Christina Whittaker went out with a few friends in Hannibal and hasn’t returned home since. Several leads have pointed to Peoria, Ill., but after nearly two years there's still no sign of her. Waiting for her is family, friends, and a young daugher.
It was a cold November night. Friday the 13 to be exact.
Usually tall tales of superstition surround the sixth day of the week when the 13th day of the month falls on this particular day, but the events of Friday, Nov. 13, 2009, go way beyond fears of walking under a step ladder or in the path of a black cat. This was the night Christina Whittaker went out with a few friends in Hannibal and hasn’t returned home since.
“It just seems unreal to me,” Cindy Young, Christina’s mother, said. “It seems like it’s been five years since I’ve seen her, but when you think about two years — I don’t know, those anniversary dates are really, really rough. I’m dreading it.”
Christina, a lively 21-year-old with glowing red hair, brown eyes and an easily recognizable large smile, came across some friends she hadn’t seen in a while and wanted to catch up. They decided to spend a few hours together and have some drinks at Rookies Sports Bar.
Cindy and her husband, Alex Young, were on the road in Texas. Alex is a professional truck driver and Cindy was along for the ride. Christina called to let her mother know she was going out for the evening. Because she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, Christina had a habit of calling her mother several times a day. It didn’t bother Cindy one bit, however the idea of Christina going out that night didn’t sit well with her. Christina’s daughter, Alexandria, was only a few months old at the time and along with her brother, his girlfriend and Christina’s boyfriend, Travis, Christina was helping care for Cindy’s ailing mother.
“We were only going to be gone for three days,” Cindy remembers. “We were actually supposed to be home Friday night.”
But Alex’s truck was having problems and the couple lost a day of travel to get it repaired.
“I’ll be home tomorrow and you can go Saturday night,” Cindy told Christina. “I asked her not to go. I don’t know, call it mother’s intuition or whatever, I just asked her, just don’t go.”
Christina assured her mother it would only be a few hours and then she’d return home.
“She had got drinking, and there was a guy down there buying her and her girlfriend shots,” Cindy said. “And Christina wasn’t a real heavy drinker, I guess they were all showing off amongst each other, they were just slamming these shots and she got into it with the bartender and he had kicked her out.”
Once outside, Christina asked the bartender to tell her friends to give her a ride home, but with no luck she headed next door to River City Billiards and began to ask different people for a lift. Some were strangers, some were acquaintances. No one obliged.
She tried the adjacent Sportsman’s bar next door, Cindy said, but still no luck.
Christina ran away crying.
Travis stayed home to take care of Alexandria, but had to work the next morning. With no sign of Christina, he called Cindy.
“She never did come home,” Travis told Cindy.
The fearful mother’s intuition Cindy was feeling the previous evening was growing.
“She knew he had to go to work and he was watching the baby,” Cindy said. “I kind of knew right then, something’s just not right because she just didn’t do that. She was just always responsible, even when she was a teenager, she was responsible. If she wasn’t going to be home, I’d always get a call, always. She’d call me, even from her friends’ phones if her’s went dead.”
Maybe Christina had a late night and passed out somewhere? It may not have been like Christina to not call, but Cindy wasn’t really upset at first.
The hours began to pass; 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock. Still no word from Christina.
“We were calling her phone, it would go straight to voicemail,” Cindy remembers. “Just nothing, nothing. There was no Christina.”
Two blocks away from the Sportsman’s bar, Christina’s cell phone was found on the sidewalk. That’s when Cindy and Alex called the police as they made their way back to Hannibal from Texas.
“Something’s just wrong, something’s not right,” she told police. “She wouldn’t have not come home.”
When Christina’s phone was later examined, authorities and family members discovered she had made several phone calls.
“She tried to call six or seven people for a ride. We had it right there in her phone,” Cindy said. “She called home, she called three of her cousins, she called the baby’s dad.”
No one responded. No one offered to help. Christina was gone and there was no sign of her.
“We got in at about midnight and I went straight to the police station and I filed the missing persons report, went home and we started making more flyers and we started contacting people,” Cindy recalls of her return home from Texas. “I don’t think I slept the first two or three days. People started coming and we started to search here and there.”
Information and leads were coming in from all over. Some people who saw Christina at the bars that Friday night contacted Cindy to admit Christina asked them for a ride and that they felt bad for not doing so.
Throughout the initial investigation, it was still extremely difficult for family members and friends to know that Christina was missing and that she never made an attempt to contact anyone. Because of her bi-polar disorder, Christina’s nervousness would spike from time to time and cause her to become very fearful. Cindy even recalls a trip Christina was taking to Dallas when she began contacting her, scared over bad vibes from the man that was taking her to Texas to meet his family.
“She called me on the phone constantly,” Cindy said. “At least 20 times a day. ‘Mom, I just don’t got a good feeling. I don’t think I should’ve come.’ She had never really been away from home a lot.”
Cindy told Christina to make the best of it since they were already on the road, but Christina didn’t want to take any chances. She texted her mother a picture of her boyfriend’s license plate.
“In case I don’t come home, you can call the police,” Christina told her mother.
Having a mental disease changed Christina’s mindset completely.
“That’s just how her mind thought worked,” Cindy said. “The doctors were changing her medicine and stuff, and they just weren’t working. They weren’t agreeing with her.”
By the time the two reached Dallas, Christina was on edge, Cindy said. She was not comfortable being so far away from her family.
“We had to fly her home as soon as she got there. She never spent one night in Texas,” Cindy said. “It wasn’t nothing to do with (her boyfriend at the time), he was a nice guy. It was just her, it was her bi-polar disorder. She just never wanted to be away from home.”
