15 August 2012
Fluvanna resident Chuck Garrison is living any parent’s worst nightmare.
“I took my kids to the Capitol building in Washington one time, [my eldest daughter] Brooke was five or six-years-old. I turned away, and I lost contact with her in a sea of people. It was only for like four or five minutes but everything was in slow motion until I found her,” said Garrison. “But it was nothing like this. It’s just been surreal since this all happened. Time stands still.”
Time has stood still for Garrison since July 21, when his 16-year-old daughter, Antoinette Garrison, went missing.
Antoinette, who sometimes goes by Annie, is a “sweet, fun-loving, very energetic, run-of-the-mill sixteen-year-old,” said her stepsister Brooke Kallstrom. Like many sixteen-year-old girls Antoinette spent her time listening to hip-hop, shopping at American Eagle, going to church events, and working part-time at Taco Bell.
But also like many sixteen-year-olds, Antoinette is a child of divorce. Her mother, Annette Garrison, and father Chuck shared custody over the last 10 years, while they both lived in the Charlottesville area. Antoinette spent her freshman year at Monticello High School and her sophomore year at Albemarle High School.
But eight months ago Annette Garrison moved with her daughter and her second husband to Firestone, Colorado – a northern suburb of Denver. The transition was difficult for Antoinette.
“It seemed pretty bad to me, from what I’ve been told,” said Kallstrom. “She just did not like being out there. I think she felt really isolated.”
The close-knit Garrison family lives in Virginia, and Annette’s family lives in California. Antoinette knew few people in Colorado, except for Annette’s husband and his family.
“Obviously, at 16, she had a rough time moving,” said Annette Garrison. “We talked with her and we felt we pretty much got her on the right track, focused. Everything was going good. She had a job, she was taking summer classes, and she was going to be a senior.”
Annette and her husband had even allowed Antoinette to buy her own car and begin planning to go to college back in Virginia, where she wanted to go into the medical field.
On the weekend of July 21, Annette and her husband went to California to visit family. They left Antoinette to spend the weekend with her 24-year-old step-sister Nikita ‘Niki’ Temple in Fort Collins, 40 minutes north of where her mom lived.
“I trusted Niki with Antoinette, one-hundred percent,” said Annette. “[She] and Antoinette always got along great. It was like a sisters’ day out. I felt like Antoinette really needed that sister bond, to connect.”
On Friday, July 20, Antoinette’s boyfriend Kevin, who lives in Charlottesville, broke up with her over the phone.
“They have been on and off for a little over a year, a typical teenager relationship,” said Kallstrom. “She knew him from school, met him through a friend.”
But Antoinette’s mother Annette never liked Kevin and hoped the move to Colorado would put the brakes on the relationship.
The next day, July 21, at 11 a.m. Antoinette said goodbye to Niki in order to go to work at Taco Bell in Longmont, Colorado – a 30-minute drive. But at 1 p.m. she called in sick to work and just an hour later entered a Chase Bank in Fort Collins, where she attempted to withdraw her savings, but could not take out more than $25 without parental consent.
“They have a video tape of her leaving the bank around 2 p.m., that was the last time she was seen,” said Chuck Garrison.
Antoinette’s stepsister Niki began to feel unsettled when at around 6 p.m. she couldn’t get a hold of Antoinette on her cell phone. She called Annette and her dad in California.
Immediately, Annette Garrison called Taco Bell only to learn that her daughter had called in sick to work. Shortly afterward, Niki spotted the truck Antoinette was driving parked in a remote area of the apartment complex, unlocked with keys inside. Annette instructed Niki to drive down to her house in Firestone and see if Antoinette was there. When Niki arrived she found that Antoinette had left a note and grabbed two weeks worth of clothes.
“The note said that she wanted to be home, that she was sorry she had to go … and then ‘love you, Antoinette’ and she drew a little heart,” said Chuck Garrison.
No one has heard from Antoinette Garrison since.
The police investigations found that Antoinette’s name hasn’t shown up on any bus, train or air passenger manifests. Her bank account has not been touched and her cell phone has not been turned on.
A spokeswoman for the Fort Collins Police Department said Antoinette Garrison is still considered a runaway. “She left on her own volition.”
