The ice cracked below the feet of five Kenai police investigators, and several members of Alaska media, Thursday as the group traversed frozen swampy meadows, crossed streams and searched a wooded area northeast of Wildwood Correctional Facility in search of answers to a five-month mystery.
As fall turns to winter, the window of opportunity to search for the missing Kenai family of four grows shorter by the day.
Rebecca Adams, 23, Michelle Hundley, 6, Jaracca Hundley 3, and Brandon Jividen, 37, were reported missing in early June after the family missed a rent payment for their apartment on California Drive in north Kenai.
In an area where it’s more common to find moose and bears, a two-day search led by Kenai police last week resulted in the discovery of an article of outerwear found in the northeast wooded area a couple miles away from the family’s home. While police haven’t confirmed if the clothing belonged to the family, it is one of the few leads in the case.
Kenai Police Sgt. Ben Langham, the lead investigator on the case, said if investigators believe the article of clothing belonged to one of the family members they will have it lab tested.
Kenai Lt. David Ross said the focus Thursday was to expand the search area near where the item was found. Officers also planned to search an island of trees a couple of miles northeast of the family’s home where an unidentified item was located in an aerial search last week. Since Kenai police rekindled the field investigation last week, 20 officers and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations have assisted in the search.
Ross said investigators know Jividen was familiar with area and often hunted in the woods around his home.
Ross, Langham were joined in the search by investigator Paul Cushman and officers Alex Prins and Dan Smith. Several Anchorage television and newspaper media members requested to join the search Thursday, Ross said.
“It is important to bring the case back in the media spotlight,” Ross said. “Any information and tips we get back would be helpful.”
Langham said having the media along in the search is a benefit to keep the story in the public’s mind in hopes it could generate new leads.
After five hours several miles from the staging area at the end of Borgen Road, the search came up empty. Ross said they located the item seen from the plane and it appeared to be a shooting target frozen to the ground.
A bullet-ridden vehicle was also found in the swamp area.
“This is a big case for our department,” Ross said. “A lot (is) on the shoulders of our investigators. We don’t have a lot of serious, high profile crime in Kenai. It is frustrating to solve for the concerned family.”
As officers went deeper in the woods past all-terrain vehicle trails frequented by hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, the frozen terrain made the search through the marshy areas easier to travel.
Ross said the renewed search is not a result of any new leads, but another opportunity to concentrate on specific areas before the anticipation of snow arrives and blankets the area.
“Last week we crossed a swampy area through water 10 inches deep,” said Kenai Lt. David Ross. “The freeze is an advantage to explore that area.”
The latest search effort came up empty like the countless others performed by law enforcement and community members alike. A black glove was found by a reporter from the Alaska Dispatch News during the search Thursday, but Langham confirmed it belonged to a FBI searcher who had previously scanned the area.
Ross said the department has not received any new investigative leads into the family’s disappearance.
Both Brandon Jividen and Rebecca Adams’ vehicles were left at the home along with camping gear and the kids’ car seats. With no leads on where the family could have gone, police couldn’t continue with search efforts, he said.
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org