Kristen Modafferi grew up in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina. She was raised by her parents, Bob and Debbie, alongside her three sisters.

Kristen graduated high school with honors and received a full scholarship to North Carolina State University where she studied engineering. Kristen was hard-working, motivated, and incredibly bright. She finished her freshman year before she even turned 18 and while working at a pizza parlor part-time. Kristen loved photography, art, and anything creative.

When Kristen learned she could spend a summer out of state and still earn credits toward her degree, she jumped at the opportunity. She decided on sunny San Francisco and enrolled in a photography class at the University of California, Berkeley. Kristen went on Craigslist and found a $500 room for rent in nearby Oakland. The Modaferris weren’t exactly thrilled that Kristen would have four male roommates but they trusted her to make the right choices. Tragically, they never saw their beloved daughter again.

Kristen Modaferri

Kristen arrived in San Francisco on June 1, 1997 — her 18th birthday. The very next day, she found a job at Spinelli, a coffee shop inside Crocker Galleria Mall in the San Francisco financial district. Kristen spent the next three weeks sightseeing and immersing herself in all the city had to offer. She called her parents and told them she was having the time of her life.

Then, one day, the calls stopped coming.

On June 23, 1997, Kristen worked the morning shift at Spinelli. She told her co-workers it was her last day of freedom before classes started and asked for recommendations, ultimately stating she might visit the Sutro Baths, a tourist attraction. Kristen asked her colleagues for bus directions and left shortly after her 3 pm shift ended. At 3:45, two co-workers saw Kristen on the upper level of the mall with a blonde-haired woman. They later said it was unusual since Kristen never loitered at the mall after work.

Kristen was never seen or heard from again and to this day, the mysterious blonde-haired woman has never been identified or come forward.

The Modaferris tried to call Kristen the next day but there was no answer. On June 27th, they grew concerned and left her a voicemail on her landline asking her to call them back. Kristen’s roommates heard the message and informed Bob and Debbie that they hadn’t seen Kristen in four days. The couple reported their daughter missing that very day and booked a flight.

If Kristen had disappeared just three weeks earlier before she turned 18, the investigation into her disappearance would have been much different and as a minor, an alert would have been sent out immediately. However, since Kristen was legally an adult, the Oakland Police Department refused to file a missing persons report, insisting she would return on her own.

The authorities only started to take Kristen’s case seriously after she missed the first day of her photography class on June 30th — the entire reason she was in San Francisco in the first place. Kristen was very excited about the class and she paid the $1,000 tuition with her own money. She also failed to pick up her last paycheck of $400. Sadly, all signs pointed to foul play.

Bloodhounds tracked Kristen’s scent to a bus stop just outside the Crocker Galleria Mall all the way to Sutro Heights Park where the Sutro Baths are located. From there, the dogs lost her scent, as if she vanished into thin air.

The Modaferris searched Kristen’s room for clues and found a Bay Guardian newspaper stuffed into her trashcan. Circled was a personal ad looking for friends. Investigators believe Kristen placed the ad but Bay Guardian didn’t store any records to confirm whether she placed it or whether someone else placed it and Kristen merely responded to it.

A personal ad believed to have been placed by Kristen Modaferri

On July 10, 1997, two and a half weeks after Kristen disappeared, a man called a San Francisco news station claiming that two women who worked at a local YMCA murd*ered Kristen over a “lesbian love triangle” and dumped her body under a bridge. The news station called the police and they searched the area around the bridge but didn’t find anything.

Authorities went to the YMCA and spoke to the two women. They denied the allegations, insisting that a deranged man named Jon Onuma was likely trying to frame them because they had fired his girlfriend, Jill Lampo. The women claimed that Jon had been threatening them for weeks.

Investigators ultimately concluded that the two women were not involved in Kristen’s disappearance and brought Jon in for questioning. He admitted making the story up because he wanted vengeance for Jill.

Jon allegedly posted personal ads in the newspaper looking for women to engage in sexual encounters with. Several women came forward alleging Jon had abused and scammed them. One woman claimed Jon allegedly beat her and said, “Now you know what happened to Kristen Modafferi.”

Jon Onuma

The authorities spoke with and ruled out all of Kristen’s co-workers at Spinelli with the exception of a man named Matthew Luque. He started working at Spinelli shortly after Kristen vanished and quit within a few weeks, therefore, there was no proof he ever knew Kristen or met her.

However, when a private investigator called Matthew to question him about Kristen’s disappearance, he angrily yelled and hung up the phone.

A few days later, the authorities searched Jon Onuma and Jill Lampo’s apartment. They found Jill’s diary in which she mentioned breaking up with Matthew Luque for Jon. Matthew later told a friend that Jill was “hot but batshit crazy” and that she admitted to being involved in a crime.

However, the investigation stalled from there as the authorities were never able to find a link between Kristen →Matthew, Jon, or Jill, to explain how the college student would have even come into contact with any of them.

Jon never faced any charges in connection with Kristen’s disappearance, however, the case was featured on America’s Most Wanted, and host John Walsh personally named Jon a person of interest. As a result, he was evicted in 1999 and relocated to Hawaii. Shortly after Jon moved away, he told his former landlord he had left a briefcase hidden in the attic and desperately needed to retrieve it. Instead, the authorities seized the briefcase, and inside was a stack of papers regarding Kristen’s case.

Jill Lampo

In June 2012, a woman called in a disturbing tip. The woman was married to Jill Lampo’s biological uncle and stated that a distraught Jill called him one night during a mental breakdown and said she was racked with guilt because a “controlling man” had convinced her to take part in a kidnapping and murd*er in San Francisco 15 years earlier. Jill denied the allegations and said the call never happened. She claimed she was at the library the day Kristen disappeared and the only evidence she had to corroborate her account was a library card. She was never charged with any crimes.

Kristen lived at 278 Jayne Avenue with four male roommates, all of whom were interviewed and cleared. None of them really knew Kristen well since she had only lived with them for 3 weeks and was rarely ever home. Unfortunately, the house wasn’t in the safest area and Kristen walked 1 mile home from work at 11 pm most nights. Next door is 274 Jayne Avenue which at the time was a halfway house for juvenile offenders.

In 2015, cadaver dogs alerted to the presence of human remains between 278 Jayne Avenue and 274 Jayne Avenue. DNA testing revealed that DNA found in the chemicals matched samples provided by the Modaferris meaning it was likely the crime scene — Kristen may have been attacked there but it wasn’t the burial spot since her body has never been found.

“The city of Charlotte has (been) wonderful support for us. Our friends at work and our friends at school and our church and just people. Strangers, coming up and giving us hugs many years later and reminding us that we still remember. We still remember, and we still pray for your family…I tell people often, ‘Don’t feel bad bringing her up. We love talking about Kristen…I just want to say thank you for keeping us in your prayers and in your thoughts. We have felt it over the years.” — The Modafferi family on the 20th anniversary of Kristen’s disappearance

25 years later, Kristen Modaferri remains missing. She was last seen wearing a black Spinelli t-shirt with a blue plaid shirt, tan pants, and sneakers, carrying a green backpack. If alive today, she would be 43.

If you have any information, submit an anonymous tip at Find Kristen or call PI Dennis Mahon at 914-483-7214. A $50,000 reward is being offered.

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