There are many questions and frustratingly few answers for the family of Janina Vasquez.
The 27-year-old Overland Park woman was found dead Feb. 19 at the bottom of a flood-control well near the south bank of the Missouri River east of downtown Kansas City.
The family’s grief is exacerbated by the mystery of how she got there and the uncertainty of not knowing how she died.
“I’m haunted by that thought every single day,” said her mother, Jenny Cochran. “I’m just trying to get to the root of the matter.”
Kansas City police still are waiting for a Jackson County medical examiner ruling to determine if Vasquez was the victim of foul play, but Cochran said the family believes that is the most likely explanation.
“Somebody knew that area — knew that well,” Cochran said. “She would just not wander around in freezing weather, slip through a gate, lift a 20-pound grate and throw herself into a well.”
Cochran and her husband were gone the night of Feb. 11 when Vasquez left home in Overland Park.
She rarely went out, her mother said. Multiple health problems, including a seizure disorder and lingering pain from traffic accidents, frequently incapacitated her.
“Maybe she just wanted to get up and feel like a person for a minute,” her mother said.
Later that night, Vasquez texted that she was going to spend the night with “Allen and Nicole,” two people Cochran didn’t know.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” she said in a text.
It was the last communication her family received from her.
During the next week, before her body was found, the family filed a missing person report and desperately searched for her.
During that time, Cochran told several people about an eerie feeling she had about her daughter.
“I just had this feeling that she was cold,” Cochran said.
Kansas City Water Services workers found Vasquez’s frozen body at the bottom of the 25-foot well.
Police have not released details, but Cochran said she has been told her daughter had sustained an injury to the back of her head and both wrists were fractured.
Temperatures during the days Vasquez was missing were well below freezing, but she was found with her sweatsuit top tied around her waist. She was not wearing socks or underwear.
Investigators learned that on Feb. 12, surveillance cameras captured images of Vasquez leaving the Isle of Capri Casino about 7:40 p.m.
She was wearing red boots and a gray Victoria’s Secret sweatsuit. Police said she was a passenger in a red car driven by an as yet unidentified person.
Cochran said it is agonizing for her to see the obvious look of distress on her daughter’s face in those surveillance pictures.
A few hours after Vasquez left the casino, her cellphone was used in the vicinity of a cell tower at Third and Cherry streets, less than a mile from where her body was found.
While police continue to investigate, the family is doing everything it can to drum up information. They have passed out hundreds of fliers in the areas where she was last seen and ultimately found.
Digital billboards featuring her case have also been utilized, asking anyone with information to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).
Cochran hopes that with enough publicity, someone will come forward and provide answers to the family’s questions.
Until they do, “I’ll just keep trying,” Cochran said.
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