In December of 2015, 19-year-old Katelin Akens was back home in Virginia visiting her family. Her mother Lisa was hosting her while she visited her younger sister, Gabby, who had recently given birth to a baby. Katelin had spent the previous few days visiting her family and catching up with her hometown friends before she planned to return to her new home in Arizona, and her fiancée, Amber Rios.
However, on the day of her flight, December 5, Katelin was unable to find a ride to the airport. Her sister was too busy taking care of her newborn to drive her, while her mother had to be at work before the flight was scheduled to take off. Finally, Lisa managed to get in touch with her ex-husband and secured a ride for the 19-year-old. The man, James Branton, was not Katelin’s father but had helped raise her.
It’s not very clear what happened after Lisa dropped Katelin off at James Branton’s house. The two seemed happy to see one another, and James told Lisa he’d drop Katelin off at the airport before 3:00 PM. Around noon that day, however, Amber got a bizarre text message from her fiancée. “Something came up. I’m not coming back today, I’ll let you know when I get a new flight. I won’t be able to text for a bit.”
This was perplexing, but Amber didn’t know quite what to make of it. Roughly two hours later, Lisa received a message from James, which simply read “I dropped Katelin off.” He explained that he hadn’t taken her to the airport itself, but had instead dropped her off near the mall. She planned to take the metro to the airport after killing some time at the mall.
Lisa was beginning to get worried.
At 2:00, Lisa got a text from her daughter. “I’m at the airport. Battery dying so won’t be able to text for a bit.” Lisa began to get extremely concerned and called Katelin several times to no avail. The last message she received from her daughter, hours later at 7:15, was extremely odd. “I’m staying with a friend. I need some time alone.”
Around this same time, Katelin sent one final message to her fiancée. It was short and simply read “I can’t come back. I cheated on you.” Katelin was never seen or heard from again.
To this day, Katelin’s family has continued to look for her. James Branton was initially considered suspicious by the public, but police have maintained that he is not a person of interest in the case. Police have been able to confirm that Katelin made it to the mall, but it’s not clear what happened to her after that. The case has been cold ever since.