Something bad had happened in this living room.
State police investigator Karl Byrd knew it as soon as he saw 13-year-old Kacie Woody's mangled eyeglasses, which lay beneath a pile of towels in a tan recliner. The frames were bent and one lens had popped out.
Kacie had been missing for six hours now.
It was 3:35 a.m. Dec. 4, 2002, a half-hour since the persistent ring of Byrd's telephone had jarred him from a deep slumber. The caller had been Jim Wooley, a Faulkner County sheriff's investigator.
"Karl, I've got a girl out here missing," Wooley had said in worried tones. "I'm not sure what to make of it, but I don't like the way it looks."
Byrd had hastily donned his clothes and driven to the rural Holland community, snowflakes melting on his windshield. Byrd couldn't imagine a kid taking off on this cold, wet night.
The misshapen eyeglasses confirmed his suspicions: Kacie hadn't left this house willingly.
Kacie's dad, Greenbrier police officer Rick Woody, told investigators that nothing was missing except his daughter's nightclothes. Both of her coats were in the kitchen. Her shoes lay in a pile near the family's computer in the living room. Kacie's beloved Yorkshire terrier, George, was limping.
The last person to have seen Kacie was her brother Tim, who had left the house at 6 p.m. for the University of Central Arkansas library in Conway, 12 miles southwest of their home. At the time, Kacie had been on the Internet. She was wearing her glasses, as she always did when she was on the computer.
Dialogue still on the monitor revealed to the investigators that Kacie had been exchanging instant messages with someone named Scott, who appeared to be a 14-year-old living in a suburb of Atlanta. According to the dialogue, Kacie also had been talking on the phone with someone named Dave.
Kacie's messages ended abruptly at 9:41 p.m., in midconversation with Scott, further convincing Byrd and Wooley that she had been kidnapped.
As other lawmen throughout the county were roused from their beds, Byrd and Wooley went door to door on Griggers Lane, awakening neighbors and asking questions; volunteers searched the dark woods surrounding the Woodys' property.
At 5:14 a.m., investigators issued a Level II Morgan Nick Alert, which allows state police to notify the media of a missing child.
GREENBRIER MIDDLE SCHOOL,
For Samantha Mann, 13, the bus ride to school was unbearable. Her friend Kacie was missing, yet everyone was acting so... normal.
But most Greenbrier Middle School students hadn't yet heard that one of their schoolmates had vanished from her home the night before. So they chattered and bantered as usual, secure in their belief that bad things don't happen to 13-year-old girls living in the middle of nowheresville.
Sam, who knew better, sat numbly in her seat, unsure whether to say anything.
Jessica Tanner, 12, also part of Kacie's circle, heard the news when she walked into her first period-class, where two girls were discussing her friend.
"Kacie Woody's been kidnapped," one of the girls said.
"Y'all are lying," Jessica declared, and burst into tears.
Jessica's teacher sent her to the counselor's office. As soon as she walked in, Jessica encountered two other distraught friends, who clung to her and sobbed.
Moments later, Sam rounded the corner.
She made a beeline for Jessica, and the two girls locked in an embrace of grief and disbelief.
At 9:20 a.m., Sam sat in school counselor Dianna Kellar's office, trying to answer the questions of investigators Byrd and Wooley.
She had been here just the day before to tell Mrs. Kellar she was worried about how freely Kacie gave her phone number to people she met on the Internet.
Now Sam was here to talk about Kacie again, this time to policemen.
The Woodys live so far out in the country that phone calls to Greenbrier, 12 miles to the northwest, are long-distance. So Rick laid down strict rules about using the phone.
Kacie turned to the computer, discovering quickly that instant-messaging was almost as good as talking on the phone. Unlike e-mail, instant messages pop up immediately on the screen, allowing conversations to be held in real time.
Kacie's screen name was modelbehavior63, inspired by Model Behavior, one of her favorite Disney movies. The 63 came from older brother Austin's football jersey.
For a while, Kacie was content with her network of local friends. But like many teens, she couldn't resist the lure of chat rooms and ventured into these online social hubs. By autumn 2002, modelbehavior63 had become a regular presence in Yahoo's teen and Christian chat rooms.
Kacie's Yahoo profile, which included a photo of her, was there for anyone who wanted to learn more about her.
She last updated her profile in November 2002:
Marital Status: Long-term relationship Gender:
Messenger of God
More About Me:
(Hobbies): I write love poems, play alto sax, am in the school choir and recently tried out for soccer. I'm 13 now.
October 3rd I started going out with Scott. The sweetest, cutest, smartest, funniest, sexiest guy ever. I love him with all my heart.
