Real Name: Kelli Ann Ayres
Case: Lost Niece
Location: Santa Maria, California
Date: December 1976
Details: In fall 1969, Glendeen Butterfield began caring for her infant niece, Kelli Ann, after her father and Glendeen's brother, Bob Ayres, was shipped to Germany, because her parents were separated and neither was able to care for her. Earlier, when Glendeen learned that Kelli Ann was going to be put in an Army orphanage, she went up the chain of command to the President's office in order to be allowed to take and raise her. That is when the Army allowed Bob to leave the base in Kentucky where he was stationed to take her to Glendeen in Santa Maria, California. After doing so, he lost interest in her, and she was on her own. Glendeen soon gained legal custody, and Kelli Ann lived happily with her and her cousins, Vikki and Sonya, for several years. Vikki and Sonya immediately accepted her as their little sister. She especially enjoyed riding horses with her new family.
However, in 1974, when Kelli Ann was four years old, Bob returned and moved in with Glendeen, but took little interest in Kelli Ann until a woman named Kitty moved in next door. Less than a week later, he moved in with her and took Kelli Ann with him. Glendeen soon got the police to bring her back, and a battle for custody began. Unfortunately, it took a toll on her; according to Glendeen, she became an unhappy and bewildered girl.
Bob sued for custody of Kelli Ann but lost, so Glendeen was given full custody and he received visitation rights. During the visits, he apparently tried to turn her against Glendeen. As a result, Glendeen moved to a small town in Nevada, and he was only allowed to visit Kelli Ann twice a year. However, Glendeen believed that he was changing her, making her even more unhappy and confused.
Glendeen decided that she would be unable to take care of Kelli Ann because of Bob, so she turned to Kelli Ann's mother, Marion. She was in the Air Force, married, and had two sons; Glendeen felt that she could provide the stable environment that Kelli Ann needed. In court, she reluctantly agreed to relinquish her custodial rights. A few weeks later, she said a tearful goodbye to Kelli Ann. She didn't realize that this would be the last time she would ever see her.
Glendeen last talked to Kelli Ann during Christmas 1976, but when she called the number again, it had been disconnected. Since then, all of her efforts to find her have failed. Years later, however, in 1983, she and Bob patched up their differences and began searching for her until his death in a farming accident in 1994. Glendeen is still searching for her.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 3, 1997 episode.
Results: Solved. A family friend who was watching the broadcast contacted the telecenter and with her information, Kelli Ann was located later that night. She is married with two children, and is a Specialist in the Air Force, stationed at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. Glendeen contacted her later that evening, and she was shocked and surprised, not believing that anyone from that side of her family would contact her again. However, she was thrilled to learn about Glendeen's search.
On January 18, 1997, Glendeen traveled to Anchorage where she was joyfully reunited with Kelli Ann. To fill in the remaining gaps, she brought several photographs she had taken over the years.
Sadly, Glendeen passed away in 2015 at the age of 74, after a long illness. She and Kelli Ann continued to keep in touch until then.