Christina Whittaker hadn’t had a night out in months, so she was excited to meet up with some friends at a Hannibal, Missouri bar on the evening of Friday, November 13, 2009. It was the first time the 21-year-old had gone out since her daughter had been born six months ago, and she was looking forward to a relaxing night out. Unfortunately, the night didn’t go as planned. Christina had a little too much to drink and was kicked out of the bar after she started harassing the bartender, but her friends stayed at the bar, leaving Christina with no way to get home. After trying unsuccessfully to find someone willing to drive her home, Christina vanished. She never made it home and was never seen again.
Christina’s boyfriend, Travis Blackwell, had agreed to babysit Christina’s daughter, Alexandria, so she could have a night out with her friends. He dropped her off at Rookie’s Sports Bar in downtown Hannibal around 8:45 pm; her friends were already at the bar at that time.
Around 10:30 pm, Christina called Travis to check up on her daughter. She assured him that one of her friends would be giving her a ride home around midnight; she also promised to stop at a restaurant and pick up some takeout for him on her way home. It was a promise she wouldn’t be able to keep.
By 11:45 pm, Christina had been drinking for three hours. Christina wasn’t normally a heavy drinker, but on this night a man at the bar kept buying shots for her and her friends. As a result, she drank more than usual and was very intoxicated. Vicki Lieurance, the bartender at Rookie’s Sports Bar, noticed that Christina’s behavior changed as she continued to drink. “She was getting belligerent towards me and I told her, ‘Well, we’re going to ask you to leave.’”
Christina wasn’t willing to leave the bar without a fight. Vicki noted, “My boss went over there with me and we both asked her real nice to leave. She wanted to fight, so he grabbed her on one side, I grabbed her on the other side, and we just walked her to the back door.”
Curtis Gaines, the bouncer at Rookie’s Sports Bar, told reporters that Christina immediately tried to get back in the bar. After he told her that she had to leave, she exited the bar with at least one unidentified male. “I don’t remember if there was one or two guys, but one guy came in and grabbed her and then they actually left.” Other witnesses claimed she left with as many as four men, but no one seemed to know who they were.
Cindy Young, Christina’s mother, says that Christina begged the bouncer and bartender to let her back in so she could talk to her friends about getting a ride home, but they wouldn’t let her in. Her friends wouldn’t leave the bar to talk to Christina, and they wouldn’t even go outside.
Christina went to River City Billiards after being kicked out of Rookie’s. It was right next door to Rookie’s. She asked several people inside if they could give her a ride home, but no one was willing to help her. The bartender got tired of Christina asking people for rides all the time and told her she had to leave the bar.
Christina walked around the corner to get to Sportsman’s Bar after leaving River City Billiards. Vanessa Swank, who worked behind the bar, knew Christina all her life. Christina, she said, came into the bar right before it closed and said she had been kicked out of both Rookie’s and River City Billiards. “She was arguing with this guy on the phone off and on until she finally put down the phone, and I told her, ‘Why don’t you let me call you a taxi? You can go home to your mom’s.'”
Vanessa offered to call a taxi, but Christina turned her down. I looked up and saw her run out the back door. That was the last time any of us saw her.” Christina was crying so hard as she ran out of the bar, according to witnesses. She was by herself at the time, and there were no signs that anyone had followed her to Sportsman’s Bar.
It’s still not clear what happened to Christina after she left Sportsman’s Bar, but she never got home. While Travis was waiting for her, he fell asleep. He didn’t notice anything was wrong until he woke up early on Saturday morning. He tried calling Christina on her cell phone but couldn’t reach her. So he called her mother, who was out of town for the night. Cindy ran back to Hannibal right away.
Cindy was sure that Christina wouldn’t have left her baby daughter on her own, but she tried to stay positive. She didn’t say that she was missing until the next day, when she found out that Christina’s cell phone had been found early Saturday morning. It was lying on the sidewalk in front of an apartment building not far from Sportsman’s Bar.
Cindy told the police that her daughter was especially vulnerable because she had fibromyalgia, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression. She was given a number of medicines that she was supposed to take every day, but she didn’t always do what she was supposed to because she didn’t like how they made her feel. While she was gone, she didn’t have any of her prescriptions with her.
Cindy said that her daughter was slightly childlike and naïve, and she thought that her mental illnesses made her more likely to be manipulated. She was afraid Christina had been taken and might have been a victim of trafficking.
Police in Hannibal used search dogs to try to figure out where Christina went after leaving Sportsman’s Bar. Even though the dogs seemed to pick up on a scent trail, they couldn’t find Christina.
Water patrol boats searched the Mississippi River for Christina because people were afraid she might have gotten into it somehow. The search in the river also turned up nothing, just like the search on the ground. “There’s nothing to suggest foul play,” Hannibal Police Captain James Hark told the press. We haven’t ruled that out, but we’re looking into everything right now.
As Hannibal Police Lt. Jennifer Grote put it, “We started calling people at the bars where she was, and we checked hotels and hospitals.” We walked around the neighborhood and took notes. We asked the person who found the phone a lot of questions. They searched the area around the dumpsters and went door-to-door to talk to people who lived there. There was nothing that helped them get closer to Christina.
Cindy spent the next week walking around Hannibal and handing out missing person flyers. She also asked everyone she saw if they knew anything about her daughter. She called the Hannibal Police Department whenever she had a possible lead and gave it to the investigators, hoping they would quickly follow it up.
