tv 2020 ABC May 13, 2016 10:01pm-11:01pm PDT
>> reporter: tonight on "20/20" -- when do you stop looking for a pregnant daughter who's vanished? >> i don't think i can survive if i don't find her. >> reporter: the mother who won't give up. >> mysterious disappearance. >> reporter: long after she fears the worst possible outcome. >> we have no record of kelsie schelling ever being here. >> reporter: and an on-again, off-again boyfriend. a high school hoops star as a person of interest. >> you're on video, dude. in her car with her credit card. >> he's not scared?
what can i do, how can i help? >> the call that you're making to him is kelsie, the mother of your child, is missing. we are desperate to find her. >> reporter: and then a mysterious, late night facebook message blows everything apart. "your daughter is not dead. she will be back home alive." but 1,000 miles across the country, another family with a missing daughter gets a very similar message. >> he says, i know where megan is. and i can get her back. >> that should be him. >> reporter: tonight, "20/20" goes undercover, in search of a man in a red cap. a money drop in a mcdonald's parking lot in exchange for missing girls. >> coming to a parking lot to collect $75,000, a lot of people say that sounds like a criminal enterprise. >> i'm as shocked as you guys. >> reporter: it's the ultimate showdown, with two lives still on the line. >> maybe she is out there. maybe she is alive.
>> i mean it was just what if? what if? what if? >> good evening. i'm david muir. >> and i'm elizabeth vargas. put yourself in their shoes. two desperate families with daughters that vanished without a trace. but a shocking link, leading to russia. >> and websites devoted to missing people. and strangers that claim to know where your family members are. join the conversation on facebook and twitter. here's ryan smith. >> reporter: february, 2013. dawn breaks cold and clear on a tuesday morning in denver, colorado. and as morning turns to midday, a question hangs in the thin air of mile high city, where is kelsie schelling? the vivacious 21-year-old recently discovered she's pregnant. now she's late for work at this denver housewares store. >> she didn't show up for work.
i tried calling her, i think from my cell phone and the store phone. couldn't get a response. >> reporter: at his hardware store in holyoke, colorado, kelsie's father doug also has trouble connecting. >> and i thought, "well, i'm going to call and see how she's doing." she didn't answer her phone, which is pretty rare. >> reporter: tuesday turns into thursday, and the silence gets louder. concern morphs into panic, especially for her mother laura. >> all of her friends, like, started contacting us saying, you know, "we've been trying to reach kelsie and we can't reach her." and when that happened, that is, like, when i got really, really scared. because i just thought there, you know, there has to be a logical explanation. >> reporter: but since that fateful february week, no explanation has arrived. with no word from kelsie, laura's spent years searching on her own. >> developments in the disappearance of a denver woman.
>> disappeared on a trip to southern colorado. >> reporter: with no word from kelsie, she's spent years searching on her own. knocking heads with local police department. and getting wrapped up in a mystery of her own involving allegations of sex trafficking and extortion. more on that later. >> it's unbelievable to me, doing all of the things that i'm doing to just, you know, get out and fight people like i have. >> reporter: the story traces back here to a town called holyoke, a couple hours east of denver, where the scenery looks more like kansas than a coors commercial. this is where kelsie was born and raised. >> she liked to be silly, liked to laugh. you look at, like, these pictures and you can just see that. >> reporter: mother and daughter develop a tight, unbreakable bond after laura and her husband
doug split up when kelsie was just 11 years old. >> it was just she and i together, alone, for a lot of years. so we were very close. pretty inseparable, basically. >> reporter: kelsie attends nearby northeastern junior college with plans to study psychology. there, she becomes fast friends with her roommate aly sandoval. >> she was very fun, she was laughing all the time, always getting into trouble and just out to have a good time. >> reporter: and at school, a key figure enters her life, donthe lucas. their backgrounds cannot be more different. donthe hails from the central colorado town of pueblo, a place more wal-mart than "little house on the prairie." blue collar pueblo has a reputation as the most dangerous town in colorado because of its high crime rate. at central high school, donthe stands out as a 6'7" basketball star.
