The FBI and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday announced a $20,000 reward for evidence that will help them locate Amanda Jones, the pregnant Pevely woman who has been missing since 2005, or those responsible for her disappearance.
Asked during a news conference at the FBI's St. Louis office if he knew who was responsible, sheriff's Lt. Doc Coombs responded, “I have my own theories,” but added that he needed evidence to support them.
Coombs, who works cold cases, said that investigators need “specific information” to locate Jones or find out what happened to her.
Although FBI rewards typically require an arrest and conviction, Bill Woods, special agent in charge of the FBI's St. Louis office, said that Jones' location or the identity of the person or persons responsible would be enough to trigger the reward.
Officials also hoped that someone would take pity on Jones' 13-year-old daughter, who was four when her mother disappeared.
“If anyone deserves to hear answers, it's her,” Jones' mother Bertha Probst said. “She's waited long enough and suffered enough.”
Jones, 26, who worked as a loan administrator at Eagle Bank in Festus, was eight and a half months pregnant at the time she disappeared. Probst, of Festus, said not knowing about the fate of Jones and her unborn son was worse than finding out she is dead.
Hannah broke down while Probst spoke to reporters, and managed only a few words on her own before breaking down in tears again. After Jones' disappearance, Hannah went to St. Louis to live with her father, but he died in 2007. Jones' parents then adopted Hannah. It was her first time speaking publicly about the case.
Jones disappeared on Aug. 14, 2005, after meeting up with Bryan Lee Westfall, the man she said was the father of her child, at the Hillsboro Civic Center on Highway 21 in central Jefferson County.
The two met at a Christmas party there, but hadn't had any contact between January and Aug. 9, when she called to tell him when she was due to give birth, Westfall lawyer Kevin Roberts told the Post-Dispatch in 2005. Westfall denied that he was the father.
The pair met at the Hillsboro Civic Center at 1 p.m. to discuss Westfall's future role with the baby, Coombs said Tuesday, adding that Jones took a call from a relative 15 minutes later, who said she sounded “upset.”
Roberts said that Westfall and Jones had a non-confrontational chat in a pavilion for about an hour, and Westfall walked Jones to her car, where she turned on the air conditioning and took a call on her cellphone. Westfall is a member of the Hillsboro Community Civic Club, which owns the Civic Center, and was doing some work on the club grounds at the time. He said he resumed work and last saw Jones in her car on a different part of the parking lot at 5 p.m., apparently again talking on her phone.
Her empty, unlocked car was found there later that day. Her car keys, purse, wallet and cellphone were also missing.
Westfall cooperated with investigators, Roberts said, and hired Roberts to handle the crush of attention by investigators and reporters.
Police have long described Westfall, a 36-year-old farmer and former instructor at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, as “a person of interest” and did so again Tuesday. They declined to identify him as a suspect or detail how many persons of interest that they had.
The FBI reward is the second to be offered in the case. After Jones disappeared, an anonymous donor offered $100,000 for information. That man was later identified as a Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist, Joe Mammana.
FBI Special Agent Mike Christian would only say Tuesday that the first reward was “no longer available.”
Coombs said that he and FBI Special Agent Mike Christian had been “constantly running out leads” on the case, and that he “felt closer” to a resolution. He declined to comment on a possible motive for Jones' disappearance.
Officials asked anyone with information about the case to call the FBI's St. Louis at 314-589-2500.