Left and Center: Jody circa, 1985
Right: Age Progressed to age 44
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: May 23, 1985
Missing From: Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: September 20, 1970
Age: 14 years old
Height and Weight: 5’1″ and 90 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Sandy hair, Blue eyes, Jody has an appendectomy scar on her abdomen, a small mole underneath her chin, a large birthmark under one of her arms, Jody’s teeth were said to be in excellent condition according to her family at the time of her 1985 disappearance, she was known to wear eyeglasses with large plastic square shaped frames
NCMEC Number: 601798
Details of Disappearance
Jody was last seen in Kansas City, Missouri on May 23rd 1985. She went to her boyfriend’s residence located near East 7th Street and Cambridge Avenue (some agencies give the address as the 700 block of Cambridge Avenue) where they allegedly got into argument. She wanted to accompany him and other friends somewhere but they refused to let her do so. She left his residence and walked around the corner to her friend, Melissa Forscroft’s, house located on East 14th Street and Winchester Avenue.
At approximately 10:00 pm, Jody called her mother, Karen Stratton, and asked for a ride home to the 6800 block of east Topping Street. Karen told Jody, however, that she did not have her car as it was unavailable to her at the time. She was unable to get her and bring her home but Jody said “That’s ok, mom” and “I have some friends who can bring me home.” She then left Melissa’s residence and she assumed that Jody was walking back to her boyfriends home.
Jody was last seen walking northbound on Winchester from 14th Street. She disappeared and was never seen or heard from again afterwards. It was initially suspected that she had left on her own accord. At the time of her disappearance, Jody was enrolled in a juvenile probation program. She had gotten herself into trouble in 1984 after she and a friend pushed a security guard. Jody also had issues with school truancy. She would regularly see a deputy juvenile officer as a result.
When Jody failed to return home from her friends residence, Karen notified the officer who told her that her daughter was probably angry about something and that she should give her the weekend to cool off. Stratton now regents that decision because when the weekend passed, Jody still wasn’t home and she hadn’t contacted anyone she knew or family members.
Jody’s DJO filed two warrants which listed her as an endangered juvenile and they ordered for her arrest if she was spotted anywhere. Stratton also assumed that the juvenile officer had filed a missing persons report on her daughter at the time. Karen would spend the next two years putting up fliers with Jody’s description and talked to people that her daughter was known to hang out with in 1985.
Karen didn’t get any answers regarding her daughters disappearance but she continued to hope she would someday return. In July of 1986, the warrant for Jody’s arrest was cancelled and the officer advised Karen to report her daughter as missing to the police. She was shocked as she believed that a missing persons report was made when she told the juvenile court that her daughter had gone missing.
Authorities began investigating the case soon afterwards but had little to go on by the time a formal report was sent in regarding her disappearance. They did interview Jody’s friends from 1985 but they didn’t offer any information regarding her whereabouts. While investigators initially suspected she was a runaway, her case was said to be unusual by authorities at the time.
Jody and her family moved four times before she turned 14 years old. She also previously ran away from home three times prior to her disappearance but she returned those other times. Her parents also divorced in 1981 but they reconciled after Stratton’s second marriage ended in divorce. She has a good relationship with her mother in 1985. Jody didn’t take any extra clothing or money with her on the night she disappeared. Her friends also stated that she intended to meet her mother that night.
Authorities noted that over 1,300 runaways were reported to Kansas City Police in 1986 but they were all accounted for. Jody was not found and her case didn’t fit the usual pattern of a runaway in the area. Most runaways were found within a few days or within a short period of time which was not the occurrence in her disappearance.
In the years that would follow Jody’s disappearance, Karen would get various phone calls regarding the case and supposedly what happened to her daughter. Stratton stated she would get calls frequently during the holidays and on Jody’s birthday. The anonymous callers on the other end would either taint her about her daughters disappearance or give her possible tips on her whereabouts.
Stratton said some days she would get three or four phone calls at her home in Odessa, Missouri, where she moved to after her daughters disappearance. Some of the callers would tell her that Jody was living on the streets and how she was involved in prostitution and the usage of drugs. Other callers would threaten her daughters life. Starting in 1993, Stratton would receive threatening phone calls to her home which lasted for two years.
The caller(s) would often demand money or ransom in exchange for Jody’s return. In one of the phone calls, the caller said “If we don’t get the money, your daughter will be sent to you in pieces.” Stratton would record these phone calls and sent them to the police. The phone calls were eventually traced back to a pay phone in Kansas City. No one has been identified as the caller and they haven’t been proven to be involved in Jody’s disappearance.
In April of 1997, authorities announced that the 12 year old search for Jody as a missing person was coming to an end and that they were classifying the case as a probable homicide. Authorities stated they believed that Jody likely died around the same time she disappeared and was probably killed at the hands of a murderer. They also announced they had a suspect in her disappearance but declined to publicly identify them.
Two prison inmates from two different prisons came forward and told authorities that they knew Jody was murdered and that her body might’ve been stashed into a vehicle which was then driven into the Missouri River near Riverfront Park. Authorities announced that they would be dragging the river in an effort to potentially locate Jody’s body and solve her disappearance.
They stated they were going to search with sonar equipment in two areas with launches in Riverfront Park and would potentially move east to a bridge near Missouri 291. Experts from the Missouri State Water Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would help with the search operation. However, the search turned up no traces of Jody or any vehicle.
Investigators now call the tip bogus and have stated they don’t believe the two inmates were very truthful when they relayed the supposed information they had on Jody’s murder. Most investigators believe, however, that Jody is indeed dead and was probably murdered. Karen continues to hold out hope that Jody is alive and might be in hiding or doesn’t want to be found. She has been actively searching for her since 1985.
Karen believes it’s possible Jody did indeed leave on her own when she went missing in 1985 and says she doesn’t blame her for doing so if that’s what occurred. Stratton said their home environment was dysfunctional and she along with Jody’s father, Marvin Ledkins, did not get along well. Jody was also having problems at school when she went missing in addition to her home life.
Karen later found out that Jody’s deputy juvenile officer received a letter from someone claiming to be her daughter approximately four years after her disappearance. The letter stated that Jody was alright and that maybe someday she would say why she decided to leave. Stratton has stated she isn’t sure whether the letter is actually from her daughter or not and comparison to Jody’s handwriting from prior to her disappearance proved fruitless.
Authorities have stated that it was Karen’s perseverance to find her long lost daughter that kept Jody’s case open all these years. She got onto the talk show Circuit and made sure to tap every single missing child computer network. She repeatedly contacted the police to inform them about leads and she even ran down tips herself as well. She has since moved away from Missouri and lives in Arkansas but she does visit Kansas City a few times every year to search for her daughter.
While authorities believe it’s possible Jody chose to deliberately leave, they believe something happened to Jody which jeopardized her safety. Her case is presently investigated as a missing persons case but police suspect foul play was involved. Jody’s case remains unsolved.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Kansas City Police Department 816-234-5140
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The Kansas City Times 08/19/1987
The Kansas City Star 08/14/1994
The Kansas City Star 04/06/1997
St. Joseph’s News-Press 04/07/1997
The Kansas City Star 04/08/1997
The Kansas City Star 04/08/1997
The Kansas City Star 05/01/1987