In the United States alone, 800,000 children are reported missing each year. That means about 2,000 kids go missing every single day and about 4,000 parents are left wondering if their child is safe, if their child is still alive, and if they’ll ever see them again.
In July 2014, one Kansas father experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. His two daughters had disappeared without a trace and he was left wondering if he’d ever see them again. But as police worked to find the girls, the case only got more complicated…
Featured Photo Credit: Facebook @WolfertsSisters
The Custody Battle
After Brian and Michelle Wolferts got a divorce, they began a nasty custody battle to try and get full custody of their three daughters, Brittany, Daniell, and Sydney. Three years after the divorce was finalized, the judge finally decided to grant Brian full custody.
Summers In Utah
As part of the custody agreement, the girls would spend each summer with mom Michelle. So when the summer of 2014 approached, Brian brought Sydney, 15, and Danielle, 14, to their mother’s home in Utah, where they would live for the next few months…
The Girls Vanish
However, in mid-July, just before the two girls were supposed to move home to their dad’s house in Topeka, Kansas, Brian couldn’t get in touch with either Sydney or Danielle. Once he spoke to Michelle and found out that she couldn’t find them anywhere, they both decided to call the police.
According to the Orem Police Department, Michelle explained she had dropped Sydney and Danielle off at the University Mall in Orem on July 11 at around 3 p.m. She told the girls she would be back to pick them up in three hours, and when she arrived at 6 p.m., they were nowhere to be found…
After hearing everything Michelle and Brian had to say, the cops listed the girls as runaways but followed up with new information. “Basically, they are overdue. They were supposed to been returned to him, but they haven’t,” said Lt. Craig Martinez of the Orem Police Department. “We are taking any tips we have and we will follow up on every single one.”
Brian admitted that his daughter had been through a lot over the years with the divorce and the move from Utah to Kansas, but was adamant that Sydney and Danielle would never run away. “I couldn’t possibly express how much I miss them,” he said. “I wish I knew where my kids are. I hope they’re OK…”
Investigating The Parents
Normally when a child goes missing and the parents are separated, the first thing police check is to see if one of the parents is hiding the child. In this case, the police ruled out both Brian and Michelle and had no reason to believe either one was involved with the girls’ disappearance since they were both cooperating as much as possible.
The Prime Suspect
However, two weeks after the girls went missing, Michelle also vanished and was never seen or heard from again and both the police and Brian were sure Michelle had known where the girls were all along. “After countless hours of searching and gathering up leads, the girls were not found,” Orem police said. “It was our opinion that Michelle was harboring the girls…”
Placing The Blame
“I am absolutely convinced Michelle and her family know where the girls are,” Brian said about his ex-wife and her family. “They are responsible for their disappearance.” Yet Michelle’s family insisted they had no idea where she and her daughters were.
The Other Daughter Speaks Out
Brian’s accusations were harsh but he was a distraught father who missed his daughters and was just trying everything to get them safely back home. But then his 19-year-old daughter, Brittany, came forward with some information that showed Brian wasn’t the man he seemed to be…
According to Brian and Michelle’s 19-year-old, Wolferts was abusive and volatile, which is the reason she moved out of his home as soon as she turned 18.“I thought it was normal to be afraid of my dad,” Brittany said. “It was like living with a ticking time bomb.”
Meanwhile, the girls were still missing and had been for months. But when Brittany came forward and claimed that their father was likely the reason the girls ran away, Sydney and Danielle sent a video to Michelle’s brother, Troy, to try and share their side of the story…
Their Side Of The Story
In the video, the girls explain that they were both safe and resorted to running away to get away from Wolferts. “We’re not missing or lost,” Danielle said. “We’re very safe. But we ran away because no one was listening to us, and we aren’t coming back until we can live with our mom again.”
He Said, She Said
“Our dad is abusive and terrifying at times. He’s constantly lying and people believe his lies,” said Sydney in a Youtube video. “Our dad has so much hate for our mom and he’s got other people to hate her too,” the 15-year-old added…
At this point, all police really knew was that neither of Sydney and Danielle’s parents had been completely honest. But before they could figure out the truth, they needed to find the girls and a year and a half after they went missing, the police finally got a tip that would help them.
In January, the police got a tip that Danielle and Sydney, now 15 and 16, had been hiding with their mom in a family friend’s apartment in Pleasant Grove, Utah. When the police knocked on the door at 3:30 a.m. on January 3, and found Michele and her two daughters, they arrested her on the spot…
While being arrested, Michelle hugged her daughters and told them everything would be ok. She was then booked into the Utah County Jail on misdemeanor charges of custodial interference, housing assistance fraud, and filing a false report before being bailed out.
Michelle claimed the girls contacted her shortly after they ran away and begged her to hide them. She knew it wasn’t the best way to handle the situation, but just wanted to protect her children.”I felt like this amount of time was the only thing that would save them. They needed to have some peace,” Michelle said…
In the months after Danielle and Sydney were found, a messy legal battle began between their parents, but, ultimately, Wolferts dropped the case against Michelle in March 2017 and the girls were ordered to return to Kansas to live with their father. “It was bittersweet,” said Brittany. “We knew why they dropped it. … My dad just didn’t want them coming to testify.”
Brittany, now 20 years old, has been fighting ever since for her sisters so that they can finally be heard. “I didn’t think all those years ago in early 2014 I would still be saying I’m fighting to give them a voice. I thought by this point they would have been able to testify in court at least once. Unfortunately, they’ve continued to be silenced,” Brittany said. “My greatest hope is for them to be free. They are very intelligent girls, and they know where they’re safe. They deserve to make their own choice and have a voice which hasn’t happened to this point.”