>> he just had a mad passion just for basketball. he loved everything about the game. and hoping that he, you know, go onto a division i basketball school. and then, maybe make it to the nba. >> reporter: but the big college recruiters never come calling. instead donthe ends up playing ball at tiny northeastern junior college. literally the big man on campus, and in a whirlwind romance with kelsie schelling. to kelsie's friends, the relationship turns toxic from the start. >> he would be putting her down, calling her names, saying that she was fat and ugly and nobody else wanted her and she was lucky enough to have him in her life because she wasn't going to get anything else. >> reporter: after a couple of tumultuous semesters, the two split up. by 2012, kelsie has quit school and is living in denver, working at that home goods store. donthe, his hoop dreams slipping away, is back in pueblo. to the alarm of kelsie's
friends, the two reconnect. >> she loved him. >> reporter: you think he loved her? >> no, you don't treat someone that you love like that. you don't treat them with disrespect the way he did with her. he'd throw things, she'd throw things. it was awful. >> reporter: december rolls in like the snow drifts in denver. kelsie and donthe spend the christmas holidays together. and shortly thereafter, mom is asking, "what child is this?" >> she called me when she found out she was pregnant. she was stressed. you know, just told her, i will support you, you know, whatever you need, your family's behind you. >> reporter: did she tell you anything about donthe's reaction? >> she said he was mad. she said he was very angry. >> reporter: on sunday, february 3rd, kelsie writes to donthe, "i know now how you truly do feel. you have no obligation to me and you don't want to have anything with me." the next morning, kelsie has a
prenatal checkup and the doctor delivers the news. she's eight weeks pregnant and her unborn child is in perfect health. she excitedly texts the sonogram to donthe and her family. she sent you a picture of the baby. what did you think when you saw the baby? >> i was happy. i knew that she was happy. >> reporter: after that checkup, donthe presses kelsie to drive down to pueblo, saying he has a surprise for her. "just wait and see for yourself, you probably wouldn't believe me if i told you." kelsie responds, "tell me what it is and i'll come." donthe, "come see for yourself. i know it'll put you in a better mood." kelsie relents, and at about 10:00 p.m., the young mom-to-be finishes her shift and pulls away in her black chevy cruze, making the lonely two-hour nighttime drive to pueblo. did you have any idea she was
going there? >> no. if i would have knew she was, i would have made her take a friend. or i would have made sure and went with her. >> reporter: during the drive, donthe texts her to "go to wal-mart" in pueblo to meet him. at 11:20 p.m., kelsie pulls into the wal-mart parking lot. she waits almost an hour for donthe to show up. finally messaging him that she's "tired of waiting" and will come to him. at 12:15 in the morning, donthe texts her to meet him on this street. they've met here before. it's near his grandmother's house, donthe's current crash pad. again, she's left waiting in the car. "where are you," she messages him. "i've been here over an hour just waiting." kelsie is never seen again. by the end of the week, her phone shuts off and her mother is melting down. >> just sheer panic and disbelief. i mean, i can't even remember how scared i felt.
>> reporter: coming up, donthe tells his story to the cops. >> we are now leaning towards foul play. >> reporter: is the basketball star a piece of a larger puzzle? and could kelsie's case be connected somehow to another woman who's gone missing over 1,000 miles away? could there be a nationwide conspiracy, kidnapping young women? stay with us. to the woman in the mid-90's showstopper... you're right. it's time to set this bird free. ♪ hot blooded, check it and see...♪ ♪ got a fever of 103... feelin' hungry? how 'bout a donut? ♪ i'm hot blooded..i'm hot blooded! ♪ whether it's 30-years old or 30-days old, carmax will appraise it in as little as 30 minutes. and then your only concern will be how to spend the cash. rad.