"They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places. To guide us with their mercy, in our time of need. Oh I believe there are angels among us, sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come - "
Kacie first bumped into Dave in a Yahoo chat room for Christian teens during the summer of 2002. They struck up a friendship and began instant-messaging each other regularly. Kacie brought Dave into her group of online friends. She introduced him to her "real life" friends as well, setting up three-way phone calls and sending him photos of her schoolmates.
Kacie and Dave's shared love of music likely helped draw them together. Dave played guitar. Kacie loved to sing and play her sax. Both were Elvis fans.
Dave's profile was sparse:
San Diego, Ca
Marital Status: Long-term relationship Gender:
Male The accompanying photo showed a blondish, long-haired guy, sort of a younger version of the model Fabio. Kacie thought Dave was cute, but her friends didn't like his long hair.
Kacie briefly considered Dave her boyfriend but became interested in a local boy in early autumn. She later broke up with this boy for Scott, whom she had met online in May 2002. Kacie and Scott became an official item on Oct. 3, 2002.
In Scott, Kacie found someone proficient in all the intrigue and drama of adolescent puppy love. Scott's profile identified him as a Georgia teen who loved football and wrestling. His photo, which Kacie hung in her locker, showed a dark-haired boy in a football uniform, No. 79. Unlike most young players posing for their team photos, Scott didn't wear the standard menacing scowl. Instead, a wide grin creased his face.
Sam disapproved. She had never liked Dave. And Scott didn't strike her as much of an improvement. His mushy prose struck her as excessive.
Sam warned Kacie several times about "dating" people she had never met in person. How, she asked, could Kacie be sure of someone's true identity?
Kacie was so trusting that it worried Sam.
Another Greenbrier friend expressed similar doubts after Kacie e-mailed him an excerpt of an instant message from Scott.
Hey Sweetie, Scott had written. I miss you so much... I have barely talked to you all day. I Hope Your doing ok sweetie... I Love You so much... ur everything and so much more to me ur my moon and my sun u light up my world your my angel My love for you will never end... Sweeter Dramz... Kacie gushed: Isn't he a sweetie?
Her Greenbrier friend replied bluntly: do u believe all that stuff that dude is saying? How long have u known him?
Kacie responded: i actually do believe him... i have known him for over 6 months... Even after Kacie fell for Scott, she maintained her friendship with Dave, who didn't seem to mind Kacie's new boyfriend. Twice, Dave even talked to Scott on the phone.
The first time, Scott's mom answered.
"Who's calling from California ?" she asked. "Is this a salesman ?" Scott took the phone from her, explaining, "Oh, it's just a friend of a friend."
The second time Dave called, Scott's dad answered.
"You're not a kid," the irate father declared. He told Dave not to call back.
Rick Woody had a similar reaction when Kacie told him that her online friend Dave was celebrating his 18th birthday.
"Eighteen is too old," Rick said, ordering Kacie to cease her correspondence with Dave. Rick didn't catch a name at the time - he was more concerned about the unknown boy's age.
Kacie obeyed. "My dad said I can't talk to you anymore because you're too old for me," she wrote to Dave.
So Dave switched from the computer to the telephone, calling Kacie frequently and talking about his dying aunt. Kacie also phoned Dave, but would quickly hang up. Then Dave would call back.
The phone calls made Sam even more uncomfortable with Dave. For one thing, Dave didn't sound 18. He used outdated words of a different generation - "groovy" and "righteous" and "wicked."
Kacie once told him: "You people out in California talk a little bit differently."
Sam would later put it this way: "I was like, okaaaaay. He needed to get a teen slang book or something because no one says wicked or groovy. It was like my dad trying to act cool but actually sounding really retarded."
But Kacie always expected the best of people.
On two occasions, Kacie set up three-way phone conversations so that she could talk to Dave and Sam at the same time.
Dave described trips to the beach and how he loved fourwheeling. Mostly, though, he listened to Sam and Kacie talk.
At one point, he interjected.
"How old are you?" he asked Sam.
"Thirteen," Sam said.
"Oh... cool," Dave replied.
Jessica had talked to Dave, too, one weekend night shortly before Kacie's abduction.
Jessica was at the Woody home, feeling ill after a Dr Pepper burping contest. Kacie was on the phone with Dave.
"Here," Kacie said, handing the receiver to Jessica. "Talk to him. He'll make you feel better."
During the conversation, the girls heard noises outside, maybe someone walking around the back of the house, his feet crunching the leaves and sticks. Hastily, they shoved a dresser in front of Kacie's bedroom door. Minutes later, they were certain they heard the kitchen floor squeak.
"I'm scared there's somebody in my house," Kacie told Dave.
