On the afternoon of October 18, 1989, Charles Chia, 8, and Jennifer Chia, 6, rode the school bus home from Anderson Elementary in Reno, Nevada, as they normally did. Their school bus dropped them off at approximately 3:30 p.m. at their assigned bus stop, which was the corner of Talbot Lane and Redfield Parkway in the southern section of Reno. When they didn’t arrive at their apartment, the children’s grandmother, who was their after-school sitter, contacted their mother Ann Chang, who had been visiting her father in Taiwan. She also notified the police. According to initial reports, Jennifer was age 6 with black hair. On the day that she disappeared, she was wearing a white dress with black polka dots, white socks with light green shoes. She was carrying a blue backpack and a Miss Piggy lunchbox.
Charles was described as age 8 with black hair. On the day that he disappeared, he was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt with a blue pullover, and blue jeans. He was carrying a blue and red backpack.
In the weeks following the children’s disappearance, Ann Chang made a public plea for her children’s safe return. Missing person information for the Chia children appeared on flyers and roadside billboards. Investigators followed up every lead, with no further evidence or clues being discovered.
On July 25, 1990, nine-months after their disappearance, the skeletal remains of the Chia children were discovered by a highway worker. They were located at this unmarked pullout across the way down the side of a roadway embankment along Highway 70, just outside of Blairsden, California, some 60 miles to the northwest of Reno. Due to the condition of the remains, the medical examiner was unable to determine their cause of death. Both children were wearing the clothing that they had been wearing the day that they disappeared. Investigators surmised both children had been murdered not long after they had been abducted.
One week after the Chia children’s disappearance, a man had contacted the family, demanding to be paid a ransom of $100,000 for the children’s safe return. Investigators determined his identity and arrested James Groom for extortion. Groom admitted that he had no knowledge of the children’s disappearance. Later in the investigation, witnesses did describe a vehicle resembling Groom’s that they had spotted near the California crime scene. Groom served out his sentence for the extortion charge with no incident. At present, his location and the location of his vehicle are unknown, but investigators did find it peculiar that the location of the Chia children’s remains were approximately 2 miles away from a onetime residence of Groom’s. Aside from the extortion conviction, investigators were unable to make a connection between James Groom and the Chia murders.
At the time of this photo, 33 years have passed since the abductions and murders of Charles and Jennifer Chia. The investigation has remained open and active. Investigators continue to ask the public for any information to further the investigation. The initial lead detective, Ron Dreher, has since retired from the police department and is now a private investigator who continues to work the case.