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Jennifer Kesse has been missing for 17 years: Her family hasn't stopped the search

Her family has renewed hope after investigators with the FDLE joined the search.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Where is Jennifer Kesse? Her family has been tirelessly searching for the Tampa Bay-area native for the last 17 years and said new help from state law enforcement is her "best opportunity to be found now." 

Flashback to 2006 — Kesse, then just 24 years old, had recently moved to Orlando and gotten a condo. She had even been promoted at work, serving as a project manager for a timeshare company, CBS News' "48 Hours" explained. 

She had a boyfriend whom she loved, Rob Allen, who lived about three hours away in Ft. Lauderdale. About a week before her disappearance, the couple had gotten back from a getaway in St. Croix. By all accounts, the trip went well.

However, on the night of Jan. 23, 2006, Kesse and Allen spoke on the phone with each other. 

According to CBS News, they had a disagreement on the phone — with the long-distance part of their relationship taking its toll. Allen says it was the last time he ever heard from her.

The next day — Jan. 24 — Kesse's parents got a call saying Jennifer hadn't shown up for work. When they tried calling her, all they got was her voicemail. They climbed into the car with their son and drove to her condo. 

Inside, CBS says nothing seemed out of the ordinary. In fact, makeup on the counter and a wet shower seemed to indicate she'd just recently been there. Her purse, phone and keys were not inside.

The case garnered media attention. Missing person signs were posted. And police launched an investigation.

Two days later, her black Chevy Malibu was discovered outside a different condo building about a mile away. Surveillance video showed somebody parking Kesse's car there, but the person's face was blocked by a fence post. 

“We cannot see that person’s face, ever, in anything we have,” Drew told 10 Tampa Bay in a 2019 interview. 

Kesse was nowhere to be found, nothing appeared stolen from the car, and there wasn't any evidence to suggest any sort of struggle.

Her parents moved into her condo to better help with the investigation. They told detectives Jennifer had previously complained to them about building workers who made her uncomfortable. 

Three years after Kesse's disappearance, a former housekeeper reportedly told the Orlando Police lead detective the person in the grainy security camera image sort of looked like a guy named Chino, a former maintenance worker at Kesse's condo complex. 

The detective then realized an anonymous tip had been reported right after Kesse vanished, also suggesting Chino might know something. He was able to interview Chino in 2009 in prison when he was serving an unrelated sentence for statutory rape. 

Chino said he didn't know what happened to Kesse and passed a polygraph, according to CBS

From there, the leads went cold. In 2016, despite never finding her body, Florida formally declared Kesse dead. 

Her family was left without answers and frustrations with Orlando police were mounting, but they weren't giving up. In 2018, the family sued the Orlando Police Department in order to get a copy of the case files. 

At that point, the family took over the investigation and hired a private investigator. 

10 Tampa Bay reached out to the Orlando Police Department on Monday. A spokesperson sent the following statement: 

"This remains an ongoing investigation and the Orlando Police Department continues to cooperate with the agencies involved in investigating this case. Our hearts continue to go out to the entire Kesse family."

In 2019, law enforcement divers searched Lake Fischer in unincorporated Orange County after the private eye identified a tip about somebody dumping a rolled-up carpet into the water several months after Kesse disappeared. 

As CBS pointed out, the day Kesse went missing, workers happened to be laying carpet nearby — making that tip noteworthy. The private investigator believed she may have been abducted by a construction worker.

The divers found nothing in the lake.

Kesse's parents moved back to Bradenton, but their search for their daughter continues. 

Last week, the family updated the Facebook page dedicated to finding Jennifer. 

"After 17 years of fighting to try and find you any way we can you still elude us. It is our hope to find you in our lifetime," the post said, in part. "We don’t rest till we bring you home, no matter how many years it takes. Unconditional love is forever and unconditional. Come home soon."

The family goes on to say they believe they found law enforcement officers who "are willing, able and wanting to find Jennifer even after 17 years" — investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. 

"May the Universe shine a light on Jennifer wherever she may be and may her crime touch someone’s heart who knows the truth enough to speak up," the post concluded. 

CBS News' "48 Hours" and previous reporting from 10 Tampa Bay contributed to this story. You can watch the 2021 "48 Hours" episode here

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