The parents of Amy Sue Pagnac say they assume they’ve been prime suspects since their child’s disappearance 25 years ago.
But Monday, as investigators continued to search their Maple Grove home, the displaced mother and father said they believe their daughter is alive and was abducted by organized crime for sex trafficking.
“If we are not suspects, then they’ve found Amy alive,” said her father, Marshall Midden.
“We know people say things about us,” said Susan Pagnac, Amy’s mother. “But nobody in our neighborhood really knows us. Most people keep to themselves, except maybe three [neighbors] that hate my guts.”
Midden told police in 1989 that Amy, then 13, had disappeared from a Holiday gas station in Osseo while he was using the restroom inside.
On Sunday, authorities arrived at the family’s home and began searching the property, but Maple Grove police declined to say what led them there, or what they were searching for. At a news conference Monday afternoon, police Capt. Keith Terlinden said the investigation is expected to continue through Friday, at least.
Like Amy’s parents, authorities said they still hold out hope that she is alive. Terlinden asked the public and Amy’s friends to call with tips, and made a plea to Amy herself, suggesting that she could be living outside of Minnesota.
“Please call us,” Terlinden said. “Please come home.”
Amy’s parents, who were interviewed by the Star Tribune in the garage of another daughter’s Brooklyn Center home, say they are puzzled, yet grateful for the latest search.
“The fact that they’re actually doing this gives me more hope of seeing her again,” said Pagnac, 55.
When asked if she expected to learn that her daughter was alive, Pagnac leaned against the crutches she has used since breaking her foot weeks ago. “You don’t understand,” she said. “I have no information that she’s dead.”
Terlinden would not say whether there have been independent witnesses. But Pagnac said that years ago, a woman who grew up with Amy told an investigator that she’d seen Amy “in one of these places — stripping and prostituting.”
Pagnac also recalled being told that someone was approached at a train station by a girl who said, “I’m Amy Pagnac.”
“How many people would choose the name Pagnac?” Susan Pagnac asked.
Amy and Midden, a computer programmer for the University of Minnesota at the time, were returning from the family’s farm in Isanti County on Aug. 5, 1989. According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Amy vanished while waiting in her father’s car outside the gas station, 2 miles from their home. When Midden left the station’s restroom and returned to an empty car, he said he assumed Amy was in the women’s bathroom. But a stranger came out of the women’s restroom, Pagnac said. Amy was nowhere to be found.
Amy was prone to migraines, her mother said Monday, and may have had a seizure and wandered off.
Yet, “Thirteen-year-olds don’t wander off for 25 years,” Pagnac said, suggesting that Amy was taken.
Midden, 58, bearded and wearing a headband to help keep in place a silver ponytail that falls inches short of his waist, recently posted a picture of Jacob Wetterling on his Facebook page, days before this latest search. Wetterling was 11 when he disappeared in St. Joseph on Oct. 22, 1989, two months after Amy vanished. Pagnac said the posting coming just before the current search for Amy was coincidental, that her husband often posts items recently featured on newscasts.
As rain poured Monday in Maple Grove, a smattering of visitors stood at a park, beyond yellow tape, and stared at the green and purple home that neighbors say Midden and Pagnac have owned for decades.
Pagnac said she and Midden have avoided neighbors, in part because of health scares she and her husband have had. Pagnac says she battles intestinal cancer and has suffered strokes. She said her husband also has had a stroke.
Midden said the authorities’ occasional searches have brought his family “nothing but frustration.”
“I can’t imagine what they’re looking for, but they didn’t tell me anything the last time they made a search, about seven years ago,” he said. “Amy didn’t run off. It was organized crime that did this.”