Remembering Jeanna North: 25-years after her disappearance and murder
FARGO—Thursday night marks a grim anniversary for our community and a family that lost their little girl.
25-years ago, 11-year old Jeanna North asked to go rollerblading with friends near her North Fargo home.
She was never seen again, her body never recovered.
Never has a story gripped our region this much, and for so long.
And still, 25-years later, some of the most tragic unanswered questions of all.
What happened to Jeanna North?
Few can forget the face of an innocent 11-year old who on the last night of her life swam at Island Park and went rollerblading with friends.
When she didn't return home, family was concerned but thought maybe she had stayed with friends.
Hours later, a search slowly began, and within days, a massive community response to find the girl.
"We were isolated, things like that did not happen here. And we felt this is a good town, and we had some bad things happened but not like this," Cass County Detective Steve Gabrielson said.
"It was new territory," Gabrielson said.
The search would turn up nothing, despite a galvanized community effort to find Jeanna.
Then a bombshell, Kyle Bell, a next door neighbor, turned out to be a convicted child molestor.
After long, intense interviews he confessed to what witnesses saw.
That he threw Jeanna's body into the Sheyenne River.
He later denied any involvement.
There were more than a dozen searches by Valley Water Rescue.
In fact, at one point, the Sheyenne River was lowered.
"We brought it down as far as we could, we used Sheyenne Diversion and heavy equipment and put a dam across it," Pete Fendt of Valley Water Rescue said.
Fendt helped lead the search.
"it is something, you never let it go, you can't," he said.
Despite no body ever found, Kyle Bell was convicted of murdering her.
The first conviction ever like this.
At Bell's sentencing Jeanna's mother was overcome with emotion, yelling at him and calling him a sick bastard.
Years later, the impact of loss to those who still miss her.
"As a mother now, I am not sure how my mom did it. A lot of sadness and grief to push through," Jeanna's sister, Jennifer North Wolff, said.
Jeanna would be 36 years old tonight.
The one wish of her family?
A funeral and burial for their daughter and sister.
The North Dakota Legislature passed a law in 1995 requiring pedophiles and those convicted of crimes against children to register with law enforcement, a searchable tracking system is now online, and there are penalties for offenders who fail to comply.