Anthonette Cayedito was born on December 25, 1976. Growing up, she lived in the 200 block of Arnold Street, in Gallup, New Mexico with her mother, Penny, and her sisters, Senida and Wendy. She had a father named Larry, but he and Penny would later divorce.
Nicknamed “Squirrel”, Anthonette was known for having a big heart. She loved school and was a fourth grader at Lincoln Elementary School. She was also very dedicated to her faith, and was known to act older than her age, often keeping watch over her sisters, similar to how a mother would.
LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:
On April 5, 1986, Penny met with friends at a local bar, leaving the children with a babysitter.
At 12:00am on April 6, she returned home, where she and Anthonette stayed up late talking. The pair, along with Wendy and Senida, went to bed around 3:00am.
Not long after going to bed, Anthonette and Senida head someone at the front door. Since they didn’t recognize the voice, they stayed silent. However, a second knock came not long after, prompting Anthonette to get out of bed.
At 7:00am, Penny went to wake her children up for Bible School and noticed Anthonette wasn’t in bed. She looked around the house, but couldn’t find her daughter. She then checked the front door and screen door, both of which were unlocked. This struck her as strange, as she had locked them the night before.
Thinking Anthonette had gone to a neighbour’s house, Penny walked down Arnold Street, looking for her daughter. As neighbours joined in her search, it soon became clear that no one had seen or heard from Anthonette.
At 11:00am, Penny called the Gallup Police Department to report Anthonette as missing. However, they told her she must wait to make an official report.
After contacting the police, Penny phoned Larry, who came over to help look for his daughter.
When initially spoken to by Penny, Wendy and Senida said they had been asleep when Anthonette went missing. They informed their mother of the knocking at the door, but they hadn’t seen who was there. Given this information, both Penny and Larry theorized that Anthonette had known who was at the door, considering she’d opened it.
On April 7, police arrived on scene, questioning neighbours and Anthonette’s family, with Penny and Larry being given polygraphs. They both passed. From the knocking on the door, they believed the missing girl to have been abducted between 3:00am and 7:00am the morning before.
Larry and Penny were frustrated at the amount of time it had taken for police to get involved in the search for Anthonette.
Not long after local police got involved, state police started searching for Anthonette. Volunteers also took to the streets, handing out flyers featuring Anthonette’s photo and information.
Two days after the search began, it was called off due to a lack of leads. It was then that investigators officially stated they believed Anthonette to have been abducted. However, they could find no one known to the family who knew anything that could lead to her safe return.
The Gallup-McKinley Crime Stoppers offered a $500 reward for information leading to a resolution to the case, an amount that was later raised to $1,000 by state Crime Stoppers.
An elderly neighbour came forward to police, saying she saw a man get out of an older model brown truck with New Mexico plates and approach the Cayedito house, sometime between 6:30am and 7:00am. This hadn’t initially struck her as unusual, given people came and went from the house on a regular basis. However, upon questioning, no one in the family could name anyone they knew who owned a brown truck.
While speaking with four neighbourhood boys, aged 9 to 11 years old, investigators learnt about 62-year-old Wes Daniels, a service technician and local resident, who had taken them on picnics, where they were sexually abused. Upon being arrested for sex crimes, it was believed he could have had some involvement in Anthonette’s disappearance. However, the boys said she was never present at these picnics.
On April 12, 1987, a call came into the Gallup Police Department from a girl claiming to be Anthonette. During the call, she said, “I’m Anthonette Cayedito. I’m Anthonette, I’m Anthonette Cayedito. I’m in Albuquerque.” The operator asked where in the city, but before the girl could respond, a man could be heard yelling, “Who said you could use the phone?” Screams were heard before the call disconnected.
As the call had only lasted 40 seconds, police were unable to trace it. However, Penny was able to confirm the girl on the line had been her daughter, based on the scream and how she said her last name.
There are some who speculate the call to have been a hoax, given it came in to the Gallup Police Department and not Albuquerque’s emergency responders. If the caller had dialled 911, that’s where they would have been directed.
In January 1989, the phone call was aired over radio. However, no new leads were called in upon its release.
Four years after the phone call, a waitress from Carson City, Nevada claimed to have served a girl who resembled age progression reconstructions of what Anthonette might have looked like at the time. She said the girl, who appeared to be between 14 and 15 years old, was with an unkempt couple.
Throughout the duration of their time at the restaurant, the girl would drop her silverware on the ground. When the waitress would pick them up, the girl would squeeze her hand. When the trio left, the waitress found a napkin under the girl’s plate, which read, “Help me! Call police.”
