|Nikole Betterson, 1977|
Missing: December 1977 from Dearborn, Michigan
Race: Biracial; African-American/Caucasian Sex: Female Age: 2 years Hair: Brown/black
Circumstances of disappearance:
Nikole's mother, Susan Klingel, was killed in a car accident over Labor Day weekend in 1977. Her father, Jarrett Betterson was driving. Nikole and Jarrett were also in the accident, but were not seriously injured. Marijuana was found in the vehicle and there was talk of charging Jarrett with vehicular homicide. However, the investigation was sloppy and charges were never brought.
Susan and Jarrett were never married and a short time after Susan's death, Jarrett began dating a woman named Barbara.
Jarrett, Barbara and Nikole visited with the Klingel family around Christmas in 1977. The Kilingel's were told that Jarrett and Barbara were moving out west to start a new life. They never told the Klingels exactly where they were going, but they told friends they were moving to Las Vegas and others said they were going to California. They took Nikole away with them and the kilingels never heard from them again.
After 20 years, the Klingels hired a private investigator and began searching for Nikole. The investigator located Jarrett and Barbara, who were now married and living in Las Vegas. The couple were reportedly living in poverty and poor health and there was no sign of Nikole. The private investigator notified authorities and the case landed on the desk of Jeff Rosgen of the Las Vegas Police department.
After searching through records, Rosgen was unable to find any evidence that Nikole ever arrived in Las Vegas with Jarrett and Barbara. The only records were her Social Security Orphan's benefits, which were picked up monthly by her father until the day Nikole turned 18.
Unable to find any information on Nikole's fate, Detective Rosgen went to visit the Bettersons. Bluffing, he told Jarrett that he knew what happened to Nikole and promised him leniency if he would give them the full story. Jarrett agreed to set up a meeting with the Police Department to discuss Nikole within a week. A few days later, Jarrett contacte the detective and asked for more time. it was the last contact they had with Jarrett Betterson.
Joni Betterson, Jarrett's mother, recieved a letter from Barbara in the days following.
"By the time you get this we should be dead," Barbara wrote. "Jarrett is about to go to jail and I don't want to live without him. I'm sorry about living apart from our family. I'm sorry about so many things. We've had a sad and difficult life."
Enclosed with the letter was a money order for $900 to pay for the cremation. There was no mention in the letter about the fate of Nikole, who would have been 22 years old at the time.
"We had hoped our troubles would never touch our families so we kept to ourselves," Barbara said in her final letter to Jarrett's mother. "We've tried to follow God. Now it's about time for him to judge us."
Their bodies weren't discovered for three weeks. There were several eviction notices affixed to their door for non-payment of rent. Jarrett had shot his wife in the chest and placed a bible and red rose on her chest, then went into an adjoining bedroom, wrapped himself in a blanket and shot himself.
"Go to your Bibles to see peace," she wrote, "and please forgive us for all the wounds we have put in your hearts with our tragic and youthful blunders."
The suicide of Jarrett Betterson stalled the investigation into Nikole's disappearance. The police had no evidence that a crime had been committed without Jarrett's information. Her case remains unsolved, but foul play is suspected.
Anyone with information
is asked to contact:
Las Vegas Police Department
" Suicides leave questions of child's fate unanswered";
Las Vegas Review Journal; Mon. 15 Jun 1998