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Search continues for Kesse

Missing grad has friends and family asking for help

Published: Sunday, January 29, 2006

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 17:02

Today marks the seventh day since anyone has seen or heard from 2003 UCF graduate Jennifer Kesse, 24, who vanished late last Monday night.

Cell-phone records indicate that Kesse's last phone conversation was with her boyfriend Robert Allen, 29, of Fort Lauderdale, at about 10 p.m. Monday. Kesse did not show up for work on Tuesday, and her black Chevrolet Malibu was found Thursday, abandoned on the side of the road about a mile away from the Mosaic at Millenia condominium complex where she lives.

A police bloodhound was able to follow the scent of whoever left Kesse's car beside the road all the way back to Kesse's home. Police won't say whether they found any clues in her car.

Police are also studying surveillance video from near Kesse's condo, where they reported finding no sign of struggle, for clues in Kesse's disappearance.

The search for Kesse intensified Sunday. Helicopters from the Orange County Sheriff's Office and Orlando Police Department hovered near the Mall at Millenia, and mounted officers searched wooded areas on horseback.

Meanwhile, Kesse's family, UCF Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters and boyfriend have been working tirelessly to publicize the search for Kesse while coping with her shocking and sudden disappearance.

UCF graduate Shelly Coursey, a close friend and sorority sister of Kesse, has spent much of her time during the past week passing out flyers with pictures of Kesse, who is 5 feet 8, 135 pounds, green-eyed and blonde.

A private donation of $100,000 was added to an existing reward of $15,000 for information leading to Kesse's safe return, Coursey said.

Coursey is part of a core group of Kesse's close college friends - including two who traveled from as far as Boston - who have dropped everything in their own lives to help find Kesse.

The group took time off from passing out flyers to attend prayer services at a Baptist church on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"Last night it was ... just bringing a lot of people together," Coursey said. "But we still need a lot of [search] volunteers."

Coursey and her friends are reaching out to online communities such as MySpace.com to spread the word about Kesse.

Pleas for help from Kesse's father have attracted national attention. He is scheduled to appear on ABC's Good Morning America today or Tuesday to ask for help. CNN has broadcast news of Kesse's disappearance.

"The time has come for everyone to join efforts and bring her home," read part of a message Coursey posted on MySpace. "This is a very difficult time for her family and friends and any help you can provide is greatly appreciated. Jen is very dear to many of us … Keep Jenn and her family in your prayers."

Kristen Luther, another close friend of Kesse's, added: "Jenn is very responsible and professional. She stays extremely connected with her family and friends. It is uncharacteristic of Jenn to not contact someone for more than a couple hours at a time. When Jenn did not report to work on Tuesday morning we immediately knew something was wrong. She has never missed a day of work without calling her boss."

Luther has been helping police with their investigation and is speaking on behalf of the many people who are giving their time to find Kesse.

"Countless family, friends and volunteers have joined together to lend their strength, support, and determination in the effort for Jennifer's safe return home," Luther said. "We love her, we miss her, and we will do whatever it takes to bring Jenn home safely."

Anyone with information about Kesse's disappearance may call the Orlando Police Department or may remain anonymous by calling CrimeLine at 1-(800)-423-TIPS.

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