Kiely Rodni’s mother says she’ll ‘never give up hope’ of finding missing daughter as police scale back search

·8 min read

Kiely Rodni’s mother has said she will “never give up hope” of finding her daughter as investigators scale back the search for the missing teenager.

Lindsey Rodni-Nieman spoke to The Independent on Tuesday on what marked the 11th day since the 16-year-old vanished without a trace from a party at the Prosser Family Campground in Truckee, California.

“I don’t think I will ever give up hope that she’ll come back safely back to us,” she said.

“The mind reels. That doesn’t stop. But I do have people coming forward and sharing stories of their loved ones who went missing and then came back days, weeks and months later.”

Kiely was last seen around 12.30am on Saturday 6 August at a party of around 200 to 300 teenagers and young adults at the local campground.

Her cellphone last pinged around the same time close to Prosser Lake – the vast reservoir that runs around the campground. Kiely’s car – a silver 2013 Honda CRV – is also still missing.

Ms Rodni-Nieman told The Independent last week that her daughter sent her a final text message at 11.30pm saying that she would be leaving the party in around 45 minutes. The drive home takes around 25 to 30 minutes.

“She said she’d be leaving at 12.15 and was going to start heading home,” said Ms Rodni-Nieman.

That was the last time she heard from her daughter. She woke the next morning and realised that Kiely had never returned home.

Kiely’s friend Samantha Smith told The Independent that she last spoke to Kiely on the phone at around 12.30am. She had been planning to get a ride home from the party with Kiely but there was a change in plans because she said Kiely had been drinking and so was not in a position to drive. Instead, the two friends told each other “love you, good night, get home safe,” she said.

For the last 12 days, hundreds of law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies have been working on the ground, in the air and in the nearby waterways to try to find the missing teen.

On Monday, investigators announced that they are planning to scale back the search after finding no clues as to her whereabouts.

The search will become “more limited” and move into more of a “background investigative” phase from next week, Captain Sam Brown of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office said in a press conference.

Ms Rodni-Nieman said that it is “heavy” to think of how long the search has now gone on with no answers about what happened to her daughter.

Kiely Rodni’s car has a ram sticker beneath the rear wiper blade (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)
Kiely Rodni’s car has a ram sticker beneath the rear wiper blade (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)

But she said that she “understands the reasons” why the search is being scaled back, as authorities have “exhausted the area” around the campground.

“I understand the reasons behind their decisions and I support their effort. It’s because the area where they would have reasonably found her or her vehicle has been so thoroughly searched,” she said.

“The reason they’re doing that is that they’ve exhausted that area.”

She insisted she isn’t frustrated by the decision and praised law enforcement for being “very transparent” with the family about the strategy for finding her daughter.

“We’re confident that they’ve looked in every area that there is,” she said.

“Yesterday they kind of said the whole investigation is shifting because of how long we’re at now.

“And so as they start to transition their strategy, there’s a little of trying to remember that the sun shines and the days go on and quite frankly remembering that we have bills to pay… And perhaps there’s some healing in getting back to a little bit of a daily routine.”

Dive teams and air teams have already been called off as part of the search.

It is not clear if the shift away from an on-the-ground search is based on new information in the case or a belief that Kiely did leave the campground area that night.

Placer County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to The Independent’s questions about their decision.

One theory which was explored from the beginning of the investigation is that Kiely was abducted, based on the fact that her car is also missing.

Kiely was spotted in footage wearing this sweatshirt at the party (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)
Kiely was spotted in footage wearing this sweatshirt at the party (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)

Ms Rodni-Nieman said investigators are still “piecing together” whether or not she is still in the area around the campground.

“They are still piecing that together,” she said.

“They’re not saying definitively that her car isn’t there but saying they’ve looked and looked and looked and can’t find it there – there’s only a certain number of times you look for the same thing on your nightstand.

“The lack of forward movement in new information in this case has not been for a lack of resources or personnel or of want… Everyone has thrown everything at this.”