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"20/20" continues. what if? >> now to the mysterious disappearance of a denver woman. >> the disappearance -- >> reporter: this much we know. on the night of monday, february 4th, kelsie schelling, very troubled, very pregnant, and maybe still very much in love, makes that late night drive from denver to pueblo, colorado, to visit her boyfriend donthe lucas. >> she was last seen in pueblo. >> reporter: when kelsie's family reaches out to donthe, they say he seems oddly unconcerned. >> and i just said, if you hear from her, you need to tell her that we're taking this very serious and that we're calling the police. and so he was like, "okay, i will." >> what did he sound like on the phone? because the call that you're
making to him is, kelsie, the woman that you are with, the mother of your child, is missing. we are desperate to find her. >> nothing. no, not worked up. not, you know, just -- >> reporter: he's not scared? "what can i do, how can i help" -- >> no, he just says, "if i hear from her i'll let you know." >> reporter: the pueblo p.d. take over the case. as the last person known to have seen kelsie alive, donthe falls under immediate scrutiny and is called in for questioning. >> how you doing? >> i'm good. >> reporter: he gives a detailed account of what happened, corroborating kelsie's texts, he says kelsie arrived at the wal-mart meeting point after 11:00 p.m. after waiting there in vain for 45 minutes, she and donthe finally rendezvous on manor ridge drive, near his grandmother's house where he'd been staying. >> she came down to pueblo and we were talking, whatever. and then we ended up, she ended up getting mad at me, whatever. i went back home that night, i thought she was going to go back
home, but she ended up staying until the next morning. >> reporter: donthe claims kelsie never went home. instead, he says she slept in her car, and at about 7:00 that morning, she said she wasn't feeling well and asked him to take her to a local hospital. because she wasn't feeling well. >> so we went to parkview, and she went in say for about almost two hours, hour and forty-five, two. she came back and told me that she wasn't pregnant. >> reporter: now that's an eyebrow-raiser right there, since just the previous morning a doctor in denver had confirmed the pregnancy and a healthy baby with that ultrasound. still, donthe proceeds with his story, claiming at about 9:00 a.m., the two drove from the hospital and ended up at that wal-mart where they parted ways. as it turns out, forever. >> she went to get us some snacks, something to eat, because we're hungry. and then we came back and we ended up talking, she ended up telling me like, get out of the car at wal-mart, i'm not taking you home. so i just left at wal-mart and
started walking home. >> man, you didn't hurt this girl, right? >> i would never hurt her. >> reporter: could kelsie have harmed herself, distraught over a supposed miscarriage? in his interview, donthe described her as a troubled, erratic young woman. >> she has, like bad anxiety, she has anxiety attacks, so she has pills for that. >> what can you tell me about that? >> she told me before, like, that she's ended up in like the hospital a few times for, like, overdosing on drugs. >> reporter: donthe cast her to police as someone who had troubles with drugs. >> i don't believe that, no. >> reporter: so do you think that donthe made all these statements up? >> yes. >> reporter: and why do you think he did? >> to try and throw the attention some other direction. i mean, even if kelsie did commit suicide, which i don't believe she did, because she was happy. she wanted that baby, she wanted to be a mom. but if she committed suicide, you would find her body.
>> reporter: donthe is allowed to leave. and then, eight days after the disappearance, a breakthrough. >> the car of a missing denver woman has been found in pueblo. >> reporter: kelsie's car is discovered at a different pueblo hospital. the car was abandoned in the parking lot but andrew mclachlan, deputy police chief at the time, says police are unable to determine who left it there. >> we did not have any good security footage that could tell us who dropped off the car, how the car got there. >> but you find the car and no kelsie. >> and no kelsie. normally if someone was going to go away for a few days, they'd take their car with them. so, we are now leaning towards foul play. so, we accelerate the case. >> reporter: attention now returns, with some urgency, to donthe's version of events. and already, some things aren't adding up. >> remember how donthe said he dropped kelsie off at this hospital at around 7:00 a.m. on february 5th? he said he waited outside for her. >> she went in for almost
two hours. >> reporter: but there's just one problem with his story. >> we have no record of kelsie schelling ever being here at parkview medical center. >> reporter: now, what do you check to find out if she was here or not? >> we have a medical record that keeps track of every patient that's ever walked through our doors. >> reporter: so for you, there's no way she's ever here? >> that's correct. >> reporter: we went to parkview hospital and they said, "we have no record of kelsie ever being here." would that be a suspicious set of circumstances in the way you look at donthe? >> yes. it is. >> reporter: in fact, much of donthe's story is going to start to crumble quite shortly. >> well, this is another glaring hole in his statement. >> reporter: because there were security cameras almost everywhere along the way. and police say they show no sign of kelsie, only donthe. >> you're on video, dude. she's not in the car. it's on the video. >> reporter: stay with us. recently, a 1954 mercedes-benz grand prix race car made history when it sold for a record price of just under $30 million.
