JOHNSTOWN - Jayson Ackernecht thought his life was crumbling around him when his wife mysteriously disappeared almost four years ago. Since then, he has dealt with allegations he killed his wife.
Now, he said, things are worse.
"I get accused all the time," he said. "Everyone says I'm the one who harmed her, and they want to know where she is."
Jayson Ackernecht, husband of missing Johnstown resident Kellisue Ackernecht, reviews legal papers permitting him from seeing his daughter Wednesday afternoon at Fairgrounds Park off North Perry Street.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
Ackernecht, who said he's never been arrested, also said he is homeless, forced by Fulton County Family Court to stay away from his 12-year-old daughter. He said it's all part of an ongoing custody battle orchestrated by his mother and stepfather, from whom he's also forced to stay away.
"My parents never did like my wife," Ackernecht said.
He has resisted talking to reporters since the disappearance of wife, Kellisue M. Ackernecht, in 2008, but spoke to The Leader-Herald onWednesday at Fairgrounds Park.
The conversation never strayed too far from his daughter.
"That's my life," Ackernecht said of Ashley Ackernecht, who he hadn't seen for a week.
The 39-year-old Ackernecht said he never harmed his wife or his daughter.
"I'm against laying hands on a woman," he said.
During the interview, he clicked on a text message that he got recently from someone in Minnesota. The writer asked, "Did you kill Kellisue?"
The life of Jayson Ackernecht was instantly thrust into the regular media, and certainly social media, after Kellisue disappeared.
The Ackernecht couple lived with their daughter, who was 8 years old at the time, on the second floor of a two-family home at 330 W. Main St.
On the first floor live his mother and stepfather, Barb and Ben Morley.
No one was home when The Leader-Herald attempted to contact the couple last week. The Morleys didn't contact the paper after a message was left.
Kellisue Ackernecht, 36, was last seen leaving her job as a night-shift manager at a Rite Aid pharmacy in Amsterdam about 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2008. She was supposedly trying to get home to Johnstown. But the 1998 Saturn sedan she was driving home was found on fire hours later about 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.
Doris Stewart of 8 Chesnut St., who lived a short distance up a hill from where the burning vehicle was discovered, said at the time she heard what seemed like two gunshots, 15 minutes apart. City police later dismissed that as tires popping on the burning car.
Ackernecht said he was "sound asleep" when city police knocked at his door to tell him his car was on fire. He informed them Kellisue never made it home.
The burned vehicle had no sign of human remains, police said. It was found a few blocks from the Ackernecht's home. Police have treated Kellisue's disappearance as a missing person case ever since, claiming there remains no evidence a crime was committed.
Police Chief Mark Gifford said Thursday there's been nothing new on the disappearance of Kellisue, including a claim by her husband that more sightings have occurred recently in Gloversville.
Continued from Page 1
"We continue to investigate," Gifford said.
When Kellisue disappeared she was described as 5 feet 10 inches tall, 135 pounds, with short brown hair. She was last wearing tan slacks, a black shirt, new white sneakers, tan socks and brown glasses. People can still call police at 736-4021 with information.
Meanwhile, Jayson Ackernecht is embroiled with the Family Court case that left him homeless. He said that within a month of his wife's disappearance, his mother and stepfather took him to court for custody of his daughter.
"I didn't agree with any of it," he said. "The judge granted joint custody."
Ackernecht showed The Leader-Herald more recent Family Court documents - including a petition signed by Judge Edward F. Skoda effective Aug. 9 - constituting a stay away order for him from his home at 330 W. Main St. The order says he must stay away from the Morleys, as well as Ashley - now a student at Knox Junior High School.
"I can have no contact with my daughter," he said. "I haven't been arrested. There's nothing."
What the documents do show are allegations of disorderly conduct, harassment and criminal mischief by Ackernecht at the house.