Soon, Hannibal was full of rumors about what had happened to Christina. Some people thought Travis had killed her, either on purpose or by accident. Others said she was taken by sex traffickers and forced to work as a prostitute in Peoria, Illinois. Some people thought she had just chosen to leave Hannibal and begin a new life somewhere else. Even though investigators had to sort through all the rumors, they couldn’t find any solid proof of what had happened to Christina.
The rumor that wouldn’t go away was about a man named Darcy Moore, who people on the street called “Bookie.” A number of people said that he was the one who took Christina hostage and made her work in the sex trade in Peoria. Three weeks after Christina was last seen, Bookie was being held in the Peoria County Jail on separate charges when investigators talked to him. He said that he had nothing to do with Christina’s disappearance and that he and his wife had been out of town when she did. Detectives were not able to connect him to Christina, and his wife supported his story.
That February, Cindy and her husband Alex were on “The Steve Wilkos Show.” They hoped that by showing up, the case would get some much-needed attention and more people would know that Christina was still missing. Not only Christina, but also her boyfriend and the father of her daughter, Dustin Johnston, were on the show.
Steve Wilkos turned his attention right away to Travis and accused him of hurting Christina and hiding her body. He said that Travis had failed two polygraph tests that the producers of the show had given him. Travis strongly denied that he had anything to do with Christina going missing.
Cindy was very angry. In defense of Travis, she said she was sure he would never hurt her daughter. After the fact, she told reporters that she didn’t like how the show handled the situation. “I’m really upset with them. They made Travis look like a monster when we went on the show to ask for help finding Christy.I was really mad.”
Travis couldn’t have done anything to Christina, Cindy said, because he was at the house with Alexandria the whole time. “I know he wouldn’t hurt her in any way.” That night, he was here. My son and his girlfriend were across the hall. They were sure Travis had never left the house.
Travis went to the Hannibal police and volunteered to be put through a polygraph test there in order to clear up the story. He did well. Even though there were rumors that he might have been involved, investigators didn’t think of him as a suspect.
Cindy hired a private investigator because she wasn’t happy with how the Hannibal Police Department was handling the case. When asked by reporters in March 2011, the private detective said he thought Christina was still alive and being held against her will in Peoria. He said that many people had seen things there, but the police said that none of these sightings could be confirmed.
Doug Burgess, a police officer in Peoria, told reporters, “We’ve talked to the family, and they told us that they’ve talked to people who have seen her in the area, but we have no confirmed reports that she’s here.” He did say that some officers in the Peoria Police Department’s drug unit thought they had seen Christina in February 2010, but she ran away as soon as she saw them. “They said that the picture of Christina looked like the girl who ran away from them, but there’s no way to be sure if it was her or not.”
Cindy told reporters in May 2011 that she still felt the same pain about Christina’s disappearance as she did at the time. “You wake up from your nightmares. We can’t wake up. My daughter is no longer with me…A lot of people have told me she’s dead. That doesn’t make sense to me. “God told me she’s still alive, and I know she’ll come home.”
Over time, Christina’s case stopped making the news, and the investigation into her disappearance slowed down. Cindy did everything she could to keep the case in the public eye, and people kept telling her they thought they saw Christina. She saw Christina a lot in Peoria, and Cindy was sure that Christina was still alive and being forced to work as a prostitute there by the people who took her. “My daughter is very pretty.” These people saw her and knew they could make money from her, so they did.
Lt. John Zerbonia of the Hannibal Police Department said, “We have been to Peoria more than once.” We’ve looked in stores, homes, and gas stations. We even put police officers in bars and strip clubs in Peoria to see if they had any proof of what we were hearing. Any of the rumors that Christina was in the Peoria area could not be proven.
Every year on the anniversary of Christina’s disappearance, her family and friends held prayer vigils and let go of balloons. She hadn’t been seen in eight years by 2017, but her family still thought she was alive and would be found one day. In 2017, Alexandria spoke at the vigil and told reporters, “I miss her, I love her, and I want her to come home.” Alexandria had just turned 8 without her mother. She lived with her father in Palmyra, but she thought about her mother every day. She said that her mother coming home was the most important thing on her Christmas list every year.
In September 2018, police received a tip that Christina’s body was buried on a property in Marion County, Missouri. According to Lt. Jennifer Grote, investigators thought it was a credible lead. “We contacted the FBI, and they brought their dig team up. They dug in the area that we were given information on and we have no findings from that.” It was simply one more rumor.
As the 10th anniversary of Christina’s disappearance approached, Hannibal detectives said they were still trying to determine what had happened to her. Hannibal Police Chief Lyndell Davis admitted, “We know that in the public’s mind a case like this might be forgotten by some or never even heard of by others. We thought it might be time to ignite some new interest in the case…this is still an open investigation.”
Lt. Jennifer Grote, who had been working the case since the beginning, said the case was tough because they heard so many different rumors about Christina’s fate but had no solid evidence to back any of them up. “We’ve talked to over 200 people…we’ve gone coast to coast following leads and tips on this case.” Despite the extensive investigation, detectives still have no idea what happened to Christina but believe there are people out there who do know. They continue to hope that someone will call them with the information they need to finally close this case.
Christina Maxine Whittaker was just 21 years old when she went missing in Hannibal, Missouri in November 2009. There are dozens of rumors about what happened to her, but no solid evidence and police have no idea if she is alive or dead. Christina has brown eyes and red hair, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. She has a scar from a Cesarean section on her abdomen and a surgical scar on her left knee. She has a tattoo of an angel on her back and one of a Care Bear on her ankle. She was last seen wearing a pink tank top under a white V-neck shirt, blue jeans, and white Nike sneakers with pink stripes. If you have any information about Christina, please contact the Hannibal Police Department at 573–221–0987.