By Jeff Lehr
Jimmy Hopkins may have taken more than his second wife with him to the grave.
Hopkins, 35, shot and killed his wife, Anna, 30, and then put a bullet in his own head the night of April 12 inside his home at 2125 S. Grand Ave. in Joplin.
The apparent murder-suicide remains under investigation, and Joplin police have yet to disclose what pressures may have caused Hopkins to seek such a drastic recourse, although some people who knew the family have suggested Anna was going to leave him.
The couple left behind two young children in common and he left three teenagers by his first wife.
In Union, Mo., about 50 miles west of St. Louis, Jimmy Hopkins’ death leaves a hole of another sort. A well-worn hole in the heart of the mother of a 14-year-old girl, Jessica A. Kinsey, who disappeared in 1995 and remains to this day a suspected victim of foul play at the hands of Hopkins.
“I would hate to think that he was the only person who knows where we can find Jessica,” Lt. Kyle Ketcher, of the Union Police Department, told the Globe this week.
Ketcher is the third lead investigator from the Union Police Department to have worked the missing-persons case, taking it over almost four years ago.
“If he shared the truth with someone — whether it is that she is alive or she is dead — it would be wonderful if that person would come forward,” he said. “I would love to bring closure to her mother.”
Jessica’s mother, Mary Klein, fears she now may never get the answers she has been denied all these years.
“I think Jimmy Hopkins is the only person who knew what happened to my daughter, and he’s the only person who knew where he buried the body,” Klein told the Globe in a telephone interview this week.
Klein knew Hopkins since he was a child. His mother was her friend. Hopkins came to live with his mother in Union at the age of 11 and Klein’s family became well-acquainted with him, including Jessica, nine years his junior.
Klein recalls the day she last saw her daughter, Dec. 26, 1995, with remarkable clarity.
She and her husband were working at home. Jessica, in the seventh grade at the time, had received a new jacket, purse, gloves and scarf as Christmas gifts and wanted to wear them over to a female schoolmate’s house to show them off, Klein said.
Jessica called her mother at 2 p.m. to let her know that she and her friend were having fun and promised to call back at 5 p.m. to let her know if she was staying there for dinner.
“But at 5 o’clock, she didn’t call and she didn’t come home,” Klein said. “At 5:30, I called the friend’s house, and the girlfriend’s mother told me Jimmy came by and took her.”
She said the woman told her that Jessica asked her to call her and tell her that Jimmy was taking her, but the girlfriend’s mother neglected to do it. Klein said she called police right away when she’d learned that because Jimmy, 23 at the time, had no reason to be picking up her daughter and he had not brought her home.
Hopkins’ mother and his first wife came to Klein late that night after police had been alerted, she said. They told her that Jimmy said he was going to get Jessica, and that he’d taken his wife’s birth certificate, Social Security card and driver’s license with him.
Ketcher said it was shortly after Jessica’s disappearance that a local man reported that Hopkins paid him to give the two a ride out of state.
They’d checked into adjacent rooms at a motel in Cloverdale, Ind., the night of Dec. 26. In the middle of the night, the man told police, he’d heard a lot of banging around coming from Hopkins’ and Jessica’s room and went to their door. A Union police case summary states that he knocked on the door and received no response for about 5 minutes before Hopkins finally called out and told him everything was OK, they’d just been having “rough sex” because they hadn’t seen each other for a while.
Klein said the Franklin County man who told police this changed his story slightly at different times. She said he initially told them Hopkins had come to the door fully dressed, blocked his view of the room and would not let him in.
The police summary says the man went back to his room and went to sleep. When he woke up the next morning, his Chevrolet Cavalier was gone and so were Hopkins and Jessica.
He reported the vehicle stolen to Indiana police, but Cloverdale failed to enter the report into the National Crime Information Center system for more than 30 days, possibly losing an opportunity for law enforcement to have stopped the vehicle somewhere and intervened early in the case.
The Union police case summary states that the man who gave Hopkins and Jessica the ride said Hopkins told him they were going to Niagara Falls to get married. He claimed Jessica was pregnant with his child.
