The unsolved disappearance of a Virginia teenager four years ago has left family members desperate for answers and investigators puzzled — as a key witness who may be able to help refuses to cooperate, WTTG-TV reports.
On December 5, 2015, Katelin Akens was supposed to board a flight from Reagan National Airport in Virginia to Arizona. She supposed to be reunited with her fiance, Amber. She was supposed to have a bright future.
None of that happened, crushing her family and confounding investigators.
Akens’ mother, Lisa Sullivan, spoke to the news outlet about her daughter’s mysterious disappearance. On the day 19-year-old went missing, Sullivan drove to her ex-husband’s home so that he could bring Aken to the airport for her flight back to Arizona, where she lived.
Sullivan told WTTG-TV that her ex-husband, James Branton, appeared glad to see them.
“He seemed happy, excited,” Sullivan said. “They were talking about her cosmetology school, her high school diploma. They were talking about it, sitting on the couch.”
The teen reportedly said she had wanted to visit a mall near the airport first to kill some time. The flight was not until 5 p.m., and at 1:52 p.m., Branton texted Sullivan that he had dropped Akens off.
Just eight minutes later, Sullivan reportedly got a text message from Akens’ phone that read, “I’m at the airport. Battery dying so won’t be able to text for a bit.”
Then about five hours later, Sullivan got an unusual and worrying text message from Akens’ phone: “I’m staying with a friend” and “I need some time alone,” the messages read, according to the report.
An investigation would later show that the text message wasn’t sent from the airport, but instead hit towers near Interstate 95 in Stafford County, Virginia.
According to the report, investigators would learn days later that Akens never got to the mall, despite the claim by Branton. In fact, the last time she was seen alive was at his home.
Within days of Akens missing her flight, road crews reportedly came upon her luggage in a ditch several miles from Branton’s residence. Her wallet, ID and glasses were found inside, but her clothes were missing.
There was also a strange Facebook message that Akens’ account sent a friend, indicating she didn’t want to be in either Virginia or Arizona.
Police told the news outlet Branton has not told the truth about where he brought Akens that day, has refused to take a lie detector test and will not disclose the password to his phone.
Investigators say they haven’t talked with Branton in years.
“No, he has nothing to do with us,” Detective Rob Marshall told the television station in 2017.
Police have reportedly searched Branton’s home and seized a variety of evidence, including guns, electronics and his DNA; but have not found any meaningful leads — or apparently, cause to arrest him.
Since Akens’ disappearance, her mother and family release balloons into the air to recognize special occasions. Sullivan told the news station that Branton also failed to show up for any of the events remembering Akens.
Meanwhile, police said they are willing to hear from anyone with information on the case.
“We have worked with, what, three psychics?” Detective Sharon Williams told WTTG-TV. “We are not going to turn down any information.”
Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office at 540-582-7115.
[Feature image: Katelin Akens/Handout