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"20/20" continues. what if? >> reporter: you're looking at surveillance video of that wal-mart parking lot from tuesday at noon. this is kelsie schelling's black chevy cruze entering a parking spot. remember, donthe told police he and kelsie then went inside the store to grab somethinto eat. >> she went to get some snacks, like something to eat, because she was hungry. >> reporter: but watch closely. only one person is seen emerging from that chevy, and it's donthe. he gets out of the driver's side and walks toward the front of the store. abc consultant and former fbi special agent brad garrett reviewed the video for us. >> this is another glaring hole in his statement where he contends the two of them are together and clearly, based on
the surveillance, it's one person. >> reporter: donthe is later seen walking through a parking lot in the rear of the store, where his mother arrives to pick him up. but what happens next to that parked chevy? could kelsie still be in the car? well, watch. as it sits, and sits, and sits, through the day, through the night. and over an 18-hour period, nobody is seen getting in, or out, of the car. but then, at 7:17 the following morning, a wal-mart camera captures this man in a grey hoodie walking across a parking lot. now watch the camera trained on kelsie's chevy. the man with the hoodie approaches the car without hesitation, he opens the driver's door, gets in, and moments later, drives the car away. >> it's a car that that person
is familiar with and we know earlier that donthe had the key. so, who is this? i don't know. it's hard to imagine it's not anyone other than donthe. >> reporter: who do you think that someone was that came back and drove that car away? >> you know, there's similarities to donthe, but it's nothing that we can 100% say that is the person who drove it away. >> reporter: and other security cameras captured something donthe omitted from his account to police. remember, he said after leaving the hospital that morning, he and kelsie drove to the wal-mart. but it turns out he did make a stop at this pueblo bank. this video was shot at about 11:40 a.m., before he arrived at the wal-mart. donthe is seen pulling up to a drive-through atm in kelsie's chevy cruze, and he's using kelsie's bank card to withdraw $400 from her account. kelsie is nowhere to be seen. is it suspicious for you that he uses that card?
>> it is, it is part of the suspicious activity, yes. and that is one more addition that we have in the case. >> reporter: cops now believe that donthe knows much more about kelsie's disappearance than he's letting on. time for cops versus donthe, the rematch. >> this is the second time we've talked to you. you're afforded certain rights by the constitution. >> these detectives had a wealth of information to go at him that i and other people would've died to have had in an interview. >> reporter: playing a game of two-on-one, the pueblo detectives confront donthe about his visit to the atm using kelsie's bank card. >> i don't know a nice way to put this, but why'd you get the money? >> the money, what money are we talking about? >> 11:39 at the bank, you're on video, dude. in her car with her credit card. you're on tape. >> oh, the $400 you're talking about? it was for my phone bill. >> why didn't she go with you in the atm?
she's not in the car, it's all on the video. >> it may have been while she was over at the hospital. honestly i'm not sure about that, like i said my time frame has been messed up. >> reporter: the detective moves on to another topic, pressing the power forward about why there's no record of kelsie ever showing up at that hospital. >> there's no record of her ever being at parkview. >> that's, like, all i have to say. like -- >> sit in my shoes, and you know, you see these questions. >> like i understand where you're coming from. i completely do. i get it but i just don't really know what to say right now. >> it's clearly an opening. the light's almost coming on like, i'm boxed here and i feel like i'm in trouble. >> reporter: but garrett believes right at that moment the cops make a blunder. instead of cornering donthe on these contradictions they hopscotch over to an unrelated topic.
