A college student spending the summer in San Francisco vanishes without a trace.
Eighteen-year-old Kristen Modafferi was a college honor student from North Carolina spending her summer in San Francisco. On Monday, June 23rd, 1997, she arrived for work at the Crocker Galleria mall. She had taken a job at a coffee shop to pay for a photography course at U.C. Berkeley. Griffin Cherry was her close friend:
At the end of her shift, Kristen left the coffee shop and was never seen again. From the start, authorities were frustrated by intriguing clues that went nowhere and a trail that led directly into the ocean.
The day after Kristen vanished, her parents flew immediately to San Francisco. Kristen’s father Bob Modafferi:
Kristin’s mother, Debbie Modafferi, was determined to find her daughter:
As in many missing person’s cases, police had few leads to work with. One of the first pieces of the puzzle was identifying a blonde woman seen with Kristin the day she disappeared. Forty-five minutes after Kristin’s shift ended, a man who worked with her noticed them at the mall together. Officer Patrick Mahanay of the Oakland Police Department learned that this was out of character for Kristen:
Kristen’s father was determined to find the identity of the blonde woman:
Police used a bloodhound to try to retrace Kristen’s route the day that she vanished. The dog immediately located her trail, but police weren’t sure if this was a route Kristen took the day she disappeared, or some other day. The dog then led them to Geary Street, heading toward Land’s End Beach. Kristen’s co-workers had said that on the day she vanished, she talked about visiting Land’s End Beach. Officer Patrick Mahanay followed the bloodhound to the trail’s end:
Kristen’s father, Bob, doubts this theory:
But if Kristen didn’t drown, what happened to her? Seventeen days after she vanished, a man called a local news station and claimed Kristen had been murdered. Bill Magee, the assignment editor at KGO-TV, received the call:
Detectives tracked down the two women named by the caller, but determined they didn’t know Kristen and had nothing to do with her disappearance. The police asked if the women knew anyone who might hold a grudge against them and falsely implicate them in the case. Both women named the same person, a man named Ryan.
Ryan told police the two women were his girlfriend’s employers, and that they had been harassing his girlfriend at work. He said he phoned in the false tip in an effort to get back at them. But the police suspected there was more to Ryan’s story. Upon investigation, they found allegations that he had abused women in the past. Their next move was to see if he had any connections to Kristen. Police then learned that Ryan met women mostly through personal ads. Earlier, they had found an ad in Kristen’s apartment they think she might have placed. Bob Modafferi:
Another clue was found at the home of Ryan’s girlfriend. Her diary was missing several pages covering the same time period Kristen had been in San Francisco. She told police that Ryan had torn out the pages. Det. Patrick Mahanay found this unusual:
Still, police say they have no clear evidence that Ryan was involved in Kristen’s disappearance. Ryan claims he passed a polygraph test given by a reputable expert:
Police have completely cleared Ryan as a suspect. With no new leads, the case is now back at square one.
A search of the home where Kristen briefly lived revealed the presence of human remains on the property. It is too early to know if they belong to Kristen. We will bring you more information as this story develops.