This sighting remains unconfirmed.
In 1992, Penny visited a Navajo Medicine Woman, who performed a crystal ritual, which works to contact the spirits of missing people. She said that Anthonette was still alive, but being held against her will in the south western United States.
Later on into the investigation, Senida and Wendy were re-interviewed by investigators. Senida recalled a male voice and a female voice during the first round of knocking and said they claimed to be their aunt and uncle. They had said, “Hurry, we’re cold out here. Open the door.”
Wendy revealed she had actually followed Anthonette to the door during the second round of knocking, where she saw a man who claimed to be their Uncle Joe. Anthonette had opened the door and was grabbed by two men, who took her to a waiting brown van. She struggled against them. Unfortunately, Wendy was unable to describe the two.
When asked why she hadn’t come forward with this information sooner, Wendy explained she had been afraid of getting in trouble. Despite her waiting so long to come forward with what really happened, police believe this version of the story to be credible.
Based on Wendy’s information, police interviewed Anthonette’s real Uncle Joe, but he had an alibi and was cleared. While he has been ruled out, investigators still feel someone known to the family took the young girl, given the amount of people who came and went from the house.
The local FBI office eventually got involved in the case and looked into potential sightings of Anthonette from across the United States. However, they closed their investigation in 2006.
According to police, there have not been many new tips received in recent years.
1) Police and online sleuths believe Anthonette to have been abducted by someone who knew the family. They believe this due to the children’s interactions with the abductors while they were at the front door. Given the abductors knew they were talking to children, it’s believed they had some sense of how the family worked.
Related to this theory, police believe Penny to have known more than she let on. However, they haven’t elaborated as to why they think this. She was given two polygraphs, one by local police and another by the FBI. While she passed the first test, she failed the one administered by the FBI.
2) There are some who have speculated that someone in the Cayedito family was involved in the drug trade and thus Anthonette’s abduction was somehow related. However, there is no evidence to corroborate this.
3) There’s a belief that Anthonette was abducted by a stranger. Given that “Joe” is a common name, the two men who abducted her could have simply gotten lucky with their name choice. However, as previously stated, the pair knew they were talking to children and there was a clear motive, so it’s more than likely they knew the family in some capacity.
4) There is a Reddit user who believes a Jane Doe who was discovered in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996 could be Anthonette. The Jane Doe, who is believed to be between 14 and 18 years old, was found near 98th Street and Tower Road, approximately two to ten weeks after her death. She is believed to be of white, Hispanic and Native American ancestry.
There have been many on the thread who believe Jane Doe’s reconstruction shows similarities to Anthonette. As well, there was the phone call in 1987, where the girl claiming to be Anthonette said she was in Albuquerque.
The Reddit user has passed along their belief of the possible connection between the two cases to police and has said the information was passed along to the appropriate investigators. However, there has been no update in regards to whether or not Anthonette has been ruled out as the Jane Doe.
Police say Anthonette’s case is still open and that each time a new detective joins the team they are given the file, in case they’re able to discover anything that has been overlooked. They believe Anthonette to be deceased, given the amount of time that has passed since her abduction.
Penny claimed investigators failed to update her on the case for about five to six months. After her daughter’s disappearance, she became isolated and stopped going out, in case she missed a call about the case.
Growing up, Wendy would keep watch over her sister’s room, calling it “blessed”. She claims children at school would tease and taunt her over Anthonette’s disappearance.
Unsolved Mysteries covered Anthonette’s case in 1992. However, none of the leads that were called in panned out.
Wendy has expressed frustration over the way the case has been handled.
In 1999, Penny died due to cirrhosis of the liver and cardiac complications. Larry passed away in 2012.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Anthonette Cayedito went missing from the 200 block of Arnold Street in Gallup, New Mexico on April 6, 1986. She was nine years old and was last seen wearing a knee-length pink nightgown. She was known to wear a silver chain with a small turquoise cross pendant on it. At the time of her disappearance, she was 4’7″ and weighed approximately 55 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes, and has dark-coloured moles on her right cheek, nose, back and on one of her ankles. Her ears were pierced, and she has scars on one of her knees and on her lip.
Currently, her case is classified as a non-family abduction. If alive, she would be 41 years old.
If you have any information regarding the case, you can contact the Gallup Police Department at 505-863-9365 or Crime Stoppers at 505-722-6161.
Image Credit: NBC News