"Everyone is a suspect," say police in the case of Lynn Messer
Lynn Messer appears vibrantly alive and active on a Facebook page where her husband, Kerry, a Missouri lobbyist for a conservative Christian agenda, chronicles the passions and activities of the wife he calls “Ma.”
“As you can see in the attached photos, Ma cannot take a nap without someone piling on top to join with her,” Kerry Messer wrote March 16 in a 3,100-word post under the heading “Lynn’s Dogs.” Ten days earlier, on March 6, he wrote: “Ma’s gardening can be quite impressive! Just ask those who have seen her in action!”
In between those upbeat posts, however, is another that’s more reflective, hopeful and worried, where Messer wrote his bride of 35 years simply vanished in the middle of the night July 8 from their rural farmstead.
“We still do not know where Lynn is at,” he wrote March 7 on the page titled “Find Lynn Messer.” “We still do not know what Ma’s condition may be. There are so many confusions over life right now, emotions that I never expected and just don’t understand or know how to handle, and decisions that seem to just hang in the air with no answers – and often no way to even comprehend how to word many of the questions.”
Questions that are also being asked by investigators: Did Lynn, as her husband reported, rise sometime before 4 a.m. and just walk off, leaving behind her wallet, cell phone, car keys and the passport she carried on church missions to South America? Are there clues undiscovered on the couple’s 270-acre property and in the century-old farmhouse that serves as the base of the Missouri Family Network, Kerry Messer’s small lobbying organization? Are they looking at a murder?
“Anything’s an option at this point, but right now it’s still classified as a missing-persons case,” Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Det. Austin Clark, the lead investigator, tells PEOPLE. “We’re looking at it from all angles. There’s nothing beyond the realm of possibilities.”
Kerry Messer says he’s been questioned like a suspect but appreciates the thorough role of law enforcement, while noting the accusations from others that crop up on social media.
“They say things like, ‘Oh, come on Kerry. You know where the body is,’ and other stuff like that,” Messer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Law enforcement is very satisfied Lynn is not here.”
Says Clark: “We’ve searched thoroughly. If she is on the property, we certainly haven’t found her.”
Another sheriff’s officer, Maj. Jason Schott, told the newspaper: “At this point everyone is a suspect.”
Kerry Messer confronted the whispers head-on with an open letter Jan. 15 in the newspaper The Missouri Times, which covers the state capitol in Jefferson City, where Messer and his son, Abram, lobby legislators on behalf of what he’s described as the “traditionally conservative pro-family community.”
“On one hand we would prefer to have an open conversation rather than leaving you feeling inhibited about expressing your thoughts,” said their letter. “Do not be concerned about offending in any way. In the long run it would be better for us to talk openly rather than to pretend things are ‘normal.’ ”
Lynn Messer, 52, met her husband when both were teens, Kerry Messer told the Post-Dispatch, and after he convinced her to accept Jesus Christ, she dropped out of high school so they could marry when she was 16. She homeschooled their two sons and went on church missions to Ecuador. But she loved their farm life, making the mystery of her disappearance that much harder for him to grasp.
He told authorities that he awoke around 4 a.m. July 8 and, after discovering his wife missing from their bed, searched the house, the outbuildings, and the surrounding gravel and paved roads. After he called police, the search grew as sheriff’s investigators eventually enlisted the state highway patrol, the FBI, and K-9 patrols aided by a plane and helicopters.
“The immediate area of the house where you think she would logically be has been searched thoroughly over and over and over,” Ste. Genevieve Sheriff Gary Stolzer tells PEOPLE.
Are they getting closer to resolving the case? “I guess we’ll know the answer to that the day we resolve it,” he says.
Det. Clark says the passage of time only adds to the challenge as the number of volunteer searchers and possible leads decrease.
“It’s unusual because it’s not every day that someone just leaves without a trace or without a reason and they’re not found within a reasonable time after the incident,” says Clark. “In cases like this, you would assume you would figure everything out within a few days. As much time has passed, I think it does make it difficult.”
Asked if he believes Lynn Messer walked off, he says, “I don’t know the answer to that. That’s why we’re investigating from every angle we can.”
In an interview with The Missouri Times, Kerry Messer offered a theory: A decade of severe pain in his wife’s hips had led to surgery, but returning pain caused her doctor to say that more surgery was no longer a cure, and she was given new medication. “I believe there may have been an adverse mental reaction to those pills,” Kerry Messer said. “I think it’s possible that there’s a long-term mental reaction here and that she may be in a very confused state.”
On his Facebook posts, Kerry Messer dwells on the couple’s deep religious faith, their long and loving history together, their routines and playful asides. “I just discovered this evening that today is ‘National Short Girl Appreciation Day!,’ ” he posted on Feb. 3. “At the grand stature of 5’2″, Lynn has always qualified to be recognized on such a day.”
Noting snow in that day’s forecast, he added: “Snow has always meant good times and fun ‘adventures’ for Ma! Any time there is snow on the ground, you can see it in her eyes. She is planning. She is plotting. And if you don’t go outside to let her get it out of her system, she will bring the snowballs inside!”
“Dear Lord,” he concluded. “Thank You for a fun filled life and marriage where maturity does not always equate to growing up! Thank You for a Bride who is always planning, and always plotting! Thank You for putting so much love and ‘adventure’ into such a short package! ”
“Yet during this current season of life, the fun and the adventure are missing. Please return the joy and the adventure as You see fit. However – because of Your grace during the past many years I worship You knowing that Your plan is better than my short-sighted requests for the obvious. I trust You with the rest of today and tomorrow. I trust You with my Bride.”
The sheriff’s office asks that tips be called in to 573-883-5820, option 27463.
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