Heather Kullorn in an undated photo; her fifth-grade school picture; age-progressed to age 19
As previously reported on Netscape, the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis will soon reopen the cold case of Heather Kullorn, a 12-year-old girl who disappeared from a Richmond Heights, Missouri apartment on July 15, 1999.
According to Bill Baker, who leads the squad, the police continue to have a suspect, but no one has been charged. Heather, who disappeared while babysitting for the infant daughter of family friends Christopher Herbert and Dana Madden, was likely abducted sometime during the night or early morning hours, believe police.
There was no forced entry and the only witness was a neighbor --who is legally blind without his glasses--who reported he saw a child being carried out of the apartment in the early morning hours. Additionally, Heather's blood was found on the couch in the apartment.
While police detectives say they will go back and interview everyone who was originally questioned, the lack of an arrest has given those close to the case plenty of time to ruminate on what might have happened to Heather.
"I have had years to think about this," says Mike Mason, in an interview at a federal prison in Marion, Illinois. Back in July 1999, Mason was living across the street from the apartment complex where Heather disappeared; today, he's serving a six-year sentence on federal drug charges.
According to Mason, the morning after Heather was discovered missing, a police officer, accompanied by Christopher Herbert, knocked on his door. "Is she in there?" the police officer asked, before searching Mason's apartment.
According to Mason, he was one of the few people in the building who knew Heather, which explains the visit and the search. Mason adds that he was given a lie detector test during the initial investigation and that he passed it. (Police refuse to comment on the results of any lie detector tests.)
Given Mason's drug dealings with Herbert, police were keenly interested in both men. At the time, Herbert and Mason were doing heavy amounts of methamphetamine, and in their search of the apartments, police found drug paraphernalia in a garage shared by both men.
Heather, who was close with Dana Madden, frequently hung around Herbert's apartment and was quite aware of the drug use going on, says Mason. "That girl had seen a lifetime of stuff," he notes.
For his part, Mason believes that Heather knew her abductor. Major Case Squad Commander Baker agrees that the culprit probably wasn't a stranger. "Usually when you have a stranger abduction," says Baker, "you would have someone hearing screams."
Shortly after Heather's disappearance, Mason says he discovered that his tow chains were missing from his car. Today, he still think it's possible someone used the chains to weigh down Heather's body and throw her in the Mississippi River. "I Want Her To Come Back Home"
Heather's disappearance also weighs on the mind of Dana Madden, 31, who shared the apartment with Herbert. She and Heather were buddies, she says. One of their favorite things to do was to go to the Dollar Store together. Now living in Illinois, Madden says she scans the Internet once a month, looking for news stories about Kullorn.
"I am scared for Heather and I want to know where she is at," says Madden in a phone interview. "I want her to come home."
Madden was also friendly with the girl's mother, Christine Kullorn, but today the two no longer talk. In 2000, Kullorn was arrested for trying to attack Madden with a baseball bat. To this day, Kullorn believes her former friend knows something about what happened to her daughter, but Madden denies the charge.
As for her theories on what happened to Heather? "I can only account for myself," says Madden, who was working the overnight shift at a convenience store when Heather disappeared. After the police searched Mason's apartment, they sent him to pick up Madden at work and bring her home.
Madden says it wasn't common for a friend or acquaintance to randomly drop by her apartment. She is at least willing to consider the possibility of a stranger abduction. Heather used to play at a nearby park, she recalls, and perhaps somebody followed her back to the apartment complex."You Don't Think About Things"
In the weeks and months that followed Heather's disappearance, Herbert, Madden, and Mason continued their heavy drug use, despite the fact that all three were being closely watched by police. Both Mason and Madden agree the drugs affected how they reacted to Heather's disappearance.
"When you are high, you don't think about things," says Madden. "And you wake up in the morning, and you think, 'I am going to have to deal with this stuff.' So then you get more high.'"
Christopher Herbert, who will be released from federal prison later this year, told police he was out with friends when Heather disappeared. Later, he admitted that he was trying to manufacture meth with a friend along a bank of the Mississippi River. That area of the river would eventually be dragged by police, as would a lake on a property frequented by Herbert.
Herbert had dated Christine Kullorn on and off before he met Madden and some people close to the case recall that he treated Heather like an uncle. But others recall no particular warmth to their relationship.
Having repeatedly told police since the beginning of their investigation that he doesn't know what happened to Heather, Herbert declined Netscape's request for an in-person interview. But in a letter to this reporter, he writes that he has "nothing to hide." "I don't think I can tell you any more than you already know," he adds.
"Maybe Someone Will Come Forward"
In their initial investigation, officials interviewed numerous other parties, including a couple from Sikeston, Missouri, who stopped by Herbert's apartment earlier that same afternoon to recover meth-manufacturing equipment. They also interviewed Herbert's friend who was with him at the river that night.
With the Cold Case Squad taking a second shot at the investigation, Commander Baker is hopeful that someone will come forward. "Maybe this will trigger something for someone," he says.
For Christine Kullorn, who is currently trying to raise funds to start a foundation in her daughter's name, the reopening of the case is bittersweet. "I just wish they'd done this a long time ago," she says, speaking by phone from her Saint Clair, Missouri apartment.
As for Mike Mason, he's eager to see the case move forward. "I would love to see this go to trial," he says. "I would love to be able to talk to someone about this."