It has been more than four months since Lanessa Roosa disappeared into the woods behind the Greystone Motel in Hillsboro, and as rumors swirl and investigators’ heads spin, only one thing is certain: Angie Jordan just wants her daughter to come home.
When Jordan, Roosa’s mother, sat down with The Times-Gazette earlier this week, it had been 150 days since she had seen her daughter. In days since, she has heard rumors of her daughter’s disappearance that have made her blood run cold, and she has searched for answers in places she never thought she would go.
Some of those answers died with an Iraq War veteran often on the wrong side of the law who seemed to know more than he let on. Other answers, perhaps the most important ones, are hidden in a sea of small-town faces from Hillsboro to Greenfield and beyond, maybe never to surface.
Some people say they see her around Greenfield. Others say she’s dead and gone.
After months of Facebook chats, Google searches, phone calls and text messages — now a growing file of screenshots jumbled with Bible verses in Jordan’s iCloud — the distressed mother has boiled her data down to two options:
1. Roosa found someone who could take her to a different state and care for her there.
2. Roosa is dead, and someone out there knows what happened.
The only trace Roosa left when she disappeared Jan. 1 was a pair of muddy Adidas sneakers and a borrowed cell phone, all found in the woods behind the Greystone Motel. It was there that she had climbed up into the ceiling and fell through the paneling into a room below, striking her head on a sink before bolting into the trees — all while a fugitive from the Greenfield jail.
Explanations of her behavior at the motel are vague at best, but in the grander scheme of this unhappy saga, it is apparent why Roosa wanted to run away, Jordan said: She just couldn’t handle going back to prison.
In a way, it all started the first time Roosa used hard drugs, as early as 17 years old, when she was attending McClain High School in Greenfield. In the years that followed, Jordan recalls, Roosa was in and out of jail, prison, and rehab, even after she had a baby girl in 2016. Roosa’s daughter, Larea, who will be 3 years old in June, was born six weeks early addicted to opioids due to her mother’s drug use, Jordan said.
Roosa, now 21, was in recovery when she was indicted on drug charges in 2017 and later sentenced to three years in prison, though her sentence was amended and she was granted early release.
In late October 2018, she was working at Adient in Greenfield. It was the first time in years she was making decent money, Jordan said, and she fell in with her old crowd. Jordan began suspecting she was using drugs again.
Dec. 9, 2018 was the last time Jordan saw Roosa. The family was celebrating an early Christmas because Roosa anticipated she would be arrested again on outstanding warrants, and the threat of prison time loomed.
“She didn’t want to miss another Christmas with her daughter,” Jordan said.
She disappeared later that day after her family went to church, and the next Jordan heard from her, Roosa had been taken into custody by the Greenfield Police Department on New Year’s Eve.
In the last phone conversation Jordan had with her daughter, she told Roosa that it was time to face the consequences of her actions. Roosa said she couldn’t go back to prison.
Jordan said she was told Roosa had a large staph infection on her arm when she was arrested, and while in the Greenfield jail, she began to complain of pain in her stomach and lower back.
Greenfield Police Chief Jeremiah Oyer told The Times-Gazette that Roosa was granted medical furlough and transported to Adena Greenfield Medical Center by squad.
Medical furlough, Oyer said, works similarly to an own recognizance bond. The inmate must sign a document saying they will report back to jail within 24 hours or face further charges. Such furloughs are given because the agency holding the inmate is on the hook for medical bills if treatment is given while the inmate is in custody, officials said.
In this case, Roosa never reported back to the jail.
Jordan said Roosa’s boyfriend picked her up from the hospital and took her to Hillsboro while Roosa made phone calls to other friends. Roosa originally asked to be taken to Highland District Hospital, but she later requested to be taken to the Greystone Motel so she could rest and clean herself up.
Meanwhile, Jordan and her family heard that Roosa had disappeared, and began searching for her in Greenfield and Washington C.H. Jordan was able to get ahold of Roosa’s boyfriend, and he told Jordan he had been with Roosa at the Greystone, but was having trouble with his car and was getting it repaired.
While Jordan and other family members were on the way to Hillsboro, Roosa crawled up into the ceiling, crashed through and ran away. Two sheriff’s cruisers were on the scene when Jordan arrived at the motel, but Jordan’s husband was told there was not enough manpower to launch a search in the woods. By that time, it was getting dark and cold.
Soon after, Roosa’s 13-year-old sister thought she might have seen Roosa in a van leaving the Greystone.
The family searched the woods the following day and found nothing. Frustrated with what she called a lack of effort from law enforcement, Jordan launched her own investigation. Soon enough, she got a call from JP Napier, an acquaintance of Roosa, saying he wanted to talk. Jordan and Napier met at the Greystone, where Napier was staying, and Napier told Jordan that he had paid for Roosa’s room after she contacted him asking for a place to lay low. He even loaned her one of his phones, Jordan said.
“He said he was almost positive she was laying in the woods dead,” Jordan said.
Napier, a former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran, said there was no way Roosa could have survived in the cold with her infection and injuries.