As Kiely’s mother, she is trying not to speculate on where her daughter could be.

“I don’t know what happened to her,” she said.

“I’m trying not to fall down any rabbit holes or create a narrative or try to piece together bits and pieces to make any kind of narrative.

“So much of getting through life is acceptance so we’re just working hard on accepting that right at this minute we don’t know what happened and we’re holding onto faith and hope.”

Ms Rodni-Nieman said that officials have kept her informed about any leads that looked promising in getting answers in the case.

One such lead came over the weekend when search teams located a “potential burial site”.

Following an extensive dig, search teams only uncovered the remains of a dead dog.

“We have as a family asked them to share any information with us when they feel that it is worthy of doing so,” she said.

Surveillance footage of Kiely at a Truckee business hours before she vanished (PCSO)
Surveillance footage of Kiely at a Truckee business hours before she vanished (PCSO)

“We don’t want to be pulling them away from their important work to share with us every single tip that comes through. We want to support them in doing their jobs which is piecing together what happened and find her and bring her home.”

Ms Rodni-Nieman continued to urge anyone who went to the campground party to come forward with information, photos and videos – no matter how insignificant it may seem.

“Regardless of what stage we’re at in the investigation, my level of intensity of urging and pleading anyone who was in the area to come forward with information remains the same,” she said.

“I’m not any more or any less invested in pleading for people to do that today as I was on day one as I will be next week so again I’m asking everyone – even if it’s photos of your friends and it doesn’t seem important, there’s a story that is still yet to be pieced together and photos tell a thousand words.

“So as many pieces we can get will all help us to be able to piece together the story. There’s no photo that’s too small, no piece of information too mundane.”

Now 12 days on from her disappearance, Ms Rodni-Nieman said that she is trying to take some moments to focus on self-care to help her cope with the situation.

Family members have come from across the US to support her and there have been moments of “laughter and telling stories and tears”.

For now, she is just getting by “minute to minute” and is “not counting the days” since she last saw her daughter as that is “kind of heavy”.

She has also taken comfort in support from a voluntary organisation made up of parents “who have suffered through the same tragedy that we are right now”.

Kiely Rodni is believed to have been wearing these necklaces when she disappeared (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)
Kiely Rodni is believed to have been wearing these necklaces when she disappeared (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)

“Being able to speak to people who can truly empathise and understand the situation is helpful,” she said.

“To see the strength and courage that they demonstrated in keeping the faith and hope alive is giving us strength to do the same.”

More than 1,100 tips sent in by the public but investigators have still been unable to piece together any of Kiely’s movements after around 12.30am on 6 August.

Investigators shared a new photo of Kiely’s vehicle on Monday, detailing hat it has a ram sticker below the rear wiper blade and Californian license plate number 8YUR127. Members of the public are urged to contact authorities if they spot a 2013 Honda CR-V with that same sticker.

On Sunday, Placer County Sheriff’s Office announced that investigators had uncovered footage of the 16-year-old at the party on the evening of 5 August.

In the footage, she is wearing a white hoodie covered in the phrase “odd future” in pink letters.

It is unclear if Kiely was still wearing or in possession of the sweatshirt when she went missing but officials are sharing the image in the hope that it could jog the memories of other partygoers.

This is the second sweatshirt the public has been alerted about in connection to the missing teenager.

Kiely also borrowed a dark hoodie with the Lana Del Rey lyrics “you don’t want to be forgotten, you just want to disappear” from someone at the party.

Surveillance footage, taken from a Truckee business about six hours before her disappearance, also shows the teenager was wearing a black spaghetti strap bodysuit, green Dickies pants with a black grommet belt and black Vans that night.

Law enforcement officials have also urged the public to keep a look out for a string of gold necklaces that Kiely is believed to have been wearing when she disappeared.

Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to call the Placer County Sheriff’s Office at 530-581-6320, and choose option 7. Tips can also be emailed to sheriff_tahoeinvesttips@placer.ca.gov and files, including images, can be uploaded to the Placer Sheriff’s Office here.