>> when you dropped her off, and she dropped you off at wal-mart where were you parked at? >> i mean, like, apparently you guys already know so, like, i don't understand why you, like i told you one time, like that's all i can say about it. >> she dropped you off, when was that again? >> can i speak to a lawyer please? all you keep doing is asking the same questions over and over and like, i'd just like to speak to a lawyer. >> reporter: and with that, game over. the detectives walk out of the room and the interrogation is concluded. with key questions, about that wal-mart video for instance, left unasked. >> unfortunately, this is a very poorly-executed interview. i think it's a tremendous missed opportunity because you have a case that you don't have physical evidence. >> reporter: pueblo police wouldn't discuss details of the interrogation, but they acknowledge that it was their last shot at talking to donthe about the case. >> once he shut down, our avenues of trying to talk to him end. >> reporter: how did you read that? >> we read it as, you know, the
possibility that he knows something. >> reporter: now, the police still have donthe dead to rights using kelsie's bank card. so they arrest him and charge him with identity theft. but just a month later, to kelsie's family's horror, the charge is dropped. >> how do you prove she did not or did give him permission at that time? you don't know that. and, since you had him permission to do it before, it makes it a very difficult case to prosecute. >> reporter: he's out there walking around free as a bird. why would that be the case if he's in that interrogation room lying to your officers? >> lying to someone is not evidence of the crime. >> reporter: i just have to ask you, how does all of this make you feel? >> sick. angry. we just want an effective investigation done into kelsie's disappearance. >> reporter: bad blood develops between kelsie's family and the pueblo police department. angry that the police refuse to even classify kelsie's disappearance as a criminal case, her family takes matters
into their own hands. >> her family is pleading for your help. >> reporter: they go public, holding a press conference to bring attention to the case. >> and law enforcement has informed us that donthe lucas accessed her bank account. >> reporter: the family's plight strikes a chord in pueblo, hundreds of residents join in the search for kelsie. kelsie's family offers a $50,000 reward and creates this "help find kelsie" facebook page with detailed information about the case and a call out for any tips. but despite these efforts, nothing turns up. >> the ride home is always really tough. going home empty-handed. >> reporter: two years pass. hope fades. but, coming up, a startling message is about to come through that facebook page, giving laura hope that maybe she can get her daughter back without the pueblo police. a mystery e-mailer is about to deliver shocking news.
he claims he knows all about what donthe was up to, and that kelsie is alive, being held along with other kidnapped women, and there's video to prove it. >> that there was video of kelsie screaming for help. >> reporter: maybe she is out there. maybe she is alive. >> i mean it was just, what if? what if? >> reporter: when "20/20" continues. it's super reliable so it'll be with you for a lot of firsts. [woooosh] [woooosh] wow! i'm really going places. in a corolla, right? during toyotatime, get 0.9% apr financing for 72 months on a reliable 2016 corolla. offer ends may 31st. for great deals on other toyotas, visit toyota.com. first things first... your keys! toyota. let's go places. outback's steak & lobsterd! starting at $14.99
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could she somehow be alive? >> what if she is still out there somewhere? >> reporter: our story is about to take a dramatic turn, to the east. this is portsmouth, ohio, a stone's throw from the kentucky border. this former meat-packing hub, now plagued by prescription drug abuse, would seem to have nothing to do with the disappearance of kelsie schelling, 1,200 miles away in colorado. but listen to this mother's story. >> i want her to come running down that street, come walking around the corner. >> reporter: marcella lancaster has never met kelsie's mom laura saxton, but she knows all about her pain. >> you've got to just like try not to cry every day in front of my grandson. >> reporter: just two months after kelsie schelling disappeared, leaving behind no trace but her abandoned car, a strikingly similar fate befell marcella's 25-year-old daughter megan.
