Chevy Chase Teen Jessica North Still Missing,
Searchers Abandon Hunt For Lack Of New Leads
By Hammel R.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 2003; Page B01
DC Circuit Court Judge Jonathan North's 16 year old daughter, Jessica, has been missing for several weeks now. Investigators and reporters had previously kept Jessica's case low profile because of the implications of possible rape of a minor by a prominent Washington resident, and also in hopes of a quick, private resolution without media scrutiny on the traumatized family, but the case has grown more ominous with each week's passing. The Norths have received no ransom demands, nor any further contact from Jessica. but neither has her body turned up. They now feel that public and media attention to the case is their only means of generating any new leads at this point.
Mr. and Mrs. (Melissa) North reportedly did not even notice anything was awry with their daughter until DCPD contacted them regarding the murder of retired Maryland Senator Thomas Billingsley this summer. According to the North's sworn statements, Senator Billingsley supposedly escorted their daughter Jessica home early from a social event in his private limousine at the behest of her parents, so that they could remain for the duration of the gala. Forensics officers have determined that the Senator and Miss North did not in fact go to her home, but to the Senator's estate in Cleveland Park, based on the lack of evidence of any struggle or violence in the Senator's car.
It is uncertain what may have transpired at the Senator's house when they arrived. The driver had already been excused for the evening, which would presume that Jessica was not intended to leave the premises, at least not escorted by the Senator. 38-year-old Martin Collins, the driver, at first reported that he had no knowledge of the pair's intentions, but a couple weeks after Jessica's disappearance and the autopsy on the late Senator, he recanted and confessed that the Senator did imply to him that Jessica would be staying the night and that he was to immediately leave upon dropping them off at the estate. Collins also testified that the Senator was seen in Collins's rear view mirror several times attempting to touch Miss North's breasts and groin area. The girl appeared too bewildered to protest, but Mr. Collins was afraid to confront the Senator on his suspicions for fear of losing his much-needed job. He then left the estate for the evening.
Police were alerted by Senator Billingsley's neighbor, Eva Van der Haas, who was outside her home walking her French poodle, Empress Eleanor, and Beardie, Cosmopolitan, around 3-4 am on the evening in question. Ms. Van der Haas claims to have heard some screaming and commotion in the Senator's home, and saw a light on in the living room area which suddenly went out. Curious, she approached the side yard to investigate, and there witnessed a nude woman fleeing the home, her body stained with splotches of something dark which could have been paint, blood, or even something such as chocolate sauce; at that distance the witness was not sure. She did not recognize the woman, but called to her futilely as she ran away into a neighboring yard. Ms. Van der Haas then called DCPD, who upon responding discovered the Senator's body, as well as blood and shredded clothing identified by DNA testing as belonging to Jessica North. There was no sign of the girl's body, but Ms. Van der Haas did not pick out the nude woman as being Jessica in a photo search at Police Headquarters. It remains unknown at this time whether the woman was Jessica or not. The Norths were still at the Gala when they received word of Jessica's disappearance and the Senator's murder.
The Norths immediately put out bulletins and flyers searching for their missing daughter, hoping that the failure to turn up a body meant she was not also murdered that night. Searchers combed the area in an intensive search, but with no further leads to go on, gave up. Evidence did not point to any logical suspects, and the trail grew cold.
Then a break in the case came. The Norths telephoned DCPD to report that someone had broken into the house, specifically into Jessica's room, and taken many of her possessions, the nature of which were items that one might attach practical and sentimental value to. The intruder also removed approximately $2,000 in cash from a safe in Judge North's den. Their feeling or implication was that it could have been Jessica herself procuring items with which to flee the area, or someone who coerced Jessica into revealing this information for their own purposes. The intruder knew when the Norths would not be home, and knew all their security codes to enter the house without alerting police at that time. There were no new fingerprints extracted from the scene, which lead investigators to assume that the intruder was, in fact, Miss North herself.
The Norths were stunned and heartbroken to realize that their daughter may be a runaway, although detectives now are pursuing the possibility of another Elizabeth Smart type of scenario, where the girl may be under the influence and direction of an outside party. The couple insist there is no cause on their part to entice Jessica to run away, and they say if she is simply frightened and traumatized by possibly witnessing or even being involved in the murder of Senator Billingsley, that she is safe to come forward and get the help she needs.
Judge North had aspirations of potentially sitting on the Supreme Court one day, or perhaps a Senate or Congress run of his own. Neighbors interviewed in this case have implied, on condition of anonymity, that Judge and Mrs. North could be potentially inspired to withhold evidence from the police so as not to sully his bid for higher office with scandal.
Jonathan North, once a promising young local attorney, was acquainted with then-Senator Billingsley through work connections in the Washington legal scene. At a Gala just weeks before his promotion to Circuit Court Judge, North was introduced to the vivacious Melissa Mosby, daughter of prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist, Garland Mosby. Despite a pronounced age difference, which garnered private comment from Washington society, the couple were caught up in a whirlwind romance worthy of Hollywood, and wed just 3 months after meeting.
With North's appointment as Judge, a couple of years into the marriage, the couple had been known to be attempting to have a child, with no success. Friends of the couple state that they do not know the reason the couple was unable to do so. Finally, it was announced that they would be adopting a 6 month old baby girl, found wrapped up but abandoned in the front seat of an ambulance parked and running outside the entrance of George Washington University Medical Center. And so, the Norths welcomed into their home, baby Jessica, back in 1988.
Jessica had a very quintessential Washington childhood, replete with privilege but also with not so uncommon ups and downs. Sources close to the family say that Jessica had difficulties with hallucinations and imaginary friends that she did not ever seem to grow out of after early childhood. She was placed in Our Lady of Good Counsel private school in hopes that more rigorous academic and parochial attention might resolve these issues. When they did not, Jessica was placed on various anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs until the hallucinations were supposedly stopped. The Norths are very concerned that Jessica is out there without her medication, which, if Jessica was the mystery intruder, she did not take with her, and could experience returning symptoms any day now.
Friends of Miss North from OLGC High School, Marie Tessatore, 15, and Julie Murphy, 16, both informed reporters that they had noticed a change in Jessica's disposition in the weeks preceding her disappearance. The girls state that Jessica had become more agitated and hard to be around, and that the limited friendships she had were becoming estranged. Miss Murphy is quoted as saying, "I just knew something like this would happen to her. Jessie was a ticking time bomb and her parents didn't even notice."
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has filed a case for Jessica North, Case #NCMC97020617. If you have any information leading to the whereabouts of this girl, please contact them at http://www.missingkids.org/ or DCPD.at (202) FIND-NOW.