Oxygen documentary, GBI look into Jenna Van Gelderen’s disappearance

Jenna Van Gelderen was reported missing Aug. 19, 2017, from her family’s Druid Hills home. CONTRIBUTED
Jenna Van Gelderen was reported missing Aug. 19, 2017, from her family’s Druid Hills home. CONTRIBUTED

By now, everyone knows Jenna Van Gelderen is missing.

Her name first appeared in this newspaper’s pages in late August 2017 when the 25-year-old mysteriously disappeared from her parents’ Druid Hills home. It is as if she vanished into thin air. No one saw anything. No one knows anything, but we know that can’t be true.

Jenna Van Gelderen was last seen in August at her parent??€™s home in DeKalb County.

They say money talks, but not even a $50,000 reward has led to her whereabouts.

Let’s hope a soon-to-be-released documentary film about Jenna’s disappearance will help draw new attention to the case and generate some definitive clues.

"Searching for Jenna Van Gelderen," scheduled for an exclusive screening Oct. 22 at the Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema, is part of a new multiplatform series for Oxygen about women who have vanished. If you want to attend, you'll have to RSVP at paperlesspost.com. If you miss it, all is not lost. The 20-minute documentary will air starting Oct. 23 on Oxygen.com.

It features interviews with Jenna’s parents Roseanne Glick and Leon Van Gelderen, a school friend and local law enforcement officials.

Leon Van Gelderen is hoping the documentary will motivate people with information about Jenna to come forward and that the film will accurately detail his daughter’s story, including her disappearance and the ensuing investigation by law enforcement officials.

“DeKalb police were clearly not handling the case properly,” he told me. “I don’t want it to be an opportunity for police to exonerate themselves.”

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Both Van Gelderen and his wife have long maintained the DeKalb police botched the investigation, and they lobbied for nearly a year for the case to be turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Last week, the GBI picked up the car for a fourth inspection.

Leon Van Gelderen said it is that and the fact that the GBI is the first to ask about Jenna’s toothbrush that gives them hope they are making the effort to find their daughter.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Nelly Miles, spokeswoman for the agency, confirmed it has formally joined the investigation.

"The GBI will work jointly with DeKalb County PD and the FBI on the case," she said in an email. "This is an active investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact the GBI Atlanta Regional Office at 770-388-5019 or submit tips online via the GBI website (gbi.georgia.gov)."

Meanwhile, her parents are hoping against hope that Jenna is alive somewhere. The longer she is missing, the harder it is to maintain that optimism, but they must.

The worst part is not knowing, they said.

According to Rachel Forbes, a producer at Little Dot Studios, Jenna’s story is one of three short films for Oxygen about women who have gone missing.

Each aims to be a call to action, encouraging the public to share new leads and insights, she said.

RELATED | Could DeKalb police do more to find Jenna Van Gelderen?

Also featured in the series are Nancy Moyer, a 36-year-old mother of two, who vanished from her home in Tenino, Washington, on March 6, 2009, and Akia Eggleston, a 22-year-old pregnant woman who has been missing from her home in Baltimore since 2017.

Police still don’t know where either of them is.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The “searching for” series was inspired by a project Little Dot did in the United Kingdom where its producers documented the efforts of a retired detective and investigative journalist to help find a girl who went missing 30 years ago.

A documentary the agency produced about the missing girl reignited interest and generated new information about the case, Forbes said.

Last year alone, more than 300,000 females — 239,847 under 21 and 62,371 over the age of 21 — were reported missing, according to the National Crime Information Center.

The reasons vary. Some are kidnapped, some purposefully go missing — in order to escape abuse, for example — and some, usually children, are runaways.

But people don’t just vanish into thin air. If you know something, say something. Please.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

EVENT PREVIEW

“Searching for Jenna Van Gelderen”

6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 22. Free. Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta. RSVP to paperlesspost.com.

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