Left and Right: Jennifer circa, 1998
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: January 22, 1998
Missing From: Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: December 22, 1981
Age: 16 years old
Height and Weight: 5’9″ and 170 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Brown hair, Blue eyes, Jennifer has a chicken pox scar on her right cheek and her ears are pierced
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A green/black jacket, a white t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and sneakers
Details of Disappearance
Jennifer was last seen in Kansas City, Missouri on January 22nd 1998. She was reportedly last seen leaving the campus of East High School at 9:30 am after getting into an altercation with a few other students. She never returned home after that and was never seen or heard from again.
Her mother, Glenda Lamont, was worried when her daughter didn’t return home. She learned from a school clerk that Jennifer fit classes that day and didn’t return to the school. When more time passed, she became frantic and began searching and calling people to help find her.
She even called the bus driver who said Jennifer did not get on the bus that afternoon. None of her friends or her father saw her that day. She filed a missing child report after not being able to find her.
Investigators initially believed Jennifer had left on her own accord and they listed her as a runaway. She had a somewhat chaotic life prior to her disappearance. She had recently transferred to East High School from Ruskin High School and reportedly felt threatened by students from her new school.
Jennifer also moved between the homes of her mother and stepfather and her father and stepmother. Despite this, her family maintained she wouldn’t go off on her own. In fact, she had plans to take her drivers test on the afternoon of her disappearance. She never made it to the test.
Her family and friends hung up posters with her information and her picture. They also sent posters out as far as the state of California. They also enlisted the help of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who classified her disappearance as a non-family abduction. Investigators eventually reclassified the case as a probable abduction.
Jennifer’s disappearance remained a mystery for nearly a year until December of 1998. On December 16th 1998, a man named Wesley Ira Purkey confessed that he abducted, raped, and murdered a woman from Kansas City, Missouri. He was shown a photo lineup of the possible victim and picked Jennifer’s photo from the bunch without hesitation.
According to his original confession, Purkey stated he came across Jennifer at a local grocery store and forcibly abducted her into his car. He claimed he took her to his home in Lansing, Kansas where he raped her and stabbed her to death repeatedly when she attempted to escape. He allegedly kept her body in a tool box before he dismembered and burned her remains.
He said he dumped Jennifer’s ashes in a septic pond over 200 miles away. Purkey states he would cooperate fully in the investigation if he was transferred to a federal prison as opposed to a state prison. He also led investigators to the location where he allegedly dumped Jennifer’s undergarments and her jawbone. They were not found.
Investigators have conducted several searches in several different areas for her remains but they weren’t ever found. Her remains are believed to be unrecoverable based off the details in Purkey’s confession.
Wesley has an extensive criminal record dating back to a 1975 robbery he would be paroled for. In 1980, Wesley and a friends robbed and shot a man in the head twice; the victim survived the attack. He was originally given a sentence of 15 years to life in prison but was paroled in March of 1997 and set free.
At the time of his confession, Purkey was in prison for murdering Mary Ruth Bales. She was 80 years old when Purkey met her. He was working for a plumbing company and arrived to her house to fix a leaking faucet. He asked for cash so he could purchase tools to perform the duty.
Purkey left her home to go get the tools. He instead purchased crack cocaine and additionally brought a prostitute back to Bales home. There, he beat her to death with a hammer. Mary was previously a polio victim as a child.
Investigators are convinced Purkey was responsible for Jennifer’s abduction and subsequent murder. He reportedly knew details only Jennifer’s loved ones would know she she herself would know.
On October 10th 2001, Purkey was charged with Jennifer’s death. During the trial phase, he recanted the abduction portion and claimed Jennifer got into his car willingly after he asked her to come to his home to smoke crack cocaine and drink gin with orange juice. Nonetheless, he was convicted of kidnapping and killing Jennifer in 2003 and was sentenced to death.
There was a false report that came out in 2004 and it claimed Jennifer’s body was found in January of that year. This is false and Jennifer remains listed as a missing child with probable foul play.
Purkey’s execution stalled many times and there was much debate as to whether it was an appropriate punishment for his crimes. He also had dementia and Alzheimer’s by the time he was executed. He was sexually abused by multiple family members as a child including his mother and grandmother.
On July 16th 2020, Wesley Purkey was killed by lethal injection in the morning. He apologized to Jennifer’s family and friends before he was killed and said “This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever.” Her family says they’ll never get closure because Jennifer will likely never be recovered. Purkey’s execution was the first federal execution since 2003.
At the time of her disappearance, Jennifer enjoyed art, music and wanted to be a storm chaser when she grew up. She was described as a shy, gentle tomboy who loved her cat named Clyde. The cat would even wait by the door at 4:00 pm for Jennifer to return home from school. In 2018, community members raised enough money and established a park bench in Jennifer’s memory.
Jennifer’s remains have never been located but foul play is strongly suspected in her case. Her case is considered closed by police.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Kansas City Police Department 816-234-5000