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Family and Police Still Searching for Answers 6 Years after Jennifer Cahill-Shadle's Disappearance

by on May 18, 2020 3:17 PM

At 4:51 p.m. on May 15, 2014, Jennifer Cahill-Shadle walked from the North Atherton Street Walmart, as later seen on surveillance video, across the parking lot toward the Dollar Tree store. She was seen later that rainy night at Simply Tan and, at around 10 p.m., in the vicinity of the former Don Patron Mexican Grill.

Where she has been since then remains unknown, and her family and police continue to search for answers.

The past six years have been "tumultuous and surreal," her daughter Laura Shadle said. 

"Obviously it's been very difficult just not having any answers really after all this time," Shadle said. "However what we do have, fortunately, is a lot of really great community support and have since the beginning.... We really appreciate the support everyone’s given us over the years."

In 2018, Ferguson Township Police Chief Chris Albright formed a cold-case team comprised of two detectives to take a fresh look at the investigation along with two other notable unsolved cases: the 2001 disappearance of Penn State student Cindy Song and the 2016 murder of Jean Tuggy.

Albright said the detectives have continued the investigation. While he said he could not disclose any specific leads in the Cahill-Shadle case, the department has been working for about a year with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, which has assigned a special prosecutor to assist with things such as court orders and search warrants.

A mother of three who was 48-years-old at the time of her disappearance, Cahill-Shadle did not have a car and did not appear to have any luggage with her that night. There was no subsequent activity on her bank account or credit cards.

Cahill-Shadle — 5-foot-4, 112 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes — was last seen wearing a light-colored top, capri pants and dark shoes and carrying a dark shoulder bag.

She lived with her husband and children in Ferguson Township for several years before, in the midst of a divorce, she moved to Orwigsburg to live with her mother and stepfather. Cahill-Shadle returned to the area, however, in April 2014 to be closer to her children, staying with friends and at local hotels. She was last known to be staying at the Rodeway Inn.

The last time her family heard from her was during a phone call on the afternoon of May 15, 2014. She said she would call back later to arrange a time to pick up some mail, but that call never came.

Some members of Cahill-Shadle's family, including her mother, Johanna Zmuida, have in the past expressed frustration with the police department's early handling of the case, believing investigators did not act quickly enough. Zmuida said in 2018 that she had hired two private investigators to look into the disappearance and even engaged three psychics from different areas.

She said she did not believe her daughter would just walk away and felt certain harm had come to her.

Zmuida also advocated for the FBI to take over the case. Albright, who became chief in 2017, said that while the FBI has helped, it can only take over cases that are within certain parameters.

Laura Shadle, meanwhile, said she understood the frustration among some family members but that she believes police have done the best they could since the start.

"I think they’ve been incredibly thorough," she said. "I don’t claim to be an expert in how investigations are supposed to go... It’s of course extremely frustrating because we still found so little. But when you have even no evidence of a crime in the beginning, the investigators are also limited in what they can do. I understand any family member’s frustration, too, because it’s just an all-around difficult situation."

Albright said he also understands those frustrations.

"There’s a perception nothing’s being done with the case because we haven’t had any answers," Albright said. "I understand that. But it is something we are definitely working on, trying to get closure for everyone."

Anyone with any information about Cahill-Shadle should contact Ferguson Township police at 814-237-1172 or [email protected]. Anonymous tips can be submitted here.

"It’s really just a matter of if anyone could possibly remember any small detail, we have no idea what could end up leading us to something," Laura Shadle said. 

"If anybody has any information, please come forward," Albright added. "We want to find Jennifer and get answers in her disappearance."

Laura Shadle said she won't speculate on what happened to her mother, but the hope remains that whatever those answers are will lead to closure for her family.

"I think closure would come from just eventually finding out what happened," Laura Shadle said. "...The reality is anything could have happened. We just don’t know."

Photo Gallery - Jennifer Cahill-Shadle



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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