Zaccaglini family still seeking answers

Skye Kinkade and Gene Eagle
Hannah Zaccaglini, left, was 15 when she disappeared from McCloud in June of 1997. Karin Knechtel-Mero, right, was 27 when she went missing in February, also in 1997. Sheriff Jon Lopey said he believes the two cases may be “somewhat related.”

Family and friends of Hannah Zaccaglini say they're "elated" that progress is finally being made to solve her 1997 disappearance. However, the recent arrests of McCloud father and son Ed Henline Sr. and Ed Henline Jr. don't come close to providing closure.

"The only thing we can hope for are answers," said family friend Loni Zeccola. "This closure everyone is talking about doesn't exist. This is a 15 year old girl that has been missing for 15 years. We want answers. We want to know what happened to Hannah, and we want to know why. Why did this take 15 years?"

Zeccola, who is responsible for the "Justice for Hannah" Facebook page and the "Where is Hannah?" website, said Hannah was an aspiring model and a cheerleader who was finishing up her sophomore year at McCloud High School when she disappeared on June 4, 1997. Though she has been painted in a demure light for the past 15 years, Loni described Hannah as "scrappy, vivacious and outgoing," a girl who said what she thought, had a thirst for learning, and was "very good" at everything she tried to do.

"She was in martial arts, she played the bass, she was very creative, very driven... she was her own drummer," Zeccola said.

Though the October discovery of bones in south county have caused a flurry of speculation that Hannah may have been found, Zeccola said analysis hasn't been finished and it's not clear whether the bones are human, much less that they are Hannah's.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said the bones may be connected to a cold case, but has yet to directly link them to any