JOHNSTOWN — The city’s most-questioned unsolved mystery is 10 years old today. Some continue to ask the question: What happened to Kellisue Ackernecht?
No local observances of the 10th anniversary of Kellisue Ackernecht’s disappearance are planned today, her family and friends say.
The Johnstown Police Department was asked this week if police to this day believe a crime against Kellisue was committed.
“Right now, I don’t know for sure,” police Chief David Gilbo said Tuesday. “I can’t rule it out.”
Gilbo was lead detective 10 years ago on the Kellisue case, and he continues to be so to this day.
The city woman was 36 years old when she disappeared on Sept. 30, 2008. That was the last time she was seen — that night leaving her job as a clerk at the Rite Aid store on Route 30 in Amsterdam. She finished her shift at about 9:45 p.m.
At the time, Kellisue had been living with her husband, Jayson, and their eight-year-old daughter, Ashley, at 330 W. Main St. in 2008. Her daughter is now 18.
At 1:53 a.m. Oct. 1, 2008, a Johnstown police officer on routine patrol found the vehicle that Ackernecht had supposedly been trying to drive home in. The green 1998 Saturn sedan was burnt and on fire, parked in the city’s “Frog Hollow” section on the west side of West Montgomery Street. If she was there, Kellisue was only a few blocks from home.
Police said evidence of human remains were never found in the vehicle.
Frog Hollow, a wooded neighborhood at the bottom of the West Montgomery Street hill, lies near the Rail Trail on the west side of the city.
Jayson Ackernecht reported his wife missing to authorities around 2 a.m. Oct. 1.
Police immediately put out the word that Kellisue, who wore glasses, was missing. They described her as a white female, 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing approximately 135 pounds, with brown eyes and short red/auburn, naturally curly hair.
But Kellisue M. Ackernecht has never been found.
Various interesting common-knowledge facts continue to be know about Kellisue Ackernecht during the time she vanished. She was on depression medication at the time and went off it before she vanished. She was last seen with a person outside the store when she ended her work shift.
Gilbo said if Kellisue was harmed, he doesn’t believe it was in Johnstown.
“We’ve gotten a few [recent] leads,” Gilbo said. “We’re still continuing to investigate all leads.”
Gilbo talked to the FBI at the time of the disappearance because it was believed the case might be related to an Alaskan serial killer who came through this area. But the time frame never quite matched up.
“We’ve gone through a whole gamut of things,” Gilbo said.
He said husband Jayson has been interviewed many times.
City police have kept the burned remnants of the Saturn vehicle in city custody over the years. He said Johnstown police and state police have found “no criminal activity with the car.” He said there remains “no evidence whatsoever” a human being died in the car.
Meanwhile, Gilbo said police have done several re-interviews in recent months and will continue to do so.
Kellisue’s daughter, Ashley, who will be 19 in October, noted Thursday that half her life has been consumed by her mother’s disappearance.
“I am still very close with Dave Gilbo,” Ashley Ackernecht said. “It’s still an open case. And it’s still being investigated.”
Kellisue’s brother — Tom Kilcullen — has been a vocal critic of the police investigation into his sister’s disappearance over the years.
“I feel its gone through a cold case,” Kilcullen said.
Kilcullen said he doesn’t believe that no one may have been burned up in the car fire.
“I don’t believe it at all,” he said. “I think someone else drove that car.”
He noted the car seat was moved back far, as if a tall person was driving, not his sister.
“I would like the public to keep her name out there,” Kilcullen said. “I still say somebody knows something, but no one has spoken up. I think it’s something local.”
City police a year ago put out this last public statement on the case: “After following up on over 340 leads, conducting over 100 interviews and following up on numerous cases of human remains being discovered, the department has not been able to locate Kellisue,” the release says. “The department is asking for the public to contact us with any information that they may have in this case, even if they think we have been notified in the past. The contact can be anonymous, but the department would rather have a phone number or email address in order to ask some followup questions if needed.”
Information online about Kellisue Ackernecht is available at: https://findkellisue.wordpress.com.
In an August 2012 interview with The Leader-Herald, Jayson said he gets “accused all the time” of being involved in his wife’s disappearance. He said he never harmed his wife or his daughter and is “against laying hands on a woman.” He couldn’t be reached this week.
Family members of Kellisue’s side of the family have said for years that her husband might be involved. Police have interviewed Jayson many times and he has never been charged.
Anniversary vigils have often been held over the years at the burned car site.
Meanwhile, local police say they are continually frustrated by Mrs. Ackernecht’s disappearance. After she went missing, Johnstown police officers went to Syracuse and other areas following tips. The department used a psychic early in the case, but nothing was found. Police have conducted many searches, including one with the help of a state police helicopter over the wooded area near the Ackernecht home. Police and forest rangers did several foot searches with cadaver dogs.
Searches have been conducted from Fulton County to Montgomery County and back, but to no avail.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]