Napier was able to access the call history of the phone he lent to Roosa, Jordan said, and there was an outgoing call to one of Napier’s friends timestamped after Roosa disappeared. Later, Jordan talked to the friend, who said he got a call from Napier that night saying he needed a ride. That friend had a van, Jordan said.
“That night, there was a van there,” Jordan said.
It was then that Jordan began to suspect that Napier knew more about Roosa’s disappearance. Napier told Jordan that Roosa had used methamphetamine that night, which was unusual, since Roosa’s drug of choice had always been heroin.
Napier also said Roosa was barefoot when she disappeared, but Jordan said she had been told Roosa was wearing Adidas sneakers when she ran away.
“I said, ‘Something’s not right,’” Jordan said.
Napier later helped arrange another search, Jordan said, but he never showed up. Napier died Monday, Feb. 25, of a suspected drug overdose, according to Highland County Coroner Dr. Jeff Beery.
A search party found Roosa’s shoes and Napier’s phone in the woods near SR 124 on March 7. The shoes covered in mud and sitting by a tree, the phone nearby, Jordan said.
“I think that (Napier was) involved in her disappearance,” Jordan said. “Now he’s dead and gone, and I feel like I’ll never get answers.”
Since then, dozens of tips and rumors have only yielded more questions.
Jordan has been told her daughter’s body was buried in a sewer east of town, or dumped in a field after being shot up with drugs, or hidden in a stove in a junkyard. One person even said they heard screams coming from the woods the night Roosa disappeared.
There have also been many supposed sightings of Roosa, but none of have proved to be legitimate, Jordan said. Several times, they have been mistaken for one of Roosa’s close friends, which Jordan said is strange because she feels the friend bears no resemblance to Roosa.
There has even been talk of Roosa running with James Carver, a 40-year-old New Vienna man who allegedly raped and murdered his girlfriend in Highland on Feb. 17.
“It’s constant rumors and stories,” Jordan said. “Every time I turn around, someone has information, and we’re turning up nothing… My head spins… It seems like they’re all dead ends.”
But one compelling lead came all the way from New Jersey, Jordan said.
A pile of clothing found in a woods near a New Jersey highway exactly match the outfit Roosa was wearing when she disappeared – right down to her bra size, green Polo T-shirt and the brand of jeans she liked, Jordan said.
The Highland County Sheriff’s Office is waiting to obtain the clothes from the New Jersey State Police, Jordan said, hoping to find traces of DNA. No shoes were found with the clothing.
The sneakers found in the woods near SR 124 represented a small victory in the search for Roosa, but Maj. Randy Sanders, the detective assigned to the case, said they mean very little to the investigation without further evidence. All that the shoes demonstrate, Sanders said, is how far Roosa got from the Greystone before she was separated from them.
Sanders, a veteran detective with a long list of solved cases, said he is stumped.
The detective previously told The Times-Gazette that after Roosa’s disappearance, law enforcement around the county was unofficially searching for her for weeks.
“Everybody who got stopped got asked ‘Where’s Lanessa?’” Sanders said. “Everybody was looking for her.”
It wasn’t until the last week of January that the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, Greenfield Police Department and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation launched a coordinated investigation. Roosa was finally entered into missing persons databases in Ohio and around the country, and Sanders’ work began in earnest.
“We pretty much spend time looking into something every day,” Sanders said last month.
Four large-scale searches have been conducted in the woods behind the Greystone since Roosa’s disappearance, several with search dogs, and nothing but the shoes and phone have turned up, Sanders said. The fourth search included 35 people and three cadaver dogs, Sanders said.
Roosa has had no digital presence, either. Sanders said he knows of no one who has heard from Roosa since Jan. 1, whether it be in person, through phone call, text, Facebook message or other media.
It’s like she disappeared into thin air, he said.
The bottom line for the sheriff’s office at this point, Sanders said, is to determine if she is alive and safe. If that happens, he said, the case is closed as far as he’s concerned. Then, in the eyes of the law, Roosa will cease being a missing person and Sanders’ work will be done.
“We tell people that if she will just get in touch with her mother, we will stop the massive search that’s going on,” Sanders said.
Jordan said this isn’t the first time Roosa has gone missing, but she has always returned home or at least reached out, if only to check on her daughter.
“Even when she was on drugs, she still wanted to know how her daughter was doing,” Jordan said. “Her daughter is getting ready to turn 3. She really wants her mom.”
Jordan said Larea, who was also present at the Times-Gazette interview, says her mommy is “with Jesus.”
Jordan said she’s torn between her own theories on Roosa’s disappearance.
“My gut feeling is that she’s dead somewhere,” Jordan said. “But my heart doesn’t want to accept that. My heart wants to think she’s running somewhere… Something has to happen soon. It just hurts so bad.”
Until then, there’s nothing for Jordan to do but worry, search and pray.
If you have any information on Roosa’s disappearance, call the Highland County Sheriff’s Office at 937-393-1421. For anonymous tips, text HCSHERIFF and your message to TIP411. Anonymous tips can also be left on the sheriff’s office website at www.highlandcoso.com.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.