Missing since May, 21-year-old Jessie Wilfong's body was found after being last seen walking into her uncle's house & never leaving.
Who was Jessi?
In my interview with Kathy Wilfong, Jessi's mom, she said she knew something was really wrong when she didn't hear from her daughter on her 21st birthday on May 26.
"I hoped she was just off with friends and would call any day," "but when I didn't hear from Jessi on her birthday, I really started to worry."
Kathy said her daughter was a great kid. She was the salutatorian of her senior class and a cheerleader, and she regularly attended church with her mom.
"She was very friendly and always got good grades," " just a good kid, but she was very naive."
Kathy said about a year ago, Jessi went through a breakup with her boyfriend and became depressed. She said she started acting out of character, hanging out with meth users, and using meth.
"Jessi started using meth when she started hanging out with everyone at James Wade's house; she would go to Fredricktown and hang out with James' daughter Kari, his stepdaughter Brooklynn Day, their boyfriends Nathan Glover and Jacob Graham, and Jacob's brother Zach."
James Wade is someone who has made many headlines lately regarding the death of Derontae Martin in his home. Derontae's first cause of death ruling was suicide, but when the family obtained a second opinion, that ruling was challenged and called instead "death by violence."
Kathy said they started getting worried about Jessi's choices,
"We actually moved to South County from Fredricktown in January to try and get Jessi away from the drugs and the people she was hanging out with, but she still managed to get back there."
Jessi's Uncle Bubba
Everyone called Jessi's uncle Lawrence Schanda, "Bubba." Bubba spent eight years in prison for a stabbing that happened on a night of drinking. He and his friend had an argument, and Bubba stabbed his friend and took off. His friend survived the attack, but he spent 8 1/2 years in prison.
Bubba also had several DWIs and apparently struggled with a drinking and drug problem. When Bubba was released from prison two years ago, Kathy said he was adamant about protecting Jessi from the world.
"Bubba told us it was his job to keep Jessi safe, and he wasn't going to leave her side."
Kathy went on to say Bubba may have had his issues, but he was a nice guy.
"Everyone liked Bubba because he was a friendly guy."
Kathy went on to tell me that he was handling life well after prison at first. He started seeing Teresa Baumgartner, and they were both working steadily.
Eventually, Kathy noticed neither one had a steady job anymore, and her brother-in-law's behavior was becoming erratic. She said they had begun using methamphetamine. Kathy said Jessi told her Bubba's girlfriend did not care for her much,
"Jessi told me Teresa was jealous & controlling and would get mad when she stopped by to visit."
Kathy also said Teresa told her in a phone call once that she thought Jessi was "casing their house." Teresa said she thought Jessi was going to rob them. Kathy dismissed it as drug-induced paranoia and didn't take it seriously because she thought Teresa was high.
When Jessi went missing on May 19, 2022, Kathy said her daughter called Bubba for a ride, and he and his girlfriend Teresa picked her up from Fredricktown. They took her back to their mobile home in Millersville. When Kathy could not reach Jessi the next day, she asked Bubba if he knew where she was,
"Bubba told us they had a big fight because he thought she was snitching to the police on him and some other paranoid stuff," "he said they went to bed, and she must have left early in the morning while they were sleeping."
Nobody knew where Jessi was. Kathy contacted all of her daughter's friends. She expected Jessi to pop up and call any day. After four days and no contact with her daughter, Kathy contacted the Fredricktown Police Department. Kathy said she initially reached out to the Fredricktown Police Department on May 24 because she wasn't sure where Jesse was last seen.
"They were helpful and kind in guiding me through the steps I needed to take to find my daughter." Kathy filed a missing person report with Cape Girardeau County on May 25, which is where Jesse was last seen at her uncle's mobile home in Millersville.
Bubba's story wasn't adding up. When police started investigating, they obtained camera footage of the mobile home the night Jessi went missing. The cameras recorded Jessi coming and going from her uncle's house that night. However, she walked into the house at one point, and the cameras never showed her leaving again.
Kathy said it didn't make sense, but she thought it was a camera issue, and perhaps the camera didn't pick up when Jessi left. Kathy said as days went on, her brother-in-law's behavior became more and more questionable.
"He just kept saying how they had a fight and he thought she was snitching on him," "He was not being cooperative with police and my husband and I thought it was because of the drugs but we still never thought he would hurt Jessi."
After Jessi went missing, Bubba's stepson Jessie from a previous marriage reached out to the Wilfongs and said he was worried about Jessi.
"Jessie called and told us that he was really worried about Jessi's safety because Bubba was back on meth and he said Bubba used to beat him and his mom all the time when he was high on meth."
By this point, Kathy was distraught but held onto the hope that her daughter was still alive.
On June 13, police told Jessi's parents that Bubba had been arrested for 1st-degree trespassing and damage to jail property and was being held with no bond. He was arrested on someone's property late at night, chasing Teresa, who left and was trying to get away from him. He chased her to someone else's property, who called the police.
On June 15, police executed a search warrant at Bubba's mobile home. They found evidence during the search, including a piece of carpet cut out from the floor.
On Saturday, June 18, police contacted Jessi's parents. It was not the news they wanted to hear. They informed Kathy and her husband that they had found Jessi's body buried in a barn on a piece of property Bubba was purchasing from Steve Proffer in Millersville, not far from Bubba's mobile home. Jessi's parents were informed their daughter had been beaten to death.
On June 22, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorneys' office filed charges against Teresa L. Baumgartner for tampering with physical evidence in a felony investigation, and she was taken into custody.
Jessi's parents are heartbroken from the outcome of their missing daughter. Even more distressing is the fact that her own uncle was probably involved. At this point, they don't know what happened,
"We don't know which one of them killed Jessi and who is covering for who, but we are pretty sure it was one of them, and the other is covering it up."
The horrific outcome of the Wilfong family's missing daughter is hard to fathom. It has strained the entire family, and everyone is engulfed with grief and shock.
"Even though she hadn't called, you still have hope," "I am grateful that I can at least put her to rest, and I don't have to wonder; now I know."
Kathy said the Cape County Sherriff's department worked diligently on her daughter's case, and she is grateful for their swift action.
If you have any information regarding Jessi's case please contact the Cape County Sherriff's Department at (573) 243-3551
Part 5: Parents find similarities in the deaths of their kids in Washington & Madison counties Missouri & want answers. - COMING SOON!
(K. Wilfong, interviews, June 2022.)