Left and Center: Jennifer circa, 1991
Right: Age Progressed to age 24
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: June 23, 1991
Missing From: Spring Lake, Cumberland County, North Carolina
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: January 13, 1984
Age: 7 years old
Height and Weight: 4’5″ and 59 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Sandy hair, Brown eyes, Jennifer has scars on her right temple and in between her eyes, she has a distinctive freckle on the tip of her nose and her nickname is “Jenny”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A one piece bathing suite which included orange/yellow/pink/turquoise squares and squiggle shapes
NCMEC Number: 755927
Details of Disappearance
Jennifer was last seen in Spring Lake, North Carolina on June 23rd 1991. She was last seen leaving her family’s residence located at Holly Hills Mobile Home Park in the 1400 block of north Fort Bragg Boulevard. She was going four houses away in the same trailer park to play with two boys and was last seen by her mother, Jinger Patterson, at approximately 1:15 pm. She stated Jennifer gave her a kiss goodbye and left. She apparently never arrived to her destination and was never seen or heard from again afterwards.
Jennifer’s family reported her as missing at approximately 6:15 pm. What followed was an extensive search for Jennifer by hundreds of people. Nearly 200 police officers, civilians, and military personnel searched for the child with helicopters and search dogs. They searches in wooded areas and bodies of water near the Patterson home and they scoured a wooded area around the Lower Little River as well. Sheds, holes, bridges, and swamplands were searched as well for any trace of her.
The searches failed to yield any evidence of Jennifer’s whereabouts and the ground search was called off three days after her disappearance. Jinger said she felt Jennifer was no longer in the area but didn’t understand how her daughter went missing. Investigators suspect Jennifer was possibly abducted by someone while she was walking.
Within a few days of Jennifer’s disappearance, authorities announced they were seeking leads in the case that were out of state. Jennifer had relatives living in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia at the time of her disappearance. It was initially considered a possibility that Jennifer may have been taken by family members or relatives. However, all her relatives denied knowing anything about the case and Jennifer’s father, Alan Patterson, said he felt no one in the family was responsible for his daughters disappearance or that she was in North Carolina anymore.
Investigators now believe it’s possible Jennifer was abducted by a non family member at some point after she left her residence. On June 26th 1991, authorities released details regarding a possible sighting of Jennifer. According to the report, a woman said she saw a girl who matched Jennifer’s description in the parking lot of a Pantry convenience store located less than a mile up the street from the trailer park. The girl was observed speaking with a shirtless, scruffy looking man who wore blue stained jeans.
The man hasn’t been identified and no one apparently witnessed Jennifer’s abduction if it did in fact occur. Evidence does indicate Jennifer was in the neighborhood when she disappeared.
In September of 1991, it was revealed that Alan Patterson made some rather strange statements regarding his daughters disappearance. He claimed that to his knowledge, Jennifer was alive and well. He claimed that she was being “cared for nearby.” He offered information about his daughters whereabouts in exchange for an agreement that he would not be prosecuted under state law. The issue was apparently custody related according to him and he didn’t want the child living with Jinger.
Detectives stated that Alan did not elude to her exact location or that he took her. He simply said he knew she was okay. Investigators stated Alan was viewed as a possible suspect in his daughters disappearance early on. He took three polygraph exams in connection to the case and failed the most recent one he took.
Alan and Jinger Patterson were living together at the time of their daughters disappearance but they were divorced. There was indeed a custody dispute between the two of them over Jennifer in 1991 and Alan was scheduled to take a paternity test to determine if he owed $10,000 back in alimony. The test never happened, however, because Jennifer vanished days before it was scheduled to occur. Alan later stated that his statements regarding Jennifer’s disappearance were hypothetical and he didn’t intend for them to be taken seriously whatsoever.
Investigators have viewed him as a strong suspect in the case with some calling him a primary suspect in Jennifer’s case. There’s also the possibility that she never even left her residence that day and there doesn’t appear to be strong evidence to say 100% that she made it out the door. Alan maintains his innocence in his daughters disappearance and stated he was at work when she went missing.
In 2011, investigators reopened the investigation into Jennifer’s disappearance. Alan has been cooperative in the investigation and even stated he was going to try and track down his ex-wife at the time. He has been actively searching for Jennifer since her 1991 disappearance and hopes to be reunited with her at some point. Jennifer’s family believes she was taken by a stranger on the day of her disappearance and hope she’s still alive. Authorities believe she is likely deceased.
At the time of her disappearance, Jennifer was described as an outgoing and charming kid whose smile lit up her face. She was generally known to be a sweet child. She enjoyed playing in the little plastic swimming pool she owned with her Mickey Mouse beach ball and she owned a pink and white bike as well. Her aunt purchased Jennifer a watch with The Little Mermaid theme, a 1989 Disney Movie on it.
The trailer park that Jennifer once lived in is now abandoned. Jinger and Alan separated after Jennifer’s disappearance. Jinger moved to Kentucky where she has since remarried. Alan has remained in North Carolina and hopes for a resolution in his daughters cold case. Jennifer’s disappearance remains unsolved and is currently classified as a non-family abduction due to lack of evidence.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Spring Lake Police Department 910-436-0350
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
CUE Center for Missing Persons
The News and Observer 06/26/1991
The Charlotte Observer 06/26/1991
The News and Observer 06/27/1991
The Charlotte Observer 06/27/1991
The News and Observer 06/27/1991
Asheville Citizen-Times 09/01/1991