• Jennifer Kesse: Missing woman's family files lawsuit against Orlando police

    By: Kelly Healey , Shannon Butler

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - The family of missing Orlando woman, Jennifer Kesse, filed a lawsuit against the Orlando Police Department, Channel 9 reporter Shannon Butler learned Tuesday.

     

    Kesse disappeared without a trace in 2006, and her family is asking the court to allow a private investigator to obtain the Orlando Police Department’s records on the case.

     

    Police said Kesse disappeared between 10 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2006, and 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, 2006.

     

    Her parents, Drew and Joyce Kesse, told Channel 9 they want a fresh set of eyes to start from the beginning and hopefully find new clues. But Kesse’s case is an Orlando police investigation, and the department argues that information is not public.

     

    "It's not our practice to turn over files or case notes of information to anyone in the public, and we believe that could possibly jeopardize this investigation as well as set a precedent in future investigation," former Orlando police Chief John Mina said in January.


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    It's been almost 13 years since Kesse vanished, and Orlando police have neither a solid lead nor a suspect.

     

    Investigators said Kesse’s car was discovered at the Huntington on the Green condominiums, about 1 mile from her home near the Mall at Millenia.

     

    In January, Kesse’s family said they wanted the investigation to be deemed a cold case so her family could hire the private investigator to start anew.

     

    Numerous searches have taken place over the years but no trace of Jennifer Kesse has ever been found. No suspect has ever been identified. “We will never give up our search to find Jennifer,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said Friday.

     

    But Mina said earlier this year that state law protects the agency from releasing certain public records, and that handing over an investigation would set a bad precedent.

     

    The most important records that OPD has are from the first three months of the investigation, especially the tips that came in.

     

    The lawsuit reads, “Shortly after her disappearance, it was apparent that Jennifer Kesse's case had become cold as investigators on her case expressed frustration at the lack of good leads concerning her disappearance."


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    In April 2010, four years after Kesse was reported missing, police “acknowledged that it had exhausted all possible leads in the investigation," according to the lawsuit.

     

    Nevertheless, Orlando police claimed that its investigation remained active.

     

    Earlier this year, legal counsel for the Kesses told Orlando police that he would pursue litigation.

     

    As a result, police offered to release the records, but they would be heavily redacted, and it would cost the Kesse family about $18,000.

     

    The files are almost 13 years' worth and are time-consuming, therefore the Kesses said they didn’t think it was worth the money if so much information was blacked out.

     

    The family attorney said the cost was too high and argued there shouldn't be so many redactions.

     

    Also, if the files were redacted, then police should not charge so much to obtain them.

     

    Watch Footage Below: Grainy video posted on YouTube was released years ago, showing a possible person of interest.

     

     

    "What else are we going to do? Wait another 13 years? When I am dead? And just wait and wait and wait until all of a sudden something happens?" Drew Kesse said. "No, let's try and make something happen."

     

    WFTV legal analyst Bill Schaeffer said a judge will have to examine the law, which states that for a case to be considered active, there has to be a reasonable, good faith anticipation of securing an arrest or prosecution in the foreseeable future.

    The judge must decide if OPD can solve the case, he said.

    "Usually it's difficult, but in this case, they've got a real shot," Shaeffer said.

    Kesse's parents have asked for a table of contents of the information so they can narrow their request, but OPD heavily redacted that, too.

    They said they also gave OPD other options, but the agency would not bend.

    OPD said it has not yet seen the lawsuit.


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