STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. — For the small group of Missourians whose life revolves around the 5-month legislative session in Jefferson City, there has been a nagging question on the back of the mind.
For 49 days, lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists, activists and more have been asking the same question, publicly and privately: What happened to Lynn Messer?
Every theory on the table
49 days ago Lynn — the wife of prominent conservative lobbyist Kerry Messer — vanished in the middle of the night. Her husband awoke to find Lynn was not in bed. Her personal effects were all where she had left them, as was the walking boot she’d recently been given for a minor injury.
Lynn Messer was simply gone.
49 days later, the Messer farm has been the subject of massive searches coordinated both by the Messer family and local law enforcement. The farm, approximately 250 acres, has seen no stone unturned.
Soon after word of Lynn’s disappearance began to make the rounds, rumors began to swirl. Early news reports, fueled also by speculation on social media, said Lynn was perhaps suffering from depression, a charge Kerry Messer has flatly denied.
And of course, there were darker whispers. When a wife is missing or suspected to have been harmed, it’s not uncommon for law enforcement and the community to turn their eyes to a single party: the husband.
Kerry didn’t want to discuss whether or not the Ste. Genevieve Sherriff’s Department had questioned him as a suspect, but as of right now, local law enforcement does not suspect foul play. And after all, how could they? There is so little evidence available.
What may be even more troubling for Kerry Messer than the judgmental gaze of suspicion is that law enforcement does not suspect much of anything in Lynn’s disappearance. Nearly every theory is currently on the table because there simply have been no leads, no tips leading to fruitful information, no rumors leading to better rumors, no nothing.
Lynn Messer appears to have simply vanished.
“We have no viable working scenario,” Kerry Messer told The Missouri Times. “As a result we have every theory imaginable on the table. We have no indication as to which direction to focus on. We have to keep our focus on all possibilities.”
Kerry did share his own personal theory about what may have happened to his wife, one he admits he has little evidence for, but one that he says is the closest thing resembling a workable possibility. And it begins 11 years ago.
Lynn Messer struggled for more than a decade with pain. For a decade, Lynn suffered severe pain in both of her hips as the result of a condition that could only be properly fixed by way of hip replacement. Unfortunately, it was a hip replacement doctors would not perform until Lynn was older.
“For years, it was all about pain management,” Kerry Messer said. “And that’s a very difficult thing – anyone can tell you that pain management can also be very difficult emotionally as well.”
As her surgery drew near, Lynn was in a car accident that injured her shoulder. Fearing that doctors would postpone her hip surgery until her upper body could bear more weight during rehabilitation, Lynn concealed the injury and went through her hip rehabilitation with a damaged shoulder. According to Kerry, she exceeded doctor’s wildest expectations for her recovery, and did so while concealing the pain of her shoulder.
After rehab and a surgery to repair her shoulder, Kerry says Lynn was “ecstatic” for a time.
“She’d been planning for the better part of 11 years what she would do, how her activities would change, once she was pain-free again,” Messer said. “She was very much looking forward to 20 years without pain after 11 years with pain.”
This, he says, is at least one indicator that Lynn had no intentions to hurt herself. She was too busy, he says, looking forward to a newer day-to-day life.
It wasn’t long before pain returned. And when Lynn returned to her doctor, the news was simply heartbreaking. The pain was in her hips in part of the bone that could not be replaced. It could not be cured. It was back to pain management for Lynn Messer – forever.
The doctor gave Lynn new pain medications, something she’d never taken before. Kerry says these pain pills were the only “new” thing in her life.
“I believe there may have been an adverse mental reaction to those pills,” Kerry said. “I’ve had some folks say that it would be flushed out of her system by now, but based on some of the research I’ve done, that’s not necessarily a guarantee. I think it’s possible that there’s a long term mental reaction here and that she may be in a very confused state.”
“I just want to find my wife.”
Tips come in with some frequency. People see someone that looks like Lynn and they call. Most of the time, they’ve been able to trace the lead to an honest mistaken identity.
“If someone is going to call the hotline because they see someone that looks like Lynn please, please, take a picture with your cell phone,” Kerry said. “The time it takes to track down some security footage or something like that and working with local law enforcement on the scene – it would all go much faster if people would do that.”
Lynn’s disappearance is not a local issue, as far as he and the local sheriff’s office is concerned. She could be anywhere.
“The whole world is the haystack. We’re trying to find a needle in here,” Kerry said. “I just want to find my wife, and the idea that she could be hundreds of miles from here even – that’s a very daunting thought.”
The general pubic isn’t aware of it, but the Ste. Genevieve Sheriff’s department is still working very hard on the investigation, Messer said. Official search parties are less frequent, because police are busy running down tips from the hotline.
In fact, organizing searches of the untamed woods stretching for miles on the edge of the Messer property is still a challenge, and Kerry Messer welcomes anyone who can organize a group willing to spend their day looking.
He also asks that anyone looking to chip in to download and print the official Missing Persons flyer and post it somewhere public. The police haven’t ruled anything out yet, and Kerry says the more exposure her photo gets, the better.
“If she is in a confused state, then she’s likely to become paranoid,” Messer said. “And when you’re paranoid, you don’t ask for help because the same people who are in a position to help you are the same people you’re afraid of. If she’s somewhere where people don’t realize she’s a missing person, the only thing we can do is try to get her picture and her story out there.”
Reality, faith, and optimism
Messer says the outpouring of support from those who know him through his work in the Capitol has been uplifting. House Speaker Tim Jones and Senate Pro Tem Tom Dempsey both sent letters out to their members urging them to link to relevant news stories about Lynn Messer’s disappearance in their regular reports to constituents.
“I just want to say to those folks in our world, the Jefferson City world, that I know you don’t know what to say, and that’s okay,” Messer said. “If the shoe was on the other foot, I wouldn’t know what to say. I just want you to know it’s okay and that it’s easier to receive concern than it is to answer questions, and the outpouring of support has been very moving.”
Kerry Messer hides the deep emotional toll the entire ordeal has placed on him very well. The toll is perhaps most visible through Kerry’s writing, either in his letter to his church or in his frequent updates of the Facebook page setup shortly after Lynn’s disappearance.
Messer has spent more than one evening alone in front of the computer writing and, in his words, talking with God.
“Throughout all of this, I know He is strong enough to guide her and protect her,” Messer said. “I just want to make sure I’m learning whatever it is He wants me to learn, and trying to see if there’s something more He is trying to teach me.”
There’s a strain, of course. Kerry can’t lead the searches into the thick woods because the searches are just as much for clues as they are for a corpse, and he’s not prepared to handle that.
His son, Abram, who works alongside him in Jefferson City, has done much of the legwork in mapping out searches.
“I got so angry the other day at Abe over something so little with the truck,” Messer said. “And it wasn’t until later when I was trying to figure out why on earth I was so mad when I realized I wasn’t mad at him or the truck. It’s just a toll that this takes on you.”
There is perhaps no “right” or “wrong” way to cope with a situation like Kerry Messer’s. For him, prayer is about the only method that seems to work. So he says he’ll continue to pray, to have faith in God and in his wife and in law enforcement.
And he’ll take it one day at a time.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.