It has been a year since Jennifer Cahill-Shadle spoke to her mother.
She was last seen at the North Atherton Street Wal-Mart at 4:51 p.m. May 15, 2014. Video surveillance shows nothing unusual, just a dark-haired woman with a purse slung diagonally across her chest. Then nothing.
It took time for her family to realize she was gone, about six days until mom Johanna Zmuida, of Orwigsburg, reported her missing. Cahill-Shadle had recently returned to the Centre Region and did not have a permanent address yet. She was last known to have stayed at the Rodeway Inn on North Atherton.
Then it took time for Ferguson Township police to start their search for information. And then a year dragged on.
“I’ve come to terms with it, but there’s not one day that goes by that you don’t think about it and wish that you could do more,” Zmuida said Thursday.
The Fourth of July came and went, bringing more attention to Cahill-Shadle’s case when another local woman went missing under different circumstances. Susan Bachman, of Julian, jumped from a moving car on Interstate 80 as her parents were taking her to Clarion Psychiatric Center. For months, stories about missing persons paired the two Centre County women.
In August, police released new information about the days leading up to the disappearance, including a picture of a receipt from Champs Sports Grill, where she was seen with a table of four middle-aged Hispanic men they thought might have information. They also mentioned “issues with substance abuse.”
But since then, there has been little progress.
“Despite interviews with family and friends, posted missing-person fliers, law enforcement bulletins and (missing person) entries into state and national law enforcement databases, as well as searches of the area, Shadle’s whereabouts remain unknown. Her family reports there has been no activity on her debit card, health account or her cellphone,” police said in a release Thursday.
“My heart breaks daily for Jennifer’s mother and her entire family, who desperately want answers. They are never out of my mind, nor is Jennifer,” Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said. “The ongoing investigation into her disappearance is a priority to all of us and we will not stop looking for answers as to her whereabouts.”
“It’s a nightmare. It’s heart-wrenching,” Zmuida said.
She recently went back to that Wal-Mart and put up a new poster with information about her daughter. She hung it next to pictures of other missing people, and realized she was part of a club no one wants to join.
“If you don’t have cancer, and then you get cancer, you enter a different world. You become one of those people and realize all that’s involved. This is just like entering a different world,” Zmuida said.
Last week, she says, she held her breath when Jon Steindorf went missing the day his parents showed up for Penn State graduation. She saw how quickly things moved to find him, and while she sympathized, she also mourned the delay in her daughter’s case.
Steindorf was found safe within days. The search for Bachman ended in sorrow when her remains were found last month. And still there is no trail to follow to Cahill-Shadle.
“All I can say is, it’s been very difficult ... but we are not giving up,” Zmuida said. They recently hired a new private investigator, a former FBI agent, to pick up the search.
A year later, a week after Mother’s Day, which was the last time she spoke to her daughter, she is renewing the push for information.
“We definitely know and feel there is other information out there, but for whatever reason, people have not come forward,” she said. “Just put yourself in the position of someone else. If it was your child, wouldn’t you be so appreciative of someone who would call and help out? It could make all the difference in the world.”
“I urge anyone with information, even if they think it might not be important, to call Ferguson Township Police Department to relay that information,” Parks Miller said. “It often is the most insignificant seeming piece of information that can break open a case.”