Their ride was to take them to Indiana where Hopkins claimed to have relatives and planned to have one of them drive them the rest of the way to the renowned honeymoon resort. The police summary states that Hopkins showed him some wedding rings.
Police were able to confirm that Hopkins indeed took some wedding rings to a pawn shop in Paris, Tenn., 320 miles from Cloverdale, on the next day, Dec. 27.
Klein told the Globe the wedding rings belonged to Hopkins’ mother, and his elopement story is full of lies.
She does not believe her daughter had any romantic involvement with Hopkins leading up to her disappearance and certainly wasn’t pregnant with his child. Klein said she has medical reason to know that that was not true. She also doubts the “rough sex” portion of the story.
“I just can tell you my daughter would not have done anything ‘rough,’” she said.
Klein believes Hopkins abducted her daughter, hid that fact from the other man with his tale of elopement and killed her inside that motel room. She said the man who came forward told police that what he heard in the room next door “sounded like a body hitting the wall.”
She also finds the other man’s description of her daughter’s behavior on the trip to Indiana at odds with Hopkins’ portrayal of the situation. He described her as sitting quietly in the backseat, with her head down the whole time, she said. Hardly the demeanor of someone willingly eloping with someone else, she said.
“My daughter was very animated when she was doing things she wanted to do,” Klein said.
Police were unable to locate Hopkins for questioning for several months.
The man’s vehicle turned up in Compton, Calif., about a month later, after police in Indiana finally entered it into NCIC. It had been dropped off at a garage by an unidentified black male on Jan. 6, 1996, according to the case summary.
In the spring of 1996, police learned from an acquaintance of Hopkins that they’d seen him with a girl matching a description of Jessica. A Union investigator learned he had been working in a yogurt shop at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway in the Pacific Palisades area of California.
The yogurt-shop owner confirmed that a girl came to the shop frequently while Hopkins was working there.
Ketcher said Hopkins returned to Missouri sometime that spring and apparently hooked up with Anna, his second wife, who was from the Springfield area where his father lives, sometime around June. He would not assist police investigating Jessica’s disappearance at that time, according to the case summary.
But Ketcher said he was never formally questioned until November of 2006 when the Franklin County prosecutor had him extradited back from California on some warrants for passing bad checks. He said Hopkins passed some checks in the Union area in the days leading up to the girl’s disappearance and along their way to Indiana.
Hopkins had headed back to California with Anna and her younger brother, a reported runaway, in October of 1996, and they were detained in Mono County, Calif., due to the juvenile’s status. But when he was formally interviewed for the first time, Hopkins denied killing Jessica.
“He said he’d last seen her in Hollywood with a Mexican named ‘Capone,’” Ketcher told the Globe.
Klein said Hopkins’ ‘Capone’ story proved to be just another lie. The address of a motel where Jessica supposedly had been with ‘Capone’ proved to be a lot that had been vacant for years, she said.
Ketcher said he tried to talk to Hopkins about the case in 2004 when Hopkins was once again living in the Union area, but got nowhere with him.
Finally, the Union police chief talked to Hopkins informally in December of 2005 and came away convinced that he killed Jessica.
Klein said the police chief told her that he could not use what Hopkins told him because he had not been read his Miranda rights.
“But, he told me: ‘Mary, I know he killed your little girl,’” she said.
Exactly what Hopkins told the police chief that convinced him of Hopkins’ guilt has not been made public record. But the Union police case summary mentions that Hopkins told more than one person that he killed her and dumped her body. He told one of those people it was near a lake, but the locations he gave proved “un-fruitful to date,” the police summary says.
She said on the strength of that conviction, her family finally held a memorial service for Jessica in February of 2006.
Still, when word of the murder-suicide in Joplin, involving Jessica’s suspected killer, reached her through a brother this past week, thoughts of her daughter and all that remains unknown about her death have come flooding back to Klein.
The Joplin Police Department was not initially aware of the connection of a murder-suicide April 12 to an unsolved missing-person case in Union, Mo. But police spokesman Chuck Niess said since the Police Department learned of the connection early this week, investigators have begun reviewing items taken from the home of Jimmy Hopkins to see if they can be linked to the Jessica Kinsey case.
By Jeff Lehr
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