Tom Payne, right, father of Kayla Croft-Payne and her aunts talk with detective Dan Riordan about the case today following a vigil on the fourth anniversary of when the teen disappeared.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – She wasn’t tossed down a well in Winlock, and it doesn’t appear her online modeling portfolio delivered her into the hands of some unknown photographer.
But four years after 18-year-old Kayla Croft-Payne failed to return home, a detective said he has some ideas of what might have happened.
“There’s a lot of rumors, a lot of speculation,” Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Dan Riordan said.
The friends and associates of the Lewis County girl like to talk a lot, just not necessarily to law enforcement, he said.
Riordan is working on the case that began in May of 2010, and spoke to some individuals today. He says over the next month, he has some investigating to follow up on.
He didn’t share his theory, or very specifically how likely he thinks it is this path will lead to answers.
“I can hope, I can pray, I’d like to get this off my desk,” Riordan said. “And I’d like to bring the family some closure.”
Croft-Payne was living in a trailer between Chehalis and Napavine on April 28, 2010 when she last logged onto her MySpace Internet account. She was reported missing a week later by a friend who hadn’t seen or heard from her for several days.
As they have before, her father, mother, other family and friends gathered today at Penny Playground in Recreation Park in Chehalis in recognition of the anniversary of when she vanished. They released balloons with messages to the young woman.
Again, they appealed for anyone who knows anything to speak up.
“I miss her dearly,” her mother Michelle Croft said. “I just wish someone would find her and bring her home.”
Her father Thomas Payne, formerly from Longview, traveled from his home north of Seattle, with his younger daughter.
“Every year I say I’m not going to do another one of these,” Payne said. “But if I stop, it’s like giving up on my daughter.”
Thirteen-year-old Jada is having a tough time too, he said.
“She felt like I do, she didn’t want to give up on sissy,” Payne said.
Many theories have swirled around the disappearance, such as perhaps Croft-Payne died of a drug overdose, prompting the sheriff’s office to point out hiding a body is not a felony.
The sheriff’s office and family have described the young woman as jobless and somewhat transient, living and staying in Chehalis, in Vader and Winlock in the year before she went missing.
She was also known to spend time in Pierce, Grays Harbor and even Kitsap counties. One early search with cadaver-sniffing dogs took place in the Toutle area in Cowlitz County.
Riordan, the third detective who has handled the case, led a search last May in which deputies spent two days digging through mounds of garbage and then excavated and drained two wells at property on Ferrier Road outside Winlock.
Nothing of interest was located except for a dog carcass.
Her aunt Karen Hinton has connected with a Vancouver, Wash.-based organization that last year at this time was investigating women and girls exploited by online modeling sites.
Croft-Payne wanted to be a model, and some of her last postings on social media sites suggested she had gone to get pictures taken for a modeling portfolio.
Detectives ran into somewhat of a dead end when they looked into the site called Model Mayhem. Using a search warrant to get information from the company that houses information for the site, deputies were told there was no account history on the website for Croft-Payne.
It turned out her family located the particular account they had seen and it turned out to be on a different modeling website. Detectives followed up on that too, without any results, Riordan said.
“A red herring,” he said. “That’s been cleared.”
Croft-Payne is a white female with blue eyes and brown hair. Detectives describe her as 5-feet 9-inches tall and about 130 pounds.
Anyone with any information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 360-748-9286.
Anonymous tips can be left at: Crime Stoppers of Lewis County 1-800-748-6422.
For background, read : “Kayla Croft-Payne: Missing Lewis County teen’s parents still seeking answers” from Friday March 25, 2011, here
Tom Payne, father, and Michelle Croft, mother, of Kayla Croft-Payne are among those who came together at Penny Playground.
Balloons float away from those gathered at Penny Playground to remember Kayla Croft-Payne. / Courtesy photo by National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation