In America, every 40 seconds, a child goes missing or has been abducted. The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) reports that around 400,000 children go missing each year, and on the International Center For Unidentified and Missing Person’s “Doe Network” you can scroll through their missing people index, Millions of people have never been found, and millions more bodies remain unidentified.
There is one missing girl that people are still searching for today. Her case is still unsolved, and but for a few strange coincidences she is likely to have been forgotten along with so many others. However, with this case it seems that the young girl might have been trying to escape, and could even had been freed is her please had been recognized for what they were.
This is the story of Anthonette Cayedito, and what happened to her.
Who was Anthonette Cayedito?
Anthonette Christine Cayedito was born Christmas Day in 1976 to Penny Cayedito and Anthony Montoya, in Gallup, New Mexico. Anthonette’s parents got divorced when she was still a child and she, along with two sisters, Senida (often called Saide in reports) and Wendy, went to live with their mother, Penny.
Anthonette was described by those who knew her as being very smart, studious, and that she “acted older than her age.” She was said to have a caring heart and wanted to help others who may need help, including caring for her two younger sisters. Anthonette was a charming child with brown hair and brown eyes and the nickname ‘Squirrel.’
However, the settled family life she and her sisters enjoyed was suddenly shattered on the evening of April 5, 1986. That night, a babysitter had been hired to look after her girls while their mom went with her friends to a bar.
Anthonette’s mother returned around midnight and sent the babysitter home. Penny then sent two of the girls to bed but chose to stay up herself, chatting with her oldest daughter until 3 am. Then the Cayedito family went to bed for the night.
At 7 am the following morning, Penny went to wake the girls up to get ready to attend Bible School, but something was wrong. Anthonette was not in her bed; Penny searched the entire house and couldn’t find Anthonette.
Penny started to head outside to see if her daughter was out or at a neighbor’s house; she noticed something strange. Penny noticed the front door wasn’t locked, and the screen door was also unlocked.
The door to the Cayedito’s home had a screen door that had to be opened if someone wanted to knock on the front door. Penny was a bit confused because she knew she locked both doors that night but headed outside to search for her missing girl. The whole neighborhood then joined the search for Anthonette, but she was gone.
This was when Penny called the police to report her missing daughter. Unfortunately, the police said that she hadn’t been missing long enough to warrant a police report, and Penny needed to wait long enough to confirm she was truly missing.
Senida mentioned that someone knocked on their door, and Anthonette had gone to see who it was. That was the last she knew of Anthonette’s whereabouts. The police considered the case an abduction and called the FBI to help them search. Anthonette’s mom was given two polygraph tests and is reported to have failed the second test taken by the FBI.
Statistically, children are often abducted by someone they know and trust. Yet, after questioning the whole family, none knew any information that would help find Anthonette. A neighbor told police she saw a brown truck outside their home around 6:30 am. But it was typical for many people to come out of the Cayedito’s home and they didn’t think anything of it.
Strange Occurrences: Were These Anthonette?
With no evidence to go on and despite the best efforts of law enforcement and the neighbors, the case went cold. That was, until one year after she went missing, a call came through to 911.
The 911 operator heard a girl’s voice on the phone which said, “I am Anthonette Cayedito, I’m Anthonette, I am Anthonette Cayedito, and I am In Albuquerque.” The 911 operator asked where she was in Albuquerque.
But the voice never got to answer. A man was heard in the background asking, “Who said you could use the phone?” and terrified screaming was heard before the line abruptly disconnected. The 40-second long call was too short for police to trace it, but Penny insisted it was her daughter’s voice because she said she could recognize the screams and how she pronounced her last name.
However, the girl on the phone said she was in Albuquerque, but she couldn’t have been. If she had dialed 911 in Albuquerque, she would have been connected to the 911 operator in Albuquerque, not the operator in Gallop. Was it a hoax? Or was it a clue: did Anthonette believe she was in Albuquerque when in reality she had been nearby all this time?
Again the case went cold until 1991, six years after Anthonette had gone missing. Then, in Carson City, Nevada, an unkempt couple and a teenage girl stopped to eat in a restaurant. The waitress said that the girl kept pushing her fork off the table when the waitress was near and would squeeze the waitress’s hand every time she put the fork back.
