Kelly Hollan had an unexpected day off from kindergarten on February 12, 1982. Knotts County, Kentucky had been hit with a heavy snowstorm and school had been canceled as a result. After he ate breakfast, he begged his mother, Judy Moore, to be allowed to go out and play in the snow. Judy initially told him no; Kelly had asthma and she didn’t think it was a good idea for him to go out in such cold weather. Eventually she gave in to his pleas, though, and helped him put on snow boots and his heavy winter coat. After cautioning him not to leave the yard, she sent him outside at 11:00 am.
Judy had been a very young mother. She dropped out of school when she was just 14 years old and married Bobby Hollan. By 1974, the couple had two children, Robert and Margaret. A third child had been born premature and only survived a few weeks. Neither Bobby nor Judy had a job; Judy said she had epilepsy that prevented her from working. The state of Kentucky removed Robert and Margaret from the home, ruling that Judy wasn’t taking adequate care of them. Her parents stepped in and took custody of both children, but it wasn’t long before Judy got pregnant again. Kelly was born in November 1975; the state of Kentucky doesn’t appear to have raised any questions about Judy’s ability to parent him and she retained custody of Kelly. She and Bobby soon divorced, and she told people that Kelly was all she had.
Judy and Kelly moved in with her boyfriend in Pine Tree Hollow in 1981. It was an extremely rural area, with gravel roads and just a few houses scattered around the hollow. Due to its remoteness, Judy felt it was quite safe to allow 6-year-old Kelly to play outside unsupervised. She checked on him through the window a few times that afternoon, and he seemed to be having fun entertaining himself in the snow.
Judy went to a neighbor’s home at 4:00 pm to use their phone. She and her boyfriend didn’t have a phone of their own, and she needed to talk to her sister. Kelly was still playing outside at the time. After chatting with her sister, she returned home. Kelly was no longer in the yard, but she assumed he went to visit a friend down the street. The two boys would often watch television together — Kelly loved the Dukes of Hazzard — so Judy figured Kelly would return home once the show was over.
Judy made dinner around 6:00 pm and went outside to see if she could find Kelly, but he still hadn’t returned. She decided to eat without him. After she finished her meal, she walked to the home of Kelly’s friend and asked if Kelly was there. She was surprised to learn that Kelly hadn’t been there at all that day.
Judy said that when she found out Kelly wasn’t there, she went to her boyfriend’s grandparents’ house to use their phone to call the police. She said they wouldn’t let her use the phone until midnight for some reason. It’s not clear why she didn’t try to use a phone somewhere else; by the time she called to say the child was missing, he had been gone for at least six hours, maybe even longer.
The Knott County Rescue Squad was called right away and started looking for the child right away. At first, they thought he had just wandered off and become lost, and they thought they would quickly find him. At 1:51 am, the rescue squad called the Kentucky State Police to let them know that things looked worse because Kelly wasn’t to be found. At 3:00 am, the first state trooper arrived on the scene.
In the early hours of the search, it was hard to do things because there weren’t enough people on the overnight shift and it started to snow again. But by morning, dozens of police officers were helping to look for Kelly. Most people thought the boy was lost or hurt; the area was so far away that kidnapping didn’t seem likely. Their main worry was that Kelly might have fallen into one of the many abandoned mine shafts in the area. Because of the new snow, the boy’s footprints were gone, so search dogs were used to try to find his scent. It looked like the dogs couldn’t find a scent trail.
Judy told her parents that Kelly wasn’t with her when she called them. She probably didn’t expect them to act that way; they seemed to think Judy had hurt her son. Judy’s dad was upset that he and his wife only had custody of Margaret and Robert. He said that Kelly wouldn’t have run away if they had custody of Kelly.
At first, it was said that Kelly’s friend had seen him the afternoon he went missing. The boy said that he and Kelly had walked to a small store in the hollow around 4:00 pm. Later news stories didn’t include this supposed sighting. It’s not clear if police were able to rule it out or if the child who reported it got his days mixed up. That day, no one else said they saw Kelly at all.
Judy believed that Kelly’s father likely had something to do with the abduction, but police were able to verify that he had been nowhere near Pine Tree Hollow on the day he went missing. Judy’s sister claimed that Judy had killed Kelly and asked her for help hiding his body, but Judy denied this and her sister later retracted her statement.
The search for Kelly continued for more than two weeks. Police combed through Pine Tree Hollow looking for any evidence that might lead to the missing child, but found nothing. They drained wells and dragged creeks, searched through abandoned mines, dug up several different areas, and checked under homes and porches.
One neighbor thought she recalled seeing a green car in the area on the day Kelly went missing, but without any other information police were unable to determine if this car had anything to do with the disappearance.
Police looked into rumors that Judy was somehow responsible for whatever happened to Kelly, but were unable to find any evidence to substantiate these claims. Several of the detectives believed Judy was involved, but also noted that several of the people living in the area had criminal records and none could be ruled out. A grand jury investigation took place, but no one was ever indicted in the case. The investigation soon went cold.
Sporadic searches for Kelly continued to take place over the years. In 2008, detectives received a tip that Kelly had been killed and buried under the concrete porch of his former home. Investigators dug around the entire foundation of the porch but found nothing. The case remains open, and detectives continue to follow up on new leads as they learn of them. They do not believe Kelly was abducted; they believe he was likely murdered on the same day he was reported missing and are hoping to one day get the information they need to close the case.
Kelly Hollan was 6 years old when he went missing in 1982. He has brown hair and blue eyes. At the time of his disappearance, he was 4 feet tall and weighed 60 pounds. He was born with a cleft palate and has a scar on the left side of face between his upper lip and his nose, and he had a noticeable speech impediment. He was last seen wearing a blue winter coat with a hood and snow boots. If you have any information on Kelly, please contact the Kentucky State Police at 606–435–6069.