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Missing woman remains mystery

Family to hold vigil at 3-year anniversary

September 22, 2011
By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - A candlelight vigil is planned for dusk Sept. 30 in the city's Frog Hollow section, where three years ago the burned-up car driven by missing city resident Kellisue M. Ackernecht was found. But her family and police say not much has changed since a similar vigil was held a year ago.

City police have chased hundreds of leads in the case. Officials say there aren't any suspects, and there are no indications whether Ackernecht, who was 36, is alive or dead. Police also aren't sure whether there is a criminal element to her disappearance.

"Nothing indicates a crime has been committed," Johnstown Police Chief Mark Gifford said Wednesday. "But you just don't know. We're not 100 percent convinced a crime hasn't been committed."

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Tom Kilcullen, one of Ackernecht's brothers, said Wednesday "there's been no movement," and he wants more answers from police.

"It's pretty disgusting," he said. "It's three years later, but we have nothing to go with."

Ackernecht was last seen leaving her job as a night-shift manager at the Rite Aid pharmacy on Route 30 in Amsterdam about 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2008. Kilcullen said Ackernecht didn't indicate she was meeting anyone.

The 1998 Saturn sedan she was driving home was found on fire after 1:45 a.m. Oct. 1 in Frog Hollow, a wooded neighborhood at the bottom of the Montgomery Street hill on the west side of the city.

Jayson Ackernecht reported his wife missing to authorities around 2 a.m.

Reached at home Wednesday, Jayson Ackernecht said he didn't want to comment for this story.

City police officers have traveled to Syracuse and other areas following tips, and the department used a psychic early in the case, but nothing was found. City police have conducted many searches, including one with the assistance of a state police helicopter over the wooded area near the Ackernecht home.

Officers have searched homes, they say. Police and forest rangers did several foot searches with cadaver dogs. Police and the St. Johnsville Dive Team also have combed the banks of the Cayadutta Creek, following it downstream toward Sammonsville.

The missing woman's family has conducted its own searches in both Fulton and Montgomery counties and have tried to publicize the case through national media outlets.

"As time goes on, the number of leads has been reduced," Gifford said, although police say the case remains open.

Since the disappearance, the burned-up sedan has been housed at the city garage on Crescendoe Road. Gifford on Wednesday denied The Leader-Herald access to observe the vehicle because he felt it might be "disrespectful to the family."

He also said the vehicle is still part of a police investigation.

City Engineer Chad Kortz said Wednesday the Department of Public Works "had some space" for the Ackernecht car, and having it there the past three years hasn't cost the city or presented a problem.

One of Kellisue's brothers, Chris Clouston of Connecticut, said Wednesday the vehicle by now should have been transferred from city police custody to the state fire marshal's office.

"Everything should have been turned to the state," Clouston.

But Gifford said state fire inspectors and the state police's Bureau of Criminal Investigation already have gone over the vehicle extensively.

"It's been examined by everybody," the chief said.

When she disappeared, Kellisue Ackernecht was last described as 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 135 pounds. Her family says she has short brown, naturally curly hair.

Family and friends for three years have maintained a website - - dedicated to her life and finding her.

People with information about the case may call city police at 736-4021 or the Fulton County Crime Tips Hotline at 736-5561.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at



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