Left and Center: Katelyn circa, 1999
Right: Age Progressed to age 12
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: August 10, 1999
Missing From: Boothwyn, Delaware County, Pennsylvania
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: December 12, 1997
Age: 1 year old
Height and Weight: 2’6″ and 23 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Brown eyes, Katelyn has a birthmark on her back near her left shoulder blade, her first name might be spelled as “Kaitlyn” and her last name just as “Rivera”, she might use the name “Katie”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A yellow top, a pair of yellow shorts, yellow socks, and white sneakers with rhinestones or sequins on them
NCMEC Number: 868705
Details of Disappearance
Katelyn was abducted by her father, Robert Rivera, from Boothwyn, Pennsylvania on August 10th 1999. That morning, Robert had a preliminary hearing for assault charges filed by Katelyn’s mother, Jennifer Helton. She has moved away from his home in July of 1999 after physical abuse and she took Katelyn with her.
She filed the assault charges against Robert after he attacked her later in the month. She said this occurred when she attempted to remove her belongings from the home and he was arrested as a result of the assault. The court also ruled that Robert would only get an hour to see his daughter during weekly visits.
Rivera and Helton met in 1995 and he had a criminal history that Helton might have not known about until after her daughter’s abduction. She told authorities that Rivera had got her at least 10 times while she was pregnant with Katelyn and also beat her six addition times after her birth in 1997.
Jennifer actually attended the hearing that morning. Robert was not taken into custody and was able to leave the courthouse after the proceedings were complete. He saw Jennifer sitting in a car with her aunt in the parking lot of a nearby store. He proceeded to attack both of the women and left the scene.
Robert then drove to the home of Katelyn’s babysitter. She claimed that Robert broke down her door and took the child with him. As he left through the door with Katelyn, the sitter was able to hear something hit the door and he proceeded to scream “Her head!”. She feared that Katelyn’s head might have hit door jam as Robert rushed out the door with her. He said later on that his hand hit the door.
The vehicle used in the abduction was his former girlfriends car. His girlfriend told police that Robert had scheduled to meet her for lunch but didn’t reach his destination until 5:20 pm. She told investigators that he had Katelyn with him and that she was sitting in the front seat of the vehicle. She recalled how caustic he was in his manner and was reportedly driving a very fast speed rate. She was in the backseat.
She stated that they drove from her workplace in Essington, Pennsylvania to Interstate 95 towards Delaware. She also testified that Robert called Jennifer as he drove and arranged to meet her at a K-Mart store nearby to take back her daughter. He apparently passed the store shortly afterwards. He then went to Jennifer’s house.
He shouted for her to come outside and Jennifer told him to wait a minute. Robert fled the house fearing that Jennifer was reporting Katelyn’s abduction to the police. He dropped his girlfriend off about several blocks away and told her that he would return the child to her mother but continued driving onward away from the area.
The last confirmed sighting of Katelyn alive was at a Sunoco gasoline station in Chads Ford, Pennsylvania at approximately 7:17 pm. He needed gas since he had been driving with his daughter for most of the day. An employee at the station told police that Robert purchased $2 for fuel and departed the station with the child.
The witness told police that Katelyn was crawling on the front seat and appeared to be happy and un-injured. The employee said that Robert returned to the station about 2 hours after he left, he did not have Katelyn with him at this time. He traded his watch for $10 of fuel.
Robert was apprehended and arrested by police soon afterwards. Robert initially claimed that he gave Katelyn to an unidentified couple at Longwood Gardens. This was located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania and was described as being a horticulture display garden at the time.
Robert described the couple as being a man and woman. The woman is said to be Caucasian and stood at 5 feet 7 inches. He also said she was 20 to 30 years old in 1999. She apparently had dark colored eyes and straight brown hair which was pulled back. The man was described as being Caucasian and in his late 30s in 1999. He stood at 5 feet 10 inches tall and had a heavy build as well. He also had short dark hair and sideburns.
Robert claimed the couple drove a 1996-1998 Dodge Caravan with blue and white Maryland designer license plates which also bore a photograph with a bird standing on one foot. Investigators searched extensively for Katelyn and also released a sketch of the woman but nothing was ever found and Katelyn was never seen or heard from again.
Robert later admitted that he never gave Katelyn to anyone at Longwood Gates. In March of 2000, investigators charged Robert with kidnapping and killing Katelyn. He reportedly said something very incriminating into a recorder. He said that if were ever to reveal where Katelyn was, he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
The two police officers who gained this interesting statement both testified at Roberts pre-trail hearing. Jennifer also testified at his trial and told the court how Robert had physically abused her and been sent her letters and gave her phone calls while he was at prison. He refused to divulge Katelyn’s whereabouts in any correspondence he sent her.
The testimonies of prison inmates were also given at trial. The inmates claimed that Robert confessed to killing Katelyn by suffocating her and buried her body near Elkton, Maryland on the same night as her abduction. He also stated he removed Katelyn’s clothing prior to burial and tossed them out the car window while he was on the median strip of southbound Route 202 in Delaware.
Investigators searched the location in September of 1999 and found Katelyn sneaker and one yellow sock. Robert testified in his own defense and claimed he was telling the truth throughout the trial. He maintained that he did not kill Katelyn and that she was still alive. He refused to say where she was still.
It has been noted that Roberts story of events surrounding Katelyn’s disappearance has changed 30 times during his conversations with authorities. He told police he took his daughter away from Jennifer to protect her but wouldn’t say why she needed to be protected.
Robert would later admit to physically abusing Jennifer on various occasions but maintained he never abused his daughter in any way. He was convicted of 2nd degree murder and felony abduction in relation to Katelyn’s disappearance. He was given a life sentence plus 20 years. He could have faced the death sentence of convicted of murder in the 1st degree. He was described as a cruel, vindictive man who wanted revenge on Jennifer for leaving him with Katelyn.
At the time of her disappearance, Katelyn enjoyed to take baths, eat fruit popsicles, and try on men’s hats. She also really enjoyed the candy known as Reese’s Peanut Butter cups to which she referred to as “cook-cooks” and smiled at any mention of them. She was also social and would say hi to everyone she met. Jennifer now has a son and thinks about her lost daughter everyday. She would like to think she might still be alive but knows it’s unlikely.
Katelyn has never been located and her current whereabouts remain a mystery. She was declared legally deceased in 2002.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Upper Chichester Township Police Department 610-485-8400