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   Over two years ago (Feb. 15, 1997), a childhood friend of mine, Karin Elizabeth Knechtel-Mero has turned up missing.  Although it has been 20 years since I have seen Karin, it none the less has come as shock that know one has seen nor heard from her since the above date.   What makes matters worse, in 1994 she had a liver transplant and is on anti-rejection medication.  Unfortunately, she has not reported to her doctor to refill her prescription for her medication.  Karin was living with her alleged "boyfriend" at the time of her disappearance.  Her "boyfriend" and her father have written several checks against her checking account, eventually bouncing a few.  She was receiving $700 disability due to her surgery to help pay for the medication she was taking.  I do not know Hannah Zaccaglini, but she also disappeared from the same location under suspicious circumstances, so I have included her description here as well.  Click on the two links below to get descriptions of Karin and Hannah.  If you have information that might lead to finding these two girls, please follow this link and tell what you know.  Thank you.

Karin Elizabeth Knechtel-Mero

Hannah Zaccaglini

The following articles are reprinted with permission.  They appear here as they appeared in the Record Searchlight.

Disappearance worries couple


Detectives said the disappearance of Karin Mero, 28, of McCloud is connected to the case of the missing teen-ager Hannah Zaccaglini.

by Anne Hart, Record Searchlight staff reporter.

    McCLOUD -- Bob and Alice Knechtel's only daughter is the focus of the second missing-person investigation in this mill town of about 1,600 in the past two years.

    The Mount Shasta couple want authorities to find out if someone killed their daughter and why.

    Karin Knechtel Mero, 28, of McCloud disappeared more than one year ago.

    "We are still working this as a missing person's case.  We have no suspects unless we have evidence of foul play," said Siskiyou County sheriff's Detective Lou Delgado.

    The Knechtels last saw Mero when they brought her chicken noodle soup and cough syrup in McCloud, where she was staying.

    That was Valentine's Day 1997, at the Henline's family house on Minnesota Avenue.  Investigators didn't consider her missing until months later.

    Mero was staying there with her boyfriend, Ed Henline Jr., 20.  The Knechtels said they did not approve of the relationship because their daughter was still married to Marc Mero of McCloud.

    Detectives said the Henline house was also where a missing McCloud girl, Hannah Zaccaglini, 15, was last seen.  She vanished June 4, 1997, after walking with family friend Ed Henline Sr., 42, near his house, detectives said.  She was walking home from her former boyfriend's apartment.

    Sheriff's detectives and FBI agents involved in both cases do not know how Zaccaglini or Mero disappeared from a town that has not had a murder since 1984.

    "When you have two cases like this it is frustrating.  We're doing everything we can think of doing.  All we can do is more of the same, unless somebody can come up with some information," Delgado said.

    Mero's medical condition also is a factor in this case.  Doctors who know Mero say she has little chance of being alive.  She had a liver transplant in 1994 at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and to prevent organ rejection she must take $2,000 worth of medicine a month, paid for by government assistance.  Mero cannot receive the medicine without a prescription, Detective Delgado said.  Her prescription -- which usually allows for a 90-day supply worth of medicine -- has not been renewed and has some remaining refills yet to be used, he said.

    "They can't miss more than a few days of it (medicine) without putting themselves at very serious risk," said Dr. Robert Gish, medical director of the transplant program at California Pacific Medical Center.

    Mero also was required to send blood counts to the hospital each month.  The hospital has not heard from Mero since February 1997.

    Detectives stopped Mero's government assistance -- including about $700 a month in disability payments -- in November to see if she would come forward because her income was gone.  She has not.

    Mero is listed as "lost to follow-up" at the hospital and is most likely not receiving her medication, said Kathy Tevis, the facility's transplant coordinator.

    The hospital keeps track of about 600 liver transplant patients, making it difficult to determine for certain if Mero is receiving her medication by way of another prescription, Gish said.

    "The longer it goes on and the more stuff that comes up, the more we are convinced that she was murdered," said Mero's father, Bob Knechtel, 54.

    The Knechtels did not officially report Mero as missing at the Sheriff's Department until Oct. 16, 1997.  They tried to file a report in May after not receiving a characteristic "wish list" from Mero on her 28th birthday.  They were told by Sheriff's Department officials that she had a right to privacy.

    Sheriff's detectives thought Mero was in hiding, the Knechtels said.

    When the Knechtel's called the Henlines numerous times and asked for Mero, they were told their daughter was out, Bob Knechtel said.

    Mero's parents also continuously asked officials at California Pacific Medical Center if Mero was in contact with them and met the same obstacle: Mero has the right not to notify them of her whereabouts.

    "This is when we found out that parents have nothing to say once a child becomes an adult," said Alice Mero [Knechtel], 53.

    The Knechtels said Mero was a stubborn woman who sometimes lost contact with them.  But they said she always remained in touch with her best friend, Jennifer Coe, 29, of Dunsmuir.

    Coe and Mero were friends since the two girls were 6.  Coe, a phlebotomist at Mercy Medical Center in Mount Shasta, took Mero's monthly blood samples after her transplant.

    When Mero and her boyfriend -- Henline -- lived in Billings, Mont., Mero often called Coe to say she was living in a methamphetamine house -- trying to take care of the babies of people on drugs, Coe said.   She said Mero did not use drugs because of her transplant.

    But Coe said she has not heard from Mero for more than a year.