she vanished from portsmouth, also leaving behind no trace but her abandoned car. >> at first glance, there are a lot of similarities between these two cases, which one could conclude that the same individual or a group are involved in both of them. >> reporter: the portsmouth police are drawing a blank. but marcella and her family have been relentless in their search. >> an eerie feeling like there's something, like we're going to find something. >> reporter: megan's sister-in-law kadie runs point for the family. and so, for more than three years, parallel family tragedies playing out in separate time zones. both families organizing searches, setting up facebook pages to field leads, and doing whatever they can to keep public attention on their respective cases. >> many in pueblo are not giving up on finding clues that could help find kelsie schelling. >> reporter: why do you think people feel so strongly about kelsie's case? >> you know, they can't believe it.
you know, they try and imagine, what if it was their child? >> reporter: and in both cases, both families realizing it all may be for naught. >> i was finally coming to terms with backing off a little bit. >> reporter: you've had so many dead ends in this situation. is it hard to keep hope? >> as far as the hope of actually finding her, that dwindles, you know, every day. >> reporter: but last october, as donthe lucas is working and playing basketball in pueblo, and laura is reconciling herself to her worst-case scenario, a startling development. a mysterious message of hope comes through that "help find kelsie" facebook page. >> it was from a woman who i'm not familiar with saying, "if i have information about kelsie, can i remain anonymous?" >> reporter: the woman says her name is jenna mcclain and that it's risky for her to come forward. her life is in danger.
she passes the conversation on to a male associate, who writes, "ma'am, please, your daughter is not dead. she will be back home alive." the man knows all sorts of details of the case and offers a troubling account of what really befell kelsie. claiming her baby daddy donthe had hired a friend to kill her. "donthe has no idea she is alive. he thinks she is dead. cliff, who was ordered to kill her, opted to keep her and sell her." >> and that the friend did not kill her, he sold her into sex trafficking. he had a fake grave dug and showed that to donthe as proof that he had killed kelsie. the baby had been aborted, there was a video of it being done, of kelsie screaming. >> reporter: how did that affect you? >> it's really hard to find words to use for it, because
it's so awful. it made me sick. i mean, i could barely function. >> reporter: that same month, 1,200 miles away in ohio, a nearly identical development. one "jenna mcclain" reaches out to megan lancaster's family through facebook, says she has information, then passes the conversation on to a male associate who knows all about megan's case. >> out of nowhere, he pops up. he says i know where megan is. and i can get her back. he tells me how she was tortured and that that she was in sex trafficking. and he told me that they kept her on chains. >> reporter: both families get a nearly identical, highly bizarre proposition. the e-mailer says he can help each missing woman escape, but he needs money. he tells kadie to bring $50,000 in cash. $25,000 up front to vancouver,
washington. specifically to this mcdonald's and deliver it to a man named "marcus" who will be wearing a red hat. >> the exchange was that if i would come to washington, that i could have megan. >> reporter: laura gets the same offer. >> once the money was exchanged, then this courier person would go and get kelsie and bring her back to the mcdonald's. >> reporter: needless to say, the whole thing sounds fishy. in fact it could be one of the most diabolical scams ever conceived. and yet, how can a desperate mother say no? >> i just thought, what if she's been out there and we could've found her? and we haven't? >> reporter: despite her skepticism, laura decides to play ball, writing back that she's ready to make a deal. >> i'll have to sell some stocks which will take about a week, but i can push to expedite the process. >> reporter: kadie also agrees. but there's a twist. both families are working with "20/20."
when it's time for the drop, the deliveryman will be one of our producers. enough games. before we give this guy anything, it's time for some answers. get ready. we're about ten seconds away. stay with us. talk to your doctor about viagra. ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex. do not take viagra if you take nitrates for chest pain or adempas® for pulmonary hypertension. your blood pressure could drop to an unsafe level. to avoid long-term injury, seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours. stop taking viagra and call your doctor right away if you experience a sudden decrease or loss in vision or hearing. ask your doctor about viagra. i'm my bargain detergent, ithift couldn't keep up.ter. so i switched to tide pods. they're super concentrated... so i get a better clean. voted 2016 product of the year. if it's got to be clean, it's got to be tide.
