Anthonette Cayedito lived in Gallup, New Mexico, with her mother Penny, and her two younger sisters, Wendy and Sadie. The 9-year-old was nicknamed “Squirrel” and her favorite color was purple. Loved ones described her as a devoted girl with a caregiver's heart; by age six, Anthonette was already cooking for her sisters and taking care of them while their mom worked.
On April 5, 1986, Penny hired a babysitter to look after her daughters while she went to Talk of the Town Bar with friends. Penny returned home at midnight, sent the babysitter home, and fell asleep around 3 am after talking with Anthonette, who she allowed to stay up late that night.
It was at 7 am the following day while Penny was waking her children up for Sunday School that she first realized Anthonette wasn’t in her bed, let alone in the house. She reported her daughter missing at 11 am but a search didn’t begin until the next day; the Amber Alert didn't exist yet and the authorities refused to file a missing persons report until 8 hours had passed.
“We went looking for her around the house, nothing. I didn’t start panicking until we checked with all the neighbors, went to every house and nobody had seen her.” — Penny Cayedito
Wendy, who was 5 at the time, claimed there was a knock at the front door shortly after 3 am but she ignored it. A few minutes later, there was a second knock. This time, Anthonette got up while Sadie and Wendy remained in bed. When the 4th-grader asked, “Who’s there?” a man responded, “Uncle Joe.” Anthonette opened the door only to be taken by two strange men and put into a brown van.
Wendy later told the police she didn't recognize the men. The girls did have an uncle named Joe, however, he was ruled out. An intense city-wide search was called off after just 5 days. Anthonette's disappearance is the FBI's oldest missing Indigenous persons case in New Mexico.
A neighbor saw a man park a brown truck with New Mexico license plates outside the Cayedito home and approach the front door but it was between 6:30 and 7 am, not 3. She was unable to provide a description of the man and Penny claimed she didn’t know anyone who owned a brown van or truck.
A year later, a girl claiming to be Anthonette called authorities and said she was being held against her will in Albuquerque. Suddenly, a man yelled, “Who said you could use the phone!” and the line went dead.
In 1991, a waitress at a Carson City, Nevada restaurant reported that a disheveled couple came in with a young girl who appeared to be in distress. The child continuously threw her utensils on the floor and each time the waitress picked them up, she squeezed her hand. After they left, the waitress found a napkin underneath the girl’s plate which read, “Help me!" By then, the girl was already gone and it was too late. That was the last reported sighting of Anthonette.
Penny failed a polygraph regarding Anthonette's whereabouts and she was named a POI. Investigators believe she had additional knowledge but unfortunately, she passed away in 1999.
Anthonette was of Navajo and Italian descent. She was last seen wearing a pink nightgown and may or may not have been wearing glasses. Today, she would be 45. If you have any information, call Gallup PD at 505-863-9365, case# 0006–86, or submit an anonymous tip here.
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