In the years since Amy Pagnac and Jacob Wetterling disappeared, much has changed in how police and the public respond to missing children.
Now, Garland said, police would follow more procedures when a child or teen goes missing, looking at crime networks and exploring cases more in depth, such as checking surveillance cameras, which he doesn’t think existed at the Holiday gas station in 1989.
“There may have been more that we could have done. Taking it as a runaway … we thought we were just following protocols,” he said. “Jacob Wetterling changed a lot of things. … Now we understand we have to do much more in the first 24 hours.”
There’s also advanced DNA technology and nonprofits to support families.
In recent interviews, Pagnac said she pressed police when school resumed that fall, but they didn’t take it seriously until 1990, searching the house then and again in 2007.
“In their mind, she’s just a runaway,” Pagnac said. “There were several leads not followed up and stuff lost.”
Maple Grove police Capt. Keith Terlinden has said the case has been active and a priority for the city since 1989.
“We never stopped looking for her,” added Garland, who retired in May as work on the case ramped up. “It would have been nice closure to find her.”
Classmates have also followed the case since hearing about Amy’s disappearance when school started that long-ago fall; they say posters went up in the cafeteria and Amy’s face appeared on milk cartons.
“The whole thing was very strange. I thought there should be more alert or concern [in the community],” said Becky Brooks-Macris, a classmate now living in New York. “You can’t just disappear in Osseo.”
She and other classmates say Amy was smart and social. But, they say, she was bullied at school for years, even beaten up. Brooks-Macris said Amy was once pushed down stairs while on crutches and later talked about running away.
“It’s just such a mystery,” she said.
Pagnac is convinced Amy’s alive, possibly abducted for prostitution. She says Amy was spotted at a strip club years later and at a bus or train station in 1992.
Now, Pagnac keeps a blue bag packed with photos of her oldest daughter over the years — Amy as a bundled-up baby, Amy as a child smiling behind a pile of stuffed bears, Amy as a teen smiling at a dentist visit (the photo later used in missing posters).
“The more people help, the better chance we’ll find Amy,” she said.
The family has kept the same phone number in case she calls. And every time cases surface like last year’s three missing women escaping their abductor in Ohio, it gives her hope Amy will be found alive.
“We were expecting the next knock on the door to be: ‘We found Amy,’ ” she said. “We’re still kind of hoping that will happen.”