"20/20" continues. what if? >> reporter: the mystery of kelsie schelling's disappearance has brought us all the way here, vancouver, washington, and an ordinary mcdonald's where somebody is about to conduct some extraordinary business. >> a picture was sent, a name was given, very specific instructions. >> reporter: laura saxton has arranged this meeting with a mysterious e-mailer. he's promised to return kelsie from the clutches of a sex-trafficking ring if she will hand-deliver $50,000 here to a man named marcus wearing a red hat. concerned about possible criminal involvement, kelsie's family has asked the vancouver
police to meet the courier undercover. >> we didn't know if this actually was a sex trafficking issue or if it was extortion. i felt like law enforcement should have been involved in this situation. >> reporter: but just before the appointed time, the vancouver police back out, believing it to be a scam and not an actual human trafficking plot. but "20/20" has that golden arches under surveillance and our cameras are rolling as a man with a red hat enters. he sits quietly, doesn't even order a mcshake, waiting for his take-out order of cold hard cash. but after no one shows up, he takes his leave. we showed the video to laura. >> i'm really surprised that somebody actually showed up. it is weird, eerie, to see that they actually were, you know, going through with this. >> reporter: laura is more determined than ever to uncover the truth. is this for real? or is it a scam? >> it was just all a matter of trying to get down to the truth of this.
>> reporter: now, "20/20" has uncovered the key to cracking this mystery. it's that other tormented family in ohio, the family of megan lancaster. >> what if he really does have her and i can bring her home. >> reporter: they've also been promised to get their missing loved one back if they bring a supersized bag of benjamins to that same golden arches and deliver it to a man named marcus wearing, you guessed it, a red hat. >> it's almost a relief to know that they were doing this to somebody else in a way because then that's just 100% clarification that some dirtbags out there are trying to get money off of these poor families. >> reporter: both families now convinced they're being conned, and ready to fight back. >> i was, like, hell-bent on is person being found. >> i wanted to know why. why did you randomly pick us? why did you randomly pick the other family? why?
>> reporter: kadie, you said this morning that they sent you a text message. to answer that question, kadie has agreed to work with "20/20" to set up a sting operation. >> they will be sending marcus. >> reporter: just two weeks after marcus came to scoop up laura's cash, kadie arranges a similar meeting of her own. but there's a twist, she will bringing abc news producer gerry wagschal and a hidden camera. kadie and gerry walk into that vancouver mcdonald's at the appointed meet time. they spot "marcus", the man with the red hat, and walk over to him. kadie's been instructed not to ask any questions so they tell marcus they've brought the money but the cash is in the trunk of a car parked outside. they all head out to the parking lot, but before the trunk is opened, it's time for a little heart to heart with marcus. >> marcus, ryan smith, abc news. how you doing? >> pretty good. >> good. why'd you come here to take $25,000 from kadie? >> i don't know.