“It’s not like her not to communicate with anyone – no friend at all, no family member,” said Chuck Garrison. “She’s very close to my daughter [Brooke], and she’s never called her or contacted her, no texts, nothing. That’s very unlike her.”
Brooke lives in Fort Riley, Kansas and for the first week after Antoinette’s disappearance she stayed in Kansas.
“I thought that she may have come to my house because she knew my address in Kansas, but she didn’t,” said 23-year-old Kallstrom. “I bought a plane ticket to come home on short notice because she had been gone just about a week at that point, and it was just getting really scary and I felt the need to be home with my family.”
Since Kallstrom got back to Virginia, she, her father and cousin Cathy Garrison, have been canvassing the area in search of Antoinette.
“Any person I see, I usually tell them what’s going on, I have a picture in my pocket so they can see what she looks like,” said Kallstrom. “We’ve been posting a lot of flyers, faxing truck stops across America – just trying to see if truckers had seen her – talking to every person we come into contact with, especially at retail stores.”
Cathy Garrison has reached out to truckers and traced the possible routes Antoinette could have taken from Colorado to Virginia. Charlottesville’s downtown mall is plastered with posters featuring Antoinette’s blond hair, blue eyes and dimples. The Polly Klaas Foundation, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Child Quest International and a Facebook group have all created flyers to get the word out online and across the country.
Charlottesville Police interviewed the former boyfriend but according to Lieutenant Ronnie Roberts, “we have no indications at this point in time of any criminal manner.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 8, when the Charlottesville Police reviewed the facts of the case, they found nothing but cold leads.
“We do not have any factual information as to where she is at this point in time,” said Lt. Roberts, also noting that the Fort Collins, Colorado police department has primary jurisdiction. “Our department is cooperating in every way we possibly can to assist the missing child’s family as well as assisting the Fork Collins police department to locate this runaway.”
For now the Garrisons are hoping that’s all that happened, that Antoinette ran away and will turn up.
“Best case scenario she’s hiding out and just wants a vacation and wants to clear her head. I don’t know, wait until school starts,” said Chuck Garrison. “I just want her to know that we love her and just contact someone to let us know you’re okay and safe.”
But, the fact that the police continue to refer to Antoinette’s case as a runaway is a point of contention for the Garrison family.
“The police have declared this as a runaway because she left a note,” said Annette Garrison. “Because she left that little note, that is considered a runaway, she’s not considered missing.”
The legal distinction between runaway and missing child severely limits how much investigation the police can do to find Antoinette Garrison.
“I’m trying to ask what is considered a missing child. How long do we have to wait?” said Annette Garrison, noting that Antoinette has now been missing three weeks. “Their response is pretty much, ‘well she’s a runaway. They always come back.’”
Antoinette’s runaway status has allowed judges and district attorneys to deny her parents to right to access her Facebook account, or get a subpoena for the local Taco Bell franchise to verify if and where Antoinette’s last paycheck was cashed. With every road block the family hits, they get more panicked, because lurking in the back of their subconscious is the worst-case scenario.
“She could have been abducted, just the same kind of Morgan Harrington kind of case … we’re going on almost a month. The longer we wait the harder it is to believe she’s out there somewhere,” said Kallstrom.
“She was supposed to be starting school in the next two weeks. We were going to go do senior pictures,” said Annette Garrison. “Now I sit here and I think, will I ever see my daughter? Will I ever get to see her turn her cap at graduation? Get married? Have kids?”
“Did she put herself in this situation, yes. Teenage stupid,” said Annette Garrison. “But I feel like there’s something more. As close as Antoinette and I always were … she’d come and jump in bed with us after work just to talk. I would give anything for her to do that right now. This is out of character for my daughter.”
When asked what he would say to someone who had abducted his daughter, Chuck Garrison’s expression changed to one of grief and hate. He took a long time to respond.
“That monster - I don’t even want to think about it,” said Chuck Garrison. “Just give her up. Just let her go. I have bad dreams every night about it, but nothing compares to waking up.”
For more information about Antoinette Garrison or to report a tip, visit http://www.facebook.com/FindAntoinetteGarrison/ or call the Charlottesville Police Department at 434-970-3280.