INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Jessica Masker had just given birth to a premature baby the month before she went missing four years ago.
The little boy was addicted to drugs and still hospitalized in in the intensive care unit at Riley Hospital for Children at the time. If Jessica had been at the hospital visiting her struggling newborn on April 15, 2013, instead of hanging out at a cousin’s house in the 4800 block of East Washington Street chasing her own drug addiction that day, Jessica might still be with her family.
Instead, the 24-year-old called her brother 12 hours after she was dropped off, telling him that some men inside the dope house had “come at her wrong” and that she was walking to 21st Street and Emerson Avenue to meet her boyfriend, the same man who beat her and fed her the drugs Jessica needed to maintain her addiction and kill her pain.
The boyfriend, who served time for battery on Jessica, was questioned by IMPD Detective Monica Endes.
“He said he doesn’t know what happened to her,” said Endes.
“Do you believe him?” Russ McQuaid asked the veteran missing persons investigator.
“No,” said Endes.
The disappearance, and likely death of Jessica Masker, is the latest case to be profiled on Indy’s Unsolved.
“I’m not really sure if she overdosed or met with foul play or what,” said Endes, who expects someday to learn Jessica died and hopefully uncover the clues why. “I feel like somebody has to know something and I don’t know if they feel like they are being threatened or they don’t want to get themselves in trouble or I don’t know what their reason is for not telling.”
Maybe the reason the witnesses aren’t talking is because they’re also compromised, either complicit in Jessica’s disappearance or up to their necks in drugs from the east side to Mars Hill.
“When you’re struggling with addictions you become desperate and do desperate things and you hang out with people that aren’t the best and put you in harm’s way. You take all kinds of chances,” said Endes. “They’ve been arrested and convicted and served time and back out.”
One morning this month, Jessica’s family met again at the missing persons branch with detectives and told them a story that never changes while talking to FOX59 about a little girl who spent her life lost and trying to catch up.
“Jessica had got held back in first grade and fifth grade because they found out when she was really young she was deaf in one of her ears,” said Christina Jessica, Jessica’s sister. “It was more like we were the same age because we were already so close in age and by the time we got to the fifth grade we were both in the same grade. We would go on the front porch and listen to the radio and dance and act like we were singers and models.”
Later, Jessica would mount a stage as a stripper, one of the few jobs open to a young woman, partially disabled, without a high school education that fell behind a younger sister and had a baby to support.
“Jessi would always talk louder because she wanted to be able to hear herself talk,” said Christina, who thought her big sister was jealous over her success at finishing high school and holding a steady job.
Cheri Edwards said her daughter was a good mother to the baby they called Junior, though she didn’t like the way Jessica earned money.
“I didn’t like it because I just didn’t like that and I warned her about the drugs and everything that dancers get into.”
Like drugs, which led Jessica to witness the fatal overdose of another stripper.
“She was trying to change her life for the better,” said Edwards, who managed to place Jessica in drug rehab three times. “She came out and she told me how hard it was and she told me, ‘I don’t ever want to do that again.’”
But in the end, the addiction and bad life choices that drugs led to had a more powerful hold on Jessica than common sense.
“Between associates she hung out with, the wrong crowd, and the father of her youngest child, he supplied her, he would lock her in the room and has beat her so bad and she would never report it,” said Edwards.
“I hate knowing my sister…that this is something real and not something you see on TV all the time,” said Christina. “It’s something that you’re really going through.”
Pregnancy in the summer of 2012 led to premature birth the following spring while Jessica was still healing up from the latest beating handed out by her boyfriend and that led to an overdose the day before she went to East Washington Street and disappeared.
“She was taking drugs, she was trying to kick the habit, and she knew being pregnant and everything what would come and happen and everything with the baby where she had been beat that’s where she got into taking pills and he had beat her so bad so many different times he had messed her ankle up her hip was fractured like splintered down the hip through the spine,” said Edwards. “Jessica was trying to fight her addiction. She was trying to overcome that so she could get her son back, so she could have her son.”
Instead, on the last day the family saw her, Jessica announced she was going to the east side, probably to score drugs, whether her mother liked it or not.
“She had asked me for a pain pill because where he had beat her so bad and from where she was addicted and I told her no. I told her I’m not going to give and help your habit and she got mad and was very upset,” said Edwards. “She was going to her cousin’s house and they drink and there’s many men who would be there and I figured she would be doing drugs.”
Edwards called Jessica’s aunt who drove her to the cousin’s house, mostly because she didn’t want the abusive boyfriend coming over to the house to give her daughter a ride.
Fourteen hours later was the last phone call, the warning that the boyfriend was coming round to give her a ride in the middle of the night, and then Jessica disappeared.
Jessica’s family has spent the last four years visiting drug houses, looking for signs that she’d been there, and reading a diary she kept with names and addresses and accounts of what it was like to prowl neighborhoods looking for drugs.
“Someone knows what happened and I believe it’s more than one person and they know and they’re gonna eventually get caught,” said Edwards.
If you know what happened to Jessica Masker in mid-April of 2013, call Crime Stoppers at (317) 262-TIPS.