Jennifer Kesse's family files public records complaint against Orlando police

OPD says case is still 'active'

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - The family of 24-year-old Jennifer Kesse, who has been missing since 2006, filed a public records complaint against the Orlando Police Department on Monday asking the department to release information about its investigation after more than 12 years of no new developments.

Kesse's parents, Joyce and Drew Kesse, who live in Bradenton, and her brother, Logan Kesse, filed the complaint in Orange County on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Orlando Police Department said they were been made aware of the lawsuit by the media, adding that "the city has not been served, so our legal team has not had a chance to review it."

Jennifer Kesse went missing from her Conroy Road apartment in Orlando on Jan. 24, 2006. Orlando police have been investigating the missing persons case for more than 12 years. She has not been found and no arrests have been made or suspects identified.

The civil complaint filed in the 9th Judicial District Court alleges the Orlando Police Department breached its obligation to comply with Florida and Orange County records laws and has continued to call the case "active" despite no new leads.

Soon after her disappearance it was apparent Jennifer's case had become a cold case investigation. Just a year after she was last seen, she was featured on the "cold case" playing cards distributed at Florida state prisons, according to the lawsuit. In 2010, Orlando police acknowledged that they had "exhausted all possible leads." However, the case remained open.

The family retained a law firm in 2017 to file a public records request with OPD for all information related to Jennifer's disappearance. The department responded more than a month later by sending part of Jennifer Kesse's missing persons affidavit.

An attorney for the city of Orlando told the family that the "entire file is active criminal investigative information" and that the records department could, for a cost, go through and redact the file for the Kesses to view. The Orlando Police Department requests more than $18, 600 to review and redact the files. The complaint against OPD calls the charges "unreasonable" and an effort to prevent the Kesses from "further pursuing the records."

Several more attempts by the Kesses were made throughout the last year to get the investigation records. According to the complaint, the department did produce "a few records"; but they were all "heavily redacted so as to be unreadable."

Then on the 12th anniversary of Jennifer's disappearance in January Orlando police announced a renewed effort to find out what happened to the 24-year-old, revealing a Lynx bus wrapped with  an image of face and offered a $15,000 reward for information.

At a press event in front of the newly wrapped Lynx bus, which happened a year after the first public records request by the family, Logan Kesse publicly asked the department to hand over its records. 

"We want to be able to have our own investigator handle the files like it should be," Logan Kesse, said.

The family also said it hired its own private investigator. 

"We understand people make mistakes. I've made mistakes. We're all human," Drew Kesse said.  "But it's time to get every resource available."

Former Orlando police Chief John Mina said after the event that the case was still active and the department would not make those records public.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the department said Jennifer's case remains open and active.

The complaint asks the court to command OPD produce unredacted copies of all records within 48 hours or show cause why the department cannot, and for the department to reimburse the family for costs related to their repeated records requests.

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