The waitress found a napkin under the girl’s plate with “Help Me” and “Call Police” written on it. But by the time the napkin was found, the girl was gone. When the waitress was questioned she noted that the girl resembled Anthonette.
Could this be the second time Anthonette had tried to escape her captors? Terrifyingly they would have held her against her will for years by this point. And after this last contact, she was never heard from again.
Someone Knew Something
However, other clues were mounting. Five years after Anthonette went missing, her sister Wendy, said she knew something about the night her sister was taken. Wendy, now 10 years old, told police there was a knock on the door, and Anthonette followed by Wendy went to the door to see who was there.
Wendy said that Anthonette asked “who is there?” and that she heard someone outside say “Uncle Joe”. She saw Anthonette open the door only to be snatched by two men. She told police that Anthonette was carried into a brown van with the girl kicking and screaming. It had been a brown van that the neighbor had seen outside the house on the night of the kidnapping.
When asked why she went back to bed after that and didn’t tell the police at the beginning. Wendy told the officers that she was scared she would get in trouble if she said anything. Wendy thought that the police or her mom would not believe her because she was a little kid
The girls did have an uncle named Joe who was questioned, but he had an alibi and a witness who was with him the whole night. It was certain he didn’t take Anthonette. Anthonette wouldn’t have opened the door or answered unless it was someone she knew or thought she knew. The abductors may have known enough about the family to know that there was a real “Uncle Joe”.
Aside from the two strange attempts to make contact, there was nothing to go on. In the years since Anthonette’s disappearance however there have been many theories as to what happened to her.
One such theory is that a member of her family abducted Anthonette. Her mother and sisters said she would never have opened the door unless it was someone she trusted. All family members were questioned but were ruled out by the police and FBI.
It is also possible that Penny knew more about that night than she said. The failed polygraph is always mentioned. The police and people familiar with the case strongly believe that Penny knew what happened to her daughter. Penny Cayedito died in 1999 however, and whatever she knew was taken with her to her grave.
Perhaps Wendy lied when she was ten years old. Many web sleuths believe that if Wendy saw her sister get kidnapped, she wouldn’t have gone back to bed. A five-year-old child who would have said something, not hide it.
If Anthonette were carried from the house screaming and fighting, her sisters or at least her mother would have been woken up. The police based their investigation on what Wendy said after she came forward.
It is also possible that a stranger abducted Anthonette, plucking her out of the night. Joe is a common name, and when a child asks who is there, saying “Uncle —” would make her open the door. People believe the kidnappers made up a name on the spot, not knowing the girls had an “Uncle Joe.” The chance that a kidnapper would use a name that Anthonette recognized is unlikely.
Finally there is the theory that Anthonette was taken because someone in the Cayedito family was in the drug trade. It was believed that she was either killed as a threat to the family or she was sold to someone who bought the girl for sex trafficking. However there is no proof that anyone in the Cayedito family was involved in the drug trade.
Anthonette’s story is known by millions thanks to her story being featured in an episode of the show Unsolved Mysteries in 1992. The FBI has however closed her case because she was likely dead. The Gallup Police Department has left the case open and active, but investigators must be left to rue what could have happened if those two strange attempts to contact authorities had been acted upon.
Top Image: Did Anthonette Cayedito try to escape her captors in the years following her kidnapping? Source: Lost_in_the_Midwest / Adobe Stock.
By Lauren Dillon
Trost, R. 2017. 31 Years Ago, Anthonette Cayedito Disappeared. NBC News. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/cold-case-spotlight/31-years-ago-anthonette-cayedito-disappeared-n743951
Herrmann, B. 2016. 30 years later: Abduction of Gallup girl continues to intrigue local residents. Gallup Sun. Available at: https://www.gallupsun.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=8777:30-years-later-abduction-of-gallup-girl-continues-to-intrigue-local-residents&Itemid=600
TheDoeNetwoek, 2022. 61DFNM- Anthonette Christine Cayedito. International Center For Unidentified & Missing Persons. Available at: https://www.doenetwork.org/cases/61dfnm.html
NCMEC. 2021. Our 2021 Impact. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Available at: https://www.missingkids.org/ourwork/impact
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