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February 10, 2014 12:00 PM

Before the summer of 2010, Terri Horman was a typical stay-at-home soccer mom, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and tucking handwritten notes with hearts inside stepson Kyron’s lunch box. When Kyron, then 7, went missing from Skyline School in Portland, Ore., on June 4, she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the little boy’s father, Kaine, and mother, Desiree Young, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his face. “I ordered 1,000 fliers, they’ll be coming to our house,” Horman wrote on her Facebook page.

Weeks later, however, this united front swiftly fell apart as the investigation began closing in on Horman, 43, whom police believe was the last person to have seen him. Horman appeared suspicious to authorities because she was accused of orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot against her husband. But now, more than three years later, the boy’s disappearance still unsolved, Horman remains in a strange kind of limbo: Never an official suspect, she nonetheless feels like a prisoner, according to Jim Heath, her neighbor. (She was unwilling to comment for this story, citing a pending custody battle with Kaine.) A spokesperson for the Multnomah County Sheriff Dept. refuses to discuss Horman’s status with the case – the costliest in the county’s history – saying only, “It’s an active investigation with a full-time investigator.” But Desiree, 41, fiercely believes Horman knows more than she’s saying. “I want her to answer what happened that day,” she tells PEOPLE.

Shortly after Kyron went missing, Horman, a former teacher, moved from her house on a tree-lined street in suburban Portland, which she shared with Kaine and their daughter Kiara, now 5, to her parents’ Roseburg, Ore., home, where she plays computer games and watches television all day. “She doesn’t have money or a career,” says a friend.

Even in Roseburg, a town three hours from Portland, neighbors say Horman cannot escape the whispers. “She went to the Y to work out, and the ladies got upset because she was there,” says one person who knows her. Friends say she is constantly looking over her shoulder. “She won’t open the door unless she sees me,” says neighbor Jim Heath, 75. The rare times she ventures out, he says, she walks her 70-lb. dog or performs odd jobs. “She takes care of our lawn and feeds our fish,” he says.

On Feb. 12 Kaine and Terri, who were divorced on Dec. 31, are expected to return to court for a custody hearing over their daughter, whom Horman has not seen since 2010, in the wake of the murder-for-hire allegations, which lawyers for Horman say were unfounded. “She knows Kiara is growing up without her,” says another friend. In recent months, neighbors say they’ve seen a change in Horman. “She’s making eye contact,” says Heath, who refuses to shun her. “Everybody has to make a decision. Should I befriend this person? I feel you’re innocent until proven guilty.”

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