The disappearance of Lynn Messer, a story which has been told by countless media outlets nationwide, is going to be the subject of a program appearing on the Investigation Discovery channel at 9 p.m. Sunday.
Investigation Discovery’s hit series "Disappeared" premieres with the Ste. Genevieve County woman as the subject of the series’ 100th episode. Titled “American Gothic,” the Discovery.com website describes the episode as the story of Lynn Messer: Missing Since 2014 from Ste. Genevieve.
It advertises the episode with, “After a midnight thunderstorm passes over the family cattle farm, mother and teacher Lynn Messer is gone. Her husband and two sons search pastures and barns, and a cryptic handwritten note is found that sparks a widespread hunt throughout this tight-knit Missouri farming community. Detectives zero in on Lynn’s troubled state of mind and pry open secret family conflicts.
"Polygraphs, blood tests, and canine scent trails offer clues to an investigation that gets redirected by revelations of a clandestine romance. Authorities wonder if love is a player in Lynn’s disappearance. A mysterious skull puts family loyalties to the test.”
NBC Investigation Discovery contacted the Daily Journal about the case to request full use of the newspaper's reporting about Messer's disappearance.
According to the show's executive producer, Elizabeth Fischer, they are always grateful when local media is interested in working with them.
“We are then able to license material and sometimes interview local reporters because they have a long-term understanding of the community,” she said. “We are coming and are visitors, so to speak. So it is really helpful for us when we can work with local reporters and if they do have materials that we can license and use in our reports.”
From Oct. 26 to Nov. 3, Peacock Productions’ film crews conducted interviews with Lynn’s family members, as well as Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Department deputies who were on the case.
Abram Messer said he was interviewed for three or four hours; his wife Elizabeth was interviewed for two hours; and his aunt for an hour or two.
“They spent just as much time down at the sheriff’s department,” he said. “They have been very thorough and nothing we did with them was forced. Everything was within the context of, 'if you are comfortable sharing this with us and will allow us to tell this story, then we would like to be able to tell this story with you.'”
Abram stressed that it was a very long process, but it was an interesting experience. He added that it has been hard and gut-wrenching, but their desire in doing the show was to remind viewers that they are still doing everything they can to find answers.
“Keep in mind we had just finished up all the tapings for the show and the producers and the crew were all still in town when my mom was found,” Abram said. “It’s very interesting and raises a lot of questions because here was a show being taped about my mom’s case and my father [Kerry Messer] refused to participate. He didn’t want us involved in it and didn’t want to have anything to do with it — and then suddenly my mother was found.”
Fischer said that once the show's reporters learned of Lynn's remains being found, they began conducting additional interviews.
“It was helpful for us to be on-site because we are a pretty nimble team and could just pivot and go right back to the area to do the interviews,” Fischer said. “We didn’t have a set mindset of how the story should unfold, one way or the other, we were just reporting on what we learned while we were down there.
“It was certainly an unusual event for us to be on site, in terms of in the region, when the remains were found,” said Fischer. “It was a fairly dramatic addition to our experience down there and we were certainly grateful to access to law enforcement and the family when that happened.”
Now, Abram said, nearly five months after discovery of his mother's remains, the family is still waiting on results of the forensic work. He said that law enforcement told him the case is like putting together a puzzle. They have all these pieces laid out on the table and they can begin to see which piece fits where.
“As they start putting parts of the story together and parts of the evidence together, they can begin to see a much clearer picture of what all has transpired,” Abram said. “There are just one or two pieces of that puzzle still missing and forensics are going to answer those questions.”
Abram and his family are holding out hope there will be people who watch the show — maybe someone from Jefferson City, somebody from his father’s church or somebody who he knows — and it will help them to recall conversations they have had with his father.
“I hope they think about different things they know, because so many different people had come out to help us search,” he said. “The entire community has been involved and our hope now with the show, is those people watching, maybe there is somebody out there who has one piece of information who can put the whole puzzle together and bring closure to this entire investigation.”
Abram said their other hope is that, while opening up their hearts and talking about what it has been like to go through and experience their ordeal for the show, maybe it will help someone else who is going through personal tragedy, struggling or going through difficult times to be able to see and understand God can carry them through.
“He has carried us since the very beginning and he demonstrated to us over and over again in the middle of this nightmare and all of this pain how much he loves us, takes care of us and provides for us,” Abram said. “My desire more than anything is for people who are watching the show to take away from it an understanding if God can carry us through what we are going through, then God can get them through whatever it is in their lives they are struggling with.”
Abram believes it is what his mother would have wanted because she was so dedicated to the Lord and was passionate in her faith.
