Twenty-five years after Amy Sue Pagnac disappeared at age 13, investigators from the FBI, Maple Grove police and Hennepin County sheriff's office began an intensive search of her childhood home in Maple Grove on Sunday.
Investigators executed a sealed search warrant at 9 a.m. Sunday morning and expect to spend several days "around the clock" searching the home in the 9700 block of Hemlock Lane, said Maple Grove Police Capt. Keith Terlinden.
Amy, who disappeared from an Osseo gas station in 1989, has never been forgotten.
"We have never closed her case," Terlinden said. "We've had someone actively working it since 1989."
The police department has kept Amy's photograph and subsequent age-progressed images of her up in its office since her disappearance.
"This is a case that has bothered us for a long time, and we really want to find closure," Terlinden said.
Crime-scene tape cordoned off the street in front of the house, tennis courts adjacent to the house at Forest View Pond Park and a portion of a neighbor's yard. Investigators had erected a large tent in the Pagnac driveway and another one on a nearby lawn. The home is still owned by Amy's parents, Marshall Midden and Susan Pagnac.
Amy was 13 years old when she disappeared Aug. 5, 1989. That day, she and her father had gone to the family farm in Isanti County and were on their way back to their home in Maple Grove when they stopped at a gas station in Osseo about 4:30 p.m.
Midden told police he went to the restroom and when he returned, Amy was gone. No one reported seeing her at the gas station.
Amy suffered from seizures and "fits of anger," according to previous Pioneer Press interviews with her mother, Sue Pagnac. Authorities initially thought Amy had run away or had a seizure and wandered off, disoriented. That impression changed the longer she remained missing.
"She's a 13-year-old girl. Someone who goes missing at that age, we don't believe they are able to go missing on their own," Terlinden said.
The girl's disappearance has haunted the neighborhood.
"Every time we walked by her house to play basketball, it would get brought up," said Shane McGowan, 30, who grew up in the neighborhood.
The Pagnac house, which is painted bright green and purple and has solar panels on its roof, became a source of curiosity for the neighborhood kids who would try to peek through the fence into the back yard, he said.
"Everyone knows about the purple house," said Danny Quam. "It was a landmark in the neighborhood.
He sometimes saw Amy and her mother at the park adjacent to the Pagnacs' house. "She was a very nice girl. But you could tell she was on her own and left to wander and do things on her own," he said.
Neighbors said school buses had been notified Friday not to come down Hemlock Lane on Monday; Terlinden did acknowledge authorities had been planning to execute the search warrant "for quite some time." Investigators from Hennepin County and the FBI are assisting in the investigation, Terlinden said.
Nobody has been arrested in connection with the girl's disappearance, he said.
He wouldn't comment on the tactics employed in the search, but on Sunday evening, sounds of heavy equipment could be heard emanating from the scene.
Terlinden wouldn't say whether authorities have searched the home before, but neighbors said there seemed to have been a similar investigative operation at the home a few years ago, although not to the same extent.
The case has long puzzled investigators. Non family abductions of children are exceedingly rare; authorities estimate only about 5 percent of child abductions are committed by a stranger. A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, which the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children considers the "most definitive" exploration of the topic, puts that number at 2 percent and 3 percent.
Terlinden said authorities have followed tips as far as Iowa and California, but to no avail. Reported sightings of Amy Pagnac in Minneapolis shortly after her disappearance were never confirmed.
Copyright 2014 - Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service