MCCLOUD, Calif. – Its been almost 20 years since 15-year-old Hannah Zaccaglini disappeared from McCloud, California. She was last seen walking home from a friend’s house on June 4, 1997. Her mother’s house was only a block away.
“The last time I saw her she was at the corner of Shasta Avenue and Minnesota and I told her I loved her and she said she loved me. I drove off into the store,” said Hannah’s mother, Jennifer Zaccaglini.
Police originally thought that Hannah had run away, but detectives determined she didn’t have the means to disappear on her own. Her family and police searched but no trace or body was ever found.
The last person to have seen Hannah was a neighbor Ed Henline Sr. Hannah would have passed by his house on her way home that night in 1997. Ed Henline Sr. was arrested in 2012 for the murder along with his son, Ed Henline Jr., who was arrested in connection to the crime. The Siskiyou County District Attorney decided not to file charges.
“We’ve had people in jail for this and they get let loose because the DA says that we don’t have enough evidence. I don’t believe that,” said Zaccaglini.
Investigators say it can be difficult to convict someone on murder charges when there’s no body. Hannah’s mother is convinced her old neighbor had something to do with both Hannah and another McCloud girl’s disappearance.
Karen Knechtel Mero disappeared just months before Hannah. She was reported missing after Hannah as her family thought Karen could be avoiding police. There had been a warrant out for her arrest. Investigators say the two cases are connected.
“The suspect who last saw both of those girls was the last person to see both of those girls before they went missing,” said Deputy Sheriff Jeff Moser. Moser worked as a detective on the case for over a year.
Karen was dating Ed Henline Jr at the time of her disappearance. After she was reported missing, police arrested Ed Henline Sr. and his wife, Debbie Henline on suspicion of welfare fraud. It was later found that the couple was cashing Karen’s disability checks. Karen had a liver transplant in 1994 and required medication. The pair plead guilty to perjury in 1998, payed a fine of $2,000 and were placed on 3 years probation.
Hannah’s mother believes that both cases should be re-opened. She’s pleading with the Siskiyou County District Attorney to do more for the two girls that went missing in McCloud.
“If we don’t have enough, then the DA needs to stand up and get Karen Knechtel Mero’s case going and not sit on it anymore,” said Zaccaglini. We’ve been sitting for 20 years. It’s time to stop sitting.”