She said the Hannibal Police Department said there was no foul play involved in Christina’s disappearance, but a car parked along the curb of the sidewalk where Christina’s cell phone was found had been side-swiped. A scene like that doesn’t sit well with Cindy.
“To me, in my heart, I just feel like somebody maybe picked her up there,” she said. “The police said there was no signs of foul play in her case. The police have worked hard for her case, but that’s one big issue that I disagree with them on.
“She was last seen running out of the bar and crying, her phone’s found two blocks away on the ground, there’s a hit and run there. Why would that not seem like foul play to them? To me it did. Because there was no signs of foul play, (the police) said on their part, we didn’t get the FBI’s help, the Missouri Highway Patrol — we didn’t get none of that. It really hurt us because of our resources we could have gotten to help us.”
Information was constantly coming in after Christina Whittaker went missing. One moment she was at Rookies Sports Bar, the next moment the 21-year-old motherof a baby girl was asking for a ride home from anyone that would lend assistance.
Her bi-polar disorder made her worrisome from time to time and all she wanted was to get home. But she never got there. She hasn’t been home since she left to go out Friday,
Nov. 13, 2009, and for the past two years, her mother, Cindy Young
The Hannibal Police Department ruled out foul play even though her cell phone was found on the sidewalk a few blocks away from the bars along Broadway and a car parked near the scene was side-swiped. However, three weeks later, a big break came in the case.
A waitress in Creve Coeur, Ill., a small community outside of Peoria, reported that Christina came into Raedene’s Country Cafe between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Dec. 6.
“It was definitely her,” the waitress Beth Taylor told the Courier-Post in an exclusive interview at the time. “I’m 110 percent sure.”
Taylor reported Christina came into the restaurant, asked for help, appeared to be shaken
up, and called someone on the phone.
“I offered her something to drink and she didn’t want anything,” Taylor said in 2009. “I thought she was just calling a ride. I wish I would have known (about her disappearance) because I would have tried to keep her here.”
Today, Cindy believes her daughter’s disappearance is gang related.
“It had already been on the streets that she had been taken to Peoria.
“Every town’s got their hoods and their drugs and their bad area,” Cindy said. “The police, they were hot and heavy because we had heard that it was some of them that had
taken her or that she was with them. As soon as they took her to Peoria, the police were getting leads and we were too because they wanted the police out of their hood. They couldn’t run their drugs, it kind of shut their business down.
“I don’t think it had everything to do with drugs. The ones that were involved, I’m sure they use drugs, but I don’t think it’s a drug deal. Christina did take her bi-polar medicine, she was on a lot of prescription medication, but as far as straight drugs or anything like that, she never had a problem with that.”
Keeping the faith
Throughout the time Christina’s been missing, Cindy has been able to stay strong. She says it’s her faith in God that has allowed her to stay positive as the search for Christina continues.
“Right after she went missing, I went to church. Either I had to end up going to church or I had to end up going to the mental ward or something, because I was about to lose my mind,” Cindy said. “I put (Christina) in God’s hands, I had to. Because there’s some
things you just can’t carry alone.”
Accompanying leads and information since that dreadful Friday night, have also been rumors. Even to this day, rumors about Christina continue to spread. A patron at the Sportsman’s bar, the place Christina was seen running away crying, said she’s heard Christina’s pregnant living in a poor neighborhood in Peoria.
Cindy’s heard that Christina is dead, but she doesn’t believe that at all.
“I know she’s alive. I believe she’s (in Peoria), I don’t think she’s ever been out of there very far and I just always felt in my heart that’s where she’ll
be found,” Cindy said. “We’ve been told she’s dead and we’ll never find the body — and I know that’s possible — but like I said, God had already put it in my heart. I know she’s going to be home, God works on his own time. I can’t say when, I wish he’d speed it up a
bit, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Sometimes it does hit me, it’ll put a doubt in my mind. I’m not going to sit here and say it don’t, because it does. I can’t go by that, I can’t give up because I know that’s what (the
kidnappers are) wanting me to do.
“They took the wrong daughter. I’ll never give up. Until I got my daughter in my hands and my arms, and she’s right beside
me, I’ll never quit.”
And while Peoria may be the place Cindy believes Christina is, she also believes people in Hannibal have answers and could lead her to her daughter.
“I know there’s people in this town,” Cindy said. “They know what happened to Christina and they’re not going to come forward. Either they’re minding their own business, I don’t know if they’re scared or whatever, but there’s plenty of people here that know what happened. They know names, they’re not going to come forward and tell us and talk to the police, but yeah, there’s people that know.
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. How would you lay down knowing (where this missing girl is)? This family’s suffering and we’re going through hell every day of our lives, but you can lay down at night and just go to bed like you don’t have a care in the world. How could you do that? I wish they could be in my shoes just one day. They’d talk. I guarantee they’d talk.”
Cindy and the rest of her family can’t hardly wait for the day Christina comes home, yet someone else that’s waiting in greater anticipation is Christina’s toddler daughter, Alexandria. She lives with Cindy and her husband, Alex, now. She even has her mom’s old bedroom painted in Christina’s favorite colors, bright pink and lime green.
“She knows her mom through all her pictures,” Cindy said. “She’s got her own little photo albums.”
The second Sunday in November will mark two years that Christina has been missing. And a planned prayer visual in Hannibal’s Central Park has Cindy filled with high hopes that progress will be made in finding her daughter.
There will also be balloons blown up with notes to Christina from family, friends and well-wishers.
Cindy is praying the bright pink and lime green balloons will bring Christina home.
“I don’t know if it’ll be this year or next year or the year after,” Cindy said. “I do know she’s going to be home, I can’t let myself give my hopes up.”