“I know she would want us to point others to Christ and we are determined we are going to continue to trust in him and lean on him,” he said. “We are not going to stop searching for the truth, we are not going to stop searching for justice and we are also not going to stop trusting in God because we know he has all of the answers.”
Abram has been humbled by the number of people who have reached out and expressed their thoughts and prayers and love.
Abram is thankful the producers and film crew were courteous.
“All of the producers we have been working with have all stayed in contact with us, looking for updates and waiting right along with us,” he said. “Their care and concern was more than just a professional courtesy. They were very genuine and very caring and truly interested. You could tell it wasn’t about ratings. Everybody we have worked with over the taping of the show has been really wonderful. They have opened their hearts to us and it has been a very unique experience.”
He said two reenactment clips he'd seen from the show were very powerful which leads him to believe the show's crew paid close attention through the course of the interviews.
“It’s not going to make it any easier to watch because it is so real,” Abram said. “From the clips we have seen, they done an incredible job of capturing this entire nightmare and that is very powerful itself — not because we want people to feel sorry for us or not because we want people to say, 'Oh my goodness, did you hear that?' It’s because our goal and desire is for people who watch this show to be willing to ask themselves the hard questions and will also have the desire to seek the truth.”
He said it was such a deeply emotional and trying experience to take part in all the hours of interviews for the show and on the heels of that, to get confirmation that his mother is no longer alive.
“It has changed a lot of thing in our lives, up until the week she was found I was still waiting on call-backs to do searches by the river,” he said. “We never stopped looking for her. We didn’t. Now there is nothing we can do other than just wait. We are waiting and we are trusting in God. We don’t know how long we will continue to wait. We literally have no idea, but I will wait as long as I have to wait for answers.”
Abram said if real life was like CSI, the TV show, they would already have answers — but that is not how it works in the real world.
“We understand there are backlogs and tests take time and we have to wait,” he said. “But I also know there are thousands of other families across our state and so many more across the county who are waiting to find out where their love one is.”
Abram choked back tears as he said there are people in Missouri who have grown old and retired never knowing where their babies are and so many people are searching for their loved ones who have literally vanished.
“To those people, I would just say, don’t give up on God,” Abram pleaded. “He will always hold us up.”
According to Abram, after Investigation Discovery reached out to Kerry Messer numerous times, Kerry's response was to put a chain and lock on the gate.
“He told my brother if he allowed them on his property he would evict him immediately,” Abram said. “So there is no question he was very much opposed to us participating and didn’t want to have anything to do with it all.”
Messer believes the reason his father didn't want to participate in the show was because he knew he wasn’t going to be able to control what they were saying or how they were saying it.
“He also chose not to tell his side of the story,” Messer said. “It’s profoundly hypocritical of him to openly criticize the show the way he has, talking about it being entertainment.”
Messer said they are anxiously waiting for the show to air so they can see it for the first time along with everybody else.
Kerry told the Daily Journal that the reason he chose not to participate in the show about his wife's disappearance was because it was all entertainment and not the truth.
“I knew before they even hired their actors what their storyline was probably going to be based on who they were talking to,” he said. “The fact they kept changing their interpretation of what they were doing in their attempts to get me to sit down for an interview, it was very obvious their only agenda was to fry me.”
Kerry said he didn’t respond to any of the show's attempts to contact him and has never spoken to them or responded to them by any other means.
“They tried to reach out to me and contacted friends of mine trying to get my friends to pry on me,” he said. “It’s a shame the majority of people are going to form opinions based on this entertainment story and they are going to think it’s the real story, which it’s not. We are still waiting for pathology and forensics information.”
Kerry believes the show has no interest in waiting for the results. Instead, they would rather put out the narrative they want "because it’s juicier and attractive to the media market."
“I think that is absolutely horrendous,” he said. “I just wish people could recognize the difference between real news and hyped news and entertainment. They are three totally different animals.”
Kerry took to Facebook recently and posted about the upcoming show.
“After praying and processing for a couple of weeks I determined not to participate,” he wrote. “But I vacillated back and forth. When I thought that maybe I should go ahead and agree to sitting down with them, they offended me by prying on friends and family to pressure me into cooperating.
"But their claims of what they were planning varied based on which person they thought might convince me. Then, when I was most tempted to respond to their continuous attempts to talk me into doing an interview, they revealed just how dishonest they were. Now the whole show was supposed to be a 'tribute' to Lynn’s life!”
He said it is just exploitation of his family.
“I’m sorry but this is not how real news is done!” Kerry wrote. “This is exploitation of a devastated family for entertainment’s sake and I am not having any part of it.”
Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org