    Delgado said he was not involved when the Knechtels tried to report Mero as missing to the Sheriff's Department.  But he said deputies are limited in what they can do when people don't want to be found.

    "Generally, a missing person's report will be taken at any time unless evidence indicates that she voluntarily left," Delgado said.

    In October, the Sheriff's Department changed its approach.  Detectives contacted the Knechtels and told them to file a missing person's report.

    Detectives told the Knechtels they found connections between their daughter's disappearance and the Hannah Zaccaglini case, but declined to say what those similarities are.

    Mero's health also altered the deputies' view on the case, Delgado said.

    "We knew she had a medical problem, but we didn't know the severity of it until then," Delgado said.

    Then FBI agents and Child Quest International Inc. also became involved in the Mero case, said Delgado.

    Once the parents had a missing person's report, hospital officials were finally able to tell them they hadn't heard from Mero, the Knechtels said.

    Detectives said they have yet to question Ed Henline Jr. about the case, but did interview his parents, Ed and Debbie Henline.

    Mero's boyfriend -- also known as "Hootie" and "JR" -- said he hasn't talked to Mero since they broke up and she left more than a year ago.  He said he and Mero didn't have a fight, but simply ended their yearlong relationship.

    "She always said if we broke up she was going to find some old sugar daddy in Florida," said Henline, who said he plans to marry his current girlfriend, Denise Cousins.

    Henline said he has no reason to believe Mero is dead.  He said the disappearance of Zaccaglini and Mero from his family's house is a fluke.

    "It's just by chance that it happened that way," Henline said.  "People are blowing everything out of proportion.  She's somewhere around.  I think it's just small-town rumors getting to everybody."

    The Knechtels admit Mero was a difficult child who often told her parents to fix her problems.  She even failed to learn to drive because her parents or friends toted her wherever she wanted to go.

    That's why the Knechtels said they know their daughter was harmed.  She was so pampered that she would never go more than a year without withdrawing money from an automated bank machine or calling someone for help.  Mero hasn't made a bank machine withdrawal since February 1997, her parents said.

    She also left her purse and checkbook behind at the Henlines' home, her parents said.

    "What we may have to live with is never knowing" said Mero's father.  "We've already made up our minds that there is no hope."

    Anyone with information about the Mero case can call the Sheriff's Department at () 841-2900.


Missing woman's checks forged; duo held


A couple was arrested Thursday on suspicion of forging checks that belong to a woman who disappeared from their home in February 1997.

by Anne Hart, Record Searchlight staff reporter.

   McCLOUD -- Karin Knechtel Mero's disability money bought almost a year's supply of groceries and goods for a McCloud family, officials said Thursday.

    Authorities arrested a McCloud couple outside their home about noon Thursday on suspicion of forging checks on Mero's account.

    Mero disappeared from the Henline home on Minnesota Avenue in February 1997, leaving behind her checkbook, purse and other personal items.  She was staying there with her boyfriend, Ed "J.R." Henline Jr., 20.

    Debbie and Ed Henline Sr. are suspected of spending Mero's disability money throughout an eight-month period, said Siskiyou County sheriff's deputies.

    Mero received $700 a month from the government because she had a liver transplant in 1994, her parents said.  Sheriff's detectives stopped Mero's government assistance in November [1997].

    The Henlines were being held at the Siskiyou County Jail in Yreka in lieu of $15,000 bail each.

    The Henlines' two minor children, a daughter and teen-age [son] were taken into custody by Siskiyou County Children's Protective Services.

    Sheriff's deputies, FBI agents and investigators with the Siskiyou County district attorney's office searched the Henline home Thursday after the arrest.

    Mero, 28, has not contacted her parents, Bob and Alice Knechtel of Mount Shasta, her estranged husband Marc Mero of McCloud or any friends or relatives, authorities said.

    Nor has Mero received her regular doses of medicine from California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.  Doctors there said Mero must take medicine daily to prevent organ rejection.

    The Knechtels last saw their daughter on Valentine's Day 1997, when they visited her outside the Henline home.

    The Henline house was also where a missing McCloud 15-year-old, Hannah Zaccaglini, was last seen on June 4, detectives said.

    Detectives have no evidence how the two people disappeared from the former mill town of about 1,600, which has not had a murder since 1984.  But both missing-person cases are considered suspicious, said sheriff's Lt. Charlie Simpson.

    "This is a start that maybe we can find out where the girls are now," said Mero's 54-year-old father, about the arrest of the couple.

    For Mero's parents, the arrest of the Henlines reinforces their suspicions that their only daughter was harmed.

    "It's beginning to get rid of the frustration of knowing something is wrong and nothing is being done," said Alice Knechtel, 53.  "At least they are doing something.  Maybe now it will get finished."

    [this part of the article missing in my copy] ... (period)ically told people they had Mero's permission to use the checks.

    "She usually said she just got paid for something and, 'Would it be al right if she used Karin's (check)?' " said McCloud business owner Jill Warner.

    Warner said she received two bad checks for a total of $80 written in October on Mero's account at her restaurant, Jilly's Summit Club, the Pizza and Pasta Place.  Warner said her restaurant took Mero's checks from the couple throughout last summer.

    Meanwhile, Mero's family and friends want the arrest of the Henlines to serve as the beginning of the end to the case of McCloud's two missing people.

    "I hope this will get the ball rolling on getting to the bottom of things.  We want to know what happened," said Jennifer Coe of Dunsmuir, a friend of Mero's since the two were 6.

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