The Claudine Jaquier Gifford disappearance does seem tied to James “Todd” Kessler

Here are the basics of this one: 43 year-old woman moves from Orlando to Virginia on a hiatus in her 16-year marriage. She goes drinking one night at Pelican’s On The Point in Lancaster City, VA. That appears to be here:

She leaves the bar and disappears. That was mid-July and there’s still no trace.

She seems to have potentially been a bit depressed at the time of the disappearance, so that is worth noting:

Claudine Gifford, whose 44th birthday was two weeks ago, stands at 5 feet, 4 inches and weighs 112 pounds. According to friends, she has a quiet demeanor and likes her privacy so much she has been teased about it.

She stayed with Chris Rockson and his family for about six months. Both grew up in New York and met when they were living there in their 20s.

Rockson said Gifford was depressed about having to leave her daughter behind. Soon after she arrived, her dog died, which was another emotional setback, he said.

Rockson said Gifford talked to him about bringing her daughter to the Northern Neck, but he tried to persuade her to move back to Orlando instead.

“We all tried to get her to go down to Florida and work something out,” Rockson said, adding that he and other friends told Gifford: “Just get back to your daughter, because she needs you. Get some money saved up and go to Florida and get an apartment.”

Now here’s where it gets weird — there are varying degrees of stories about the night of the disappearance. She was with a guy named James “Todd” Kessler; if you click that top link (the first one in this post), he is a person of interest in this case. According to a bunch of observers, he had to carry her out of the bar — despite other observers saying she had 2-3 drinks. It’s possible to be fall-down drunk off of 2-3 drinks if you didn’t eat / have a bad tolerance, but it’s not likely. There’s certainly the possibility that something was slipped in the drink; that’s made more potentially plausible if you go to the second article (the one that the pull quote above is from) and consider this:

Gifford went back to Orlando for Father’s Day and stayed for about two weeks. Rich Gifford and Gabrielle said she was making plans to return to Orlando permanently.

Kessler, meanwhile, is in Lancaster County jail without bond after being charged with felony malicious wounding in an unrelated incident in which a man was injured at the same White Stone bar July 22. Kessler has a preliminary hearing scheduled in September.

Read between the lines on that and it goes like this — Gifford moves up to VA for a break in her marriage. She gets involved with Kessler for a bit, but then decides she wants to go back to Orlando. Kessler is capable of “felony malicious wounding” in other contexts, so … he’s a lead suspect.

WebSleuths is all over this (click through for the entire thread), and then there’s this:

Gifford’s cell phone transmitted activity, also called a “ping,” from the cell tower on Black Stump Road on Monday afternoon, the day after she was last seen.

If that’s all true, that ping is 14 miles away from the bar:

Kessler’s home has been reported as “Cox Farm Road” area — if that’s accurate, that’s only 3.2 miles from Black Stump:

Then there’s this whole “four guys” argument — that’s information apparently provided by Kessler to the police. He said “four white males” (or perhaps just “four males”) helped her into a vehicle after they (Kessler and Gifford) had a fight and he drove off. (Why would you leave an intoxicated woman solo in a mostly remote area? No idea.)

It’s all a sad story — let’s hope it’s resolved soon, and she’s either found or, if something befell her, someone is sent away for it (be that Kessler or someone else).


Ted Bauer