>> reporter: you don't know why you're here to take $25,000 from kadie? >> nope. >> reporter: what are you here for? >> oh, because -- to collect some money. >> reporter: marcus claims he was suckered, too. lured online into a supposed jewelry venture. he says he was supposed to pick up the money and wire it to someone he's never met. so a random guy tells you to go to a mcdonald's twice in less than two weeks to meet people to pick up money, and you don't think anything of it? >> i didn't think nothing of it. >> reporter: we were told that you were going to deliver megan to kadie today. is that true? >> i have no idea about no megan or no kidnapping or anything like that. >> reporter: see how this doesn't make sense? do you see how it sounds like you're involved? this would be a scheme to extort money from families who have family members that are missing. >> i didn't know nothing of this. >> how could you even, i guess, even start this? we're talking human trafficking. >> i had no clue anybody was supposed to be exchanging nothing for a human being. if i did know i would not have been involved in this situation. >> reporter: we showed our
confrontation with marcus to laura. >> i just feel shaky inside. definitely a big scam. >> reporter: it's important that you be real honest with me. >> yeah, i'm real honest. >> reporter: you have never heard of kelsie schelling. >> never. >> reporter: you have never heard of megan lancaster. >> never. >> i guess marcus is the fall boy. >> reporter: so who was sending those emails? well, it turns out they may be a little tougher to get to. an fbi analysis of the e-mailer's facebook page revealed that it utilized an ip address, which is traced back to, of all places, russia. >> that's the frustrating part about internet scams is they're difficult to identify and even more difficult to hold the people accountable. >> reporter: but since we confronted marcus both laura and kadie have stopped receiving those tormenting messages. i'm really grateful to know that we know the answer. and this needs to just be a
warning to other families who have missing family members that these people are out there. they're looking for you, they're studying you. they don't have a problem with hurting you and taking your money. >> reporter: coming up, the extortion plot may be laid to rest, but laura noreturns her focus to her prime suspect, donthe lucas. and so do we. how about a little one on one? why do people have eyebrows?i. why do people put milk on cereal? oh, are you reading why people put milk on cereal? why does your tummy go "grumbily, grumbily, grumbily"? why is it all (mimics a stomach grumble) no more questions for you! ooph, that milk in your cereal
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hey siri, read my note, thank you speech. your note from today says: thank you speech oh-my-gosh. so many people to thank. mom... dad... david... my kids, watching this at home - you should be asleep right now! pause for laughter. ah, okay, they're playing me off. thank you so much! i'll be a lot more natural. ♪ it's my decision to make beauty last. fix. roc® retinal started visibly reducing my fine lines and wrinkles in one week. and the longer i use it, the better it works. retinal correxion® from roc® methods, not miracles.™ a missing pregnant woman and her unborn baby remembered in pueblo today. >> reporter: this february, on the third anniversary of kelsie schelling's disappearance, hundreds turn out
in pueblo to honor her memory and to protest how the police have handled the case. pueblo police strongly defend their investigation. >> it's never been closed. that is the most manpower hours intensive case we've ever worked. >> reporter: can you understand why the family might look at this like, "i feel like i'm dealing with the keystone cops here"? "i feel like i'm not getting a straight answer from the cops." >> well, yeah. i understand, the family's going through a lot of difficult times. they're frustrated. but, you know, there are many things that they feel we have the power to do we don't have the power to do. >> i don't think they will do their job. >> reporter: what do you want them to do right now? >> i want them to give the case to somebody else who's going to work it. i want things that need to be done to be done. >> reporter: kelsie's parents also haven't forgotten about donthe lucas, the only person of interest named in the case. they've sued donthe and several
members of his family claiming he murdered kelsie and her unborn baby and the family either conspired with him or covered it up. donthe, his mother, and the rest of the family have denied the allegations. today, donthe can still be found playing ball on occasion on a pueblo court. and that's where "20/20" caught up with him. the family of kelsie says that you're responsible for her disappearance. is that true? >> no. >> reporter: what do you have to say to kelsie's family about the disappearance? >> why are you stalking me, man? >> reporter: nothing? anything to say? >> reporter: meanwhile, laura continues to search for her long lost daughter and unborn grandchild. just a few weeks ago she was back in pueblo organizing yet another search party, combing the landscape for any clues. >> it's like a needle in a haystack. i don't think i can survive if i don't find her. >> reporter: but just like the
family of megan lancaster back in ohio, laura vows she will never give up until she is finally reunited with the person she loves most in this world. >> bring her home. i want to lay her to rest. she deserves to be honored, and we deserve a place to go visit her. and right here tonight, a major new development. "20/20" has learned the police department is planning to turn over the case to the colorado bureau of investigation. >> so, if you were one of those family members, would you have shown up with that exchange money, if there was a chance it could free your daughter? >> let us know, use #abc2020. >> i'm david muir. >> and i'm elizabeth vargas. from all of us at "20/20" and abc news, have a good night, and