Ackernecht, who suffers seizures, said county Department of Social Services benefits have paid for his rent. The Morleys own the house he lived at for 34 years.
"It's not that I don't get along with my mother," Ackernecht said. "It's just that this joint custody thing went to their heads. They think they own my daughter."
In addition to the Family Court documents, he produced documents showing the state is investigating him for "suspected child abuse." The document from the New York State Child Abuse Maltreatment Register indicates another set of allegations. Ackernecht claims his mother wants full custody.
Ackernecht said there's a reason why he's been reluctant to talk to the media since Kellisue disappeared.
"I just wanted to be out there trying to look for her," he said.
Some of Kellisue's immediate family members claim he hasn't actively participated in searches and has been reluctant to since the beginning.
"I've been to just about every vigil," Ackernecht said. "In my heart, I think something had happened to her."
Ackernecht admits his life with Kellisue wasn't always good during their nine years of marriage. He notes he would be married 13 years if she was still with him.
"We had a good relationship," he says, but seconds later expressed how his wife "did" cheat on him before she disappeared. He said it "could be" she was having an affair.
Several of her family members said in late 2008 the Ackernechts were having marital problems just before her disappearance.
Ackernecht said Kellisue's quitting time at Rite Aid was 9:30 p.m., and should have been home by 10 p.m. Routinely, he said, she was home by 11 p.m.
"She was always saying she was working late," Ackernecht remembers.
He said the night she disappeared, an unidentified man had an argument with her outside of Rite Aid, and Amsterdam police investigated the matter.
"She had problems that day in the drug store," Ackernecht said. "She had problems with a customer."
One of Jayson Ackernecht's uncles - Dennis Ackernecht -lived just two houses down from where the burned out car was found. Jayson said last week his uncle has since moved.
Dennis Ackernecht told The Leader-Herald in the days following the disappearance: "There's something screwy going on. It's got to be somebody she knows who knows this [Frog Hollow] area."
He said at the time he was sleeping when police woke him after the fire occurred.
"She's a good mother," Dennis Ackernecht said of Kellisue. "I know that ... Her relationship with Jayson, I'm not too keen on that."
Jayson Ackernecht, a member of the Sir William Johnson Volunteer Fire Department, said he isn't actively looking for a job at this time. He was on his way to the DSS Cooper Building off North Perry Street last week to try to arrange benefits and a place to live.
Ackernecht has ongoing medical problems, including a seizure disorder he's been dealing with since 2005. He'll "just be walking" and get major headaches, he said. Ackernecht said he sees a neurologist, and at some point a mass of scar tissue formed necessitating brain surgery he had at the Albany Medical Center Hospital in January 2011.
Born in Gloversville, Ackernecht lived most of his life in Johnstown. He said he has worked odd jobs locally over the years, including the textile industry, as a salesman for a fire equipment company, and a car mechanic. He said he wasn't working when Kellisue disappeared.
A 1993 Johnstown High School graduate, Ackernecht said he tried attending Fulton-Montgomery Community College as a business major in 2009 after his wife disappeared.
However, Ackernecht said he dropped out because he was the object of ridicule on and off campus, with people intimating he killed his wife.
"People were calling and harassing me," Ackernecht said. "I've been through hell."
Kalley Lee, a friend of Kellisue's family, said last week the process continues to honor Kellisue and search for her. She maintains a website - findkellisue.wordpress.com - about the missing woman.
Sept. 30 will mark four years since Kellisue went missing.
Lee said on that day, she and others will meet at the Rite Aid in Amsterdam at 9:30 p.m. She said the group will talk and each person will receive a candle. At 9:45 p.m., the group we will sit in their cars until 9:55 p.m., followed by their own routes to Frog Hollow in Johnstown, where there will be a candlelight vigil followed by a prayer and kind word from each person.
Lee said a search is planned around the first weekend of November, with a team coming in from Michigan.
"We need the public's support in this," Lee said. "This summer, I've received more support than ever."