Jennifer Pandos was extremely upset on February 9, 1987. The 15-year-old told some of her friends that she and her boyfriend had been fighting, and she was very distraught about it. She spent the evening at her home in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she lived with her mother and father; they didn’t notice anything unusual about her behavior and she didn’t mention anything about having problems with her boyfriend.
Jenny was a sophomore at Lafayette High School in James City County, Virginia, just outside her hometown of Williamsburg. She was a friendly and popular student who enjoyed the social aspects of high school, and she rarely missed class.
On the morning of February 10th, Margie Pandos was surprised when 6:00 am came and went and she didn’t hear the sounds of her daughter getting into the shower. Jenny was extremely predictable in the morning, and was always in the shower by 6:00 am so she would have enough time to get dressed and do her hair before leaving for school.
Assuming that Jenny had overslept, Margie knocked on her bedroom door. When she didn’t get a reply, she tried to enter Jenny’s bedroom but found the door locked. This was also surprising; Jenny always slept with her door unlocked. Margie woke up her husband, Ron, and the two of them were able to force their way into Jenny’s bedroom.
They weren’t sure what they would find when they opened the door, but they were met with only silence. Jenny wasn’t in her room. The first thing they noticed was that one of the window blinds had been bent down, as if Jenny had been trying to look out the window from between the blinds.
As Margie and Ron scanned around the room, trying desperately to determine what was going on, they saw that Jenny had left a note on her pillow. It didn’t appear to be written in Jenny’s handwriting, and it started out with “Your daughter’s with me. She’s fine. She’s having some problems and needs some time away.”
The second paragraph of the note was written in the same handwriting as the first, but sounded as if it had been written by Jenny: “I’m fine. I just need time to think.” The note then instructed Margie and Ron to go to work as usual if they wanted to hear from Jenny. “Both of you please go to work tomorrow ’cause I will try to call you. I won’t call you at home, only at one of y’all’s work.”
As if anticipating their next move, the note then instructed Jenny’s parents to leave the police out of it. “Do not call the police. I can easily find out if you do. I may never come back home. Don’t tell my friends about this. Just tell them that I’m sick.”
Margie and Ron weren’t sure what to do. They wanted to call the police, but they were afraid that doing so might mean they would never see their daughter again. As they looked around Jenny’s room, they realized that the only thing the teenager had taken with her had been her purse. She hadn’t even taken a coat with her, despite the freezing February temperatures.
All of Jenny’s clothing, shoes, makeup, and other belongings were still in her room. They took this as a hopeful sign that she would indeed be back soon. They couldn’t imagine that Jenny would go anywhere for an extended period of time without being able to change her clothes and do her makeup. Reluctantly, they decided to go to work as usual and hope that Jenny called one of them to let them know exactly what was going on with her.
The day passed without any contact from Jenny. Margie had spent most of her time at work staring at the phone, willing it to ring. She wasn’t sure what to think when Jenny didn’t call. She wanted to call the police, but she and Ron decided to wait for a couple of days. Perhaps Jenny would call one of them the following day.
After three days without any contact from the teenager, Margie called the Williamsburg Police Department and reported Jenny missing. She showed detectives the note that Jenny had left and told them that even though it didn’t look like Jenny’s handwriting, the wording did sound like her daughter and she thought it was possible that she had indeed written it. Some of the investigators who examined the note speculated that Jenny, who was left-handed, had written the note with her right hand in order to disguise her handwriting.
Detectives were extremely interested in speaking with Jenny’s boyfriend, Tony Tobler, and they brought him in for questioning. He admitted that the couple had been having some problems, and their relationship had always been an on-and-off one. He was adamant that he had nothing to do with Jenny’s disappearance; like all of her friends, he was surprised to learn that she was missing in the first place. Everyone had assumed that she had not been in school because she was sick.
After interviewing him several times, detectives eventually determined that Tony was telling the truth and was not involved in Jenny’s disappearance. At this point, they weren’t even sure that a crime had occurred; the teen had left a note saying that she was leaving because she needed time to think about some things, it was apparent that she had run away voluntarily. There was little police would do in this case.
The James City County Police Department was assigned Jenny’s case, and about a month after she went missing they made a public plea for help in determining her location. They also announced that they were offering a $500 reward for any information that led to her whereabouts. They received few calls, and though they did follow up on all tips that came in, none of them led to the missing teenager.
Although Jenny was initially considered to be a runaway, as months went by without any contact from her — and no reported sightings of her — investigators began to fear that she might have run into foul play. Even if she had left her parents’ home willingly, the streets were no place for a 15-year-old girl, and it was very possible that something had happened to her after she left the safety of her home.
Detectives were unable to come up with any reason why Jenny would have wanted to run away from home in the first place. She had no problems with her mother or father, she was doing well in school, and she didn’t use alcohol or drugs. She hadn’t been fighting with any of her friends, and except for her on-again-off-again relationship with Tony, she seemed to have no reason to leave her comfortable life behind.
The note that she left was also somewhat questionable. Although everyone involved believed that Jenny had written the note, why had she felt the need to disguise her handwriting? It’s possible that she was trying, indirectly, to let someone know that she was being forced to write the note by some unknown person.
Although investigators spoke with Jenny’s family, boyfriend, friends, and classmates, none of them were able to offer any insight into where Jenny might have gone. Many of them felt that Jenny wouldn’t have run off without saying something to at least one of her friends, but none of them ever heard from her.
Despite the monetary reward that was offered for information about Jenny’s whereabouts, the case quickly stalled and went cold. It remains that way today. Detectives still aren’t sure if Jenny is alive or de*ad, though after more than 30 years with no contact, they assume the worst. They have conducted several searches of the Williamsburg area using cadaver dogs, but they have never found any evidence related to Jenny’s case.
Jennifer Lynn Pandos was 15 years old when she went missing in 1987. She has hazel eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance she was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 100 pounds. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, a nightshirt with a picture of a panda on the front, a pink sweater, a pink nylon waist-length jacket, and white high-top sneakers. She is left-handed and has a small mole on her left shoulder. If you have any information about Jenny, please contact the James City County Police Department at 757–253–1800.