Jennifer Kesse case podcast going viral, sparking new interest

Podcast finding potential new leads, tips, witnesses

From the corner of his guest bedroom at his home in Tampa, Shaun Gurd hosts "Unconcluded."

"A real-time investigation into the disappearance of Jennifer Kesse," is how Gurd describes it in his bi-monthly podcast.

Speaking into a basic USB microphone attached to his laptop, Gurd discusses with his partner ideas, suggestions, and potential leads in the disappearance of Jennifer Kesse.

Kesse was reported missing Jan. 24, 2006 when she didn't show up for work at Westgate Resorts in Ocoee.

Soon after, Orlando police released a surveillance video clip recorded from Huntington on the Green, an apartment complex 1.2 miles from where Kesse lived at the Mosiac at Millenia condos.

The grainy video shows a man parking Kesse's car at Huntington and walking away. He has never been identified.

In Gurd's most recent podcast, Episode 7, he played a phone interview with a woman who he and his partner believe lived at Huntington at the time when Kesse's car was abandoned.

"The woman we talked to believes she saw Jennifer on Jan. 24, which was the day before she ended up being in the news," Gurd said.

The woman said Kesse was walking with a man.

"I see this girl coming to me, 'Hi ya' doing' [she says], she was with a guy, and the guy brushed her off," said the woman in the podcast.

Gurd said if the woman is telling the truth, it would mean Kesse, not just her car, was at Huntington on the Green.

"Previously, only her car was known to be at this location, so if we can somehow place her at this location obviously it'll open up other avenues in this investigation," Gurd said. "In this particular case, we found a lot of information she gave to be credible. Now do we have any way of proving she saw Jennifer Kesse at this point? No, other than her statements."

Gurd, a fifth-grade teacher in Tampa, and his partner Scott Jamison, a college athletics teacher in Gainesville, regularly meet in Orlando to investigate potential leads, Gurd said. They'll also flesh out potential tips over the phone. They try to make sure all of the information and sources discussed in their podcast are credible.

"We don't want to air something on the podcast that's going to add to the misinformation that's already out there," Gurd said. "I think the biggest revelation that we've come across is, and this is something I was completely not expecting when we started this, is how much information that's out there about her case is just completely wrong."

Gurd said according to the statistics he receives, "Unconcluded" episodes are downloaded on average 450,000 times per month. He estimates that the podcasts are reaching some 50,000 people per month.

"It's grown way beyond what we expected," Gurd said.

Gurd said he receives no money from the podcasts. He said they're not his podcasts, they're everyone's.

Gurd said his wife briefly worked with Kesse's mother. He had never heard of the Kesse case until his wife told him about it. He started the podcast solely to bring Jennifer home.

"I'm not an investigator. I don't claim to be. I learn something new every day," Gurd said. "It's really about the awareness, is really the point of the podcast, is the awareness. Also making people aware that it's still unsolved, 11 years later."

Gurd also runs a Facebook group discussion page where people from all over the world discuss and debate the Kesse case all day, every day.

Gurd hopes and believes that eventually his podcast will reach someone key to the investigation who doesn't know Kesse is missing, didn't think a tip was important enough to report it to police or was previously afraid to come forward.

"I'm not going to solve this case. Can I move it forward and make people aware of it and encourage someone to come forward that allows law enforcement to solve this case? That's the goal," Gurd said.

Gurd also spoke with a jewelry store owner in Tennessee who believes she saw Kesse in the store several months after she disappeared.

He passes on every tip he receives to Orlando police Detective Teresa Sprague, who is in charge of the Kesse case.

An OPD spokesperson said Sprague looks into every lead she receives from Gurd and has weekly conversations with Kesse's parents, Drew and Joyce.

Drew Kesse told News 6 that Gurd and his partner are "doing a great job."

"They are finding and speaking to people the police haven't," Drew Kesse said. "They are definitely raising awareness again in a big way and the thoughts and people who have been sidelined seem to be finally coming out to speak."

"I think it's going to possibly go viral if he [Gurd] can hit home in one more episode or side bar," Drew Kesse said. "I listen to all of them as soon as they come out. Kudos to 'Unconcluded' thus far."

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.