A young housewife mysteriously disappears from a small Nebraska town.
The town of Gothenberg is located in the heart of Nebraska’s farm belt. There’s a strong sense of community among its 3,500 inhabitants, and when a neighbor is in trouble, it becomes everybody’s business. On December 11, 1987, a housewife named Christi Nichols vanished. Almost immediately, suspicion centered on Christi’s husband, Mark Nichols. Mark denies any involvement in Christi’s disappearance:
It was in Gothenberg that Christi married Mark Nichols. She was 19 years-old and soon to be the mother of two toddlers. According to Christi’s mother, Connie Stanley, the children became the focus of her daughter’s life:
Ten days before she disappeared, Christi had gone to a local hospital after being injured in a fight with Mark. As Mark recalls:
Christi was treated by Dr. Carol Severeid Shackleton, who had seen her several times before:
Christi told her cousin, Debra Fredrickson, that she had been abused by Mark:
On December 9, 1987, two days before she disappeared, Christi went to a divorce attorney. She didn’t want Mark to find out, so she found an out-of-town lawyer named Claude Berreckman:
The next day, Christi and Mark went Christmas shopping with their children. This was the last afternoon she spent with her family. Mark recalled the day:
However, that evening they hired a babysitter and went out to the local bar where Christi worked. Diane Janssen was their babysitter:
Mark says he and Christi left the bar around midnight and stopped at an all-night convenience store. According to Diane Janssen, Mark arrived home between 12:30 and 1:00 in the morning. Diane was doing her homework in front of the television and didn’t remember seeing Christi. According to Mark Nichols:
According to Mark, Christi went to bed immediately after the babysitter left. He claims the last time he saw her was at 2 A.M. when he went to sleep beside her:
Mark says he searched the house and noticed Christi had taken a suitcase full of belongings with her. But both family cars were still sitting in the front yard. At 9:30 in the morning, Mark received a phone call from Christi’s mother, who lived 100 miles away. Even though he knew his wife was gone, Mark told her mother that Christi was still in bed asleep. Mark explains:
At 11:30 A.M., Mark took his children over to Christi’s grandmother’s house and asked if she could take care of them so he could search for his wife. Violet Williams is Christi’s grandmother:
Officer Terry Ahrens of the Nebraska State Patrol:
At 1:37 P.M., Mark filed a missing persons report with the police department. During the investigation, it was discovered that Mark moved out of the house the day after Christi disappeared. A few weeks later, he boxed up all of her clothes and sold both of their cars.
In March of 1988, three months after she vanished, Christi’s suitcase was discovered in a roadside rest area 30 miles west of Gothenburg. Officer Terry Ahrens found it surprising that the contents exactly matched the detailed list of missing items Mark had given police when Christi first disappeared:
The area surrounding Gothenburg was searched extensively. No other trace of Christi Nichols has ever been found. And no one has ever been charged in the case, though it still remains open. To this day, Mark Nichols claims no knowledge of what happened to his wife:
Until Christi returns, Mark Nichols will remain under a cloud of suspicion.
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