joe.
Later, Tracy’s office building caught fire and everything was lost, including all the notes he had on Andrea’s case, which he said were mostly on paper because he was old school.
Joe was skeptical, but basically, now he had to start the investigation at square one.
He was working under two beliefs:
- Sara and Ethan had more information than they were sharing, or-
2. She had been picked up by someone in those early morning hours
Another possibility did arise, however, and that was that Joe learned from Tracy that Andrea had been working on a case undercover.
When Joe asked Nancy about Andrea’s work on this case undercover, she said she was unaware of this and immediately teared up. She said she called her entire team off of the case because of the danger it potentially held. She said she had no idea that Andrea continued on the case with Tracy.
Almost everyone close to her doesn’t believe that it was true, that she was really working undercover. Now, Andrea did admit to working undercover on video, but still, everyone thought she was doing that for social media views.
So what happened to Andrea Knabel?
It’s been 3 ½ years with no answers.
Do Sara and Ethan know more than they are staying from what happened that night?
Did Andrea get picked up by someone she knew when she realized she had nowhere to go?
Was Andrea so distraught she harmed herself?
Was this a c*rime of opportunity from someone driving by in those early morning hours?
Did Andrea run away to start a fresh life?
So many possibilities here, and I’m curious to know your thoughts.
Was Andrea in a tough place? Yes, it does seem that way. Was she into drugs? Possibly. Was she having some mental health struggles? Possibly. Was she vulnerable and an easy target? Also possibly.
I think it’s the sheer lack of clues in this case that baffles me so much.
Andrea Knabel is described as a caucasian woman, 5’7” tall and weighing around 180 pounds when she was last seen on August 13, 2019. Andrea was 37 years old, and would today be 41 years old.
She has brown hair and hazel eyes and both of her ears are pierced.
She was last known to be wearing a light-colored tank top, white shorts, and light-colored Nike shoes.
Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Andrea Knabel is asked to contact the Louisville Metro Police Department at 502–574–7111 or the Clarksville Police Department at 812–288–7151.