"Oh, there's nobody in your house," he replied. "You're just imagining things."
And then the noises stopped.
SHY AND TRUSTING
Kacie was born Oct. 17, 1989. She almost died from lung complications.
Rick and Kristie Woody named their baby after K.C. Koloski, a character on the television series China Beach, and took her home to the house on Griggers Lane. The couple's sons, Austin and Tim, doted on their sister.
Kacie was quiet around people she didn't know. But at home or around friends, she loved to perform. Whenever she visited friends for sleepovers, she took her worn video of the musical Grease and would sing along with every song as she subjected her friends to repeated viewings.
Parents saw Kacie as a "model child," as one mother put it, a good friend for their own children. She possessed an empathy beyond her years, impressing her counselor, Mrs. Kellar, as the only student willing to befriend a lonely schoolmate.
In the years after Kacie's mom died, Kacie fretted over her dad, believing that he was lonely. Many times she climbed into his lap, asking anxiously, "Are you OK?"
Kacie was always in search of a mother figure. She latched on to one of Tim's girlfriends, Carlee Hensley, who frequently took Kacie shopping. Carlee once spent a whole day trying to find someone who would pierce Kacie's ears without a guardian present.
The kindness that Carlee and other women showed Kacie made her far more trusting than most kids. People had always been good to her. She couldn't imagine anyone wishing her harm.
The Woodys moved from the North Little Rock area to rural Faulkner County in 1984 for the Greenbrier schools. The sparsely populated area appealed to Kristie and Rick, who had always wanted to live somewhere quiet and safe.
Their new homeplace served another purpose. Kristie and her mother, Illa Smith, loved horses, and this place was perfect for keeping them.
The women each owned several horses, and they spent countless hours grooming, riding and showing their prized animals. One Christmas, Illa made Kristie and Kacie matching Western outfits and took a picture of the pair, with Kacie posed on a toy horse.
In a strange twist, though, horses led to tragedy.
On June 19, 1997, Rick, Kristie, Tim and Kacie were on their way home from Tim's baseball game when two horses ran on- to Arkansas 287 in front of the family's Lincoln Town Car.
Rick hit one of the horses, which slammed through the windshield on the passenger's side. After the car shuddered to a stop, Rick looked at his wife.
And he knew.
He couldn't let Kacie see her mother, not like this. But with his ribs broken, and shattered glass littering the car's interior, Rick couldn't reach his daughter. He turned to Tim, who sat in the back seat with his little sister.
"Get Kacie on the floorboard," he instructed his son.
"I can't," Tim answered helplessly. "There's glass."
At that moment, some family friends pulled up behind the Woodys' car. They ushered Tim and Kacie into their own vehicle, where the kids waited until help arrived. Kacie had been sleeping before the accident, so Rick was hopeful she hadn't seen her mother.
But she had. Kacie later told her Aunt Teresa about it, how her mom made an "uh" noise and that when she saw all the blood, she knew that her mother was dead.
From that night on, Kacie hated horses.
Even so, she kept her mother's collection of horse figurines. They filled an entire shelf in Kacie's bedroom.
On June 27, 2001, Rick went on part-time patrol for the Greenbrier Police Department. He was elated.
Rick had been working for the department as a dispatcher, a job that evolved from serving as a computer and security contractor for the agency. Rick liked dispatching, but he had longed to be on the streets.
The only drawback was the hours. Rick typically worked the night shifts, which could pose problems for a single dad. Normally, Tim was around. And on weekends, Kacie always went to her grandma's house, where she ate Chinese food and pizza, and chased yellow butterflies across the lawn.
Still, there were some evenings when Kacie was home alone for several hours. Rick believed she was safe though. He had lived on Griggers Lane for 18 years with no problems. Most of the time, the Woodys left the door unlocked. And as a cop, Rick believed most crimes were random.
Never had this policeman imagined that a kidnapper would pull right up to his doorstep.
DEC. 4, MIDMORNING
After Jessica's interview with the investigators in the school counselor's office, she and Sam compared notes. Both girls were certain Scott was behind Kacie's disappearance. He was all Kacie talked about lately, and after the previous day's fight, Scott was fresh in their minds.
Sam and Jessica sat in silence for a moment, lost in their thoughts. Something niggled at the edges of Jessica's consciousness, something she should have told the lawmen. She flipped through her memories of Kacie, mulling the events of recent months. Then the nebulous cloud of recollections crystallized.
She turned to her friend in a moment of horrifying clarity.
"Omigod, Sam - what about Dave?" At this same moment, FBI agent Jerry Spurgers was in Kacie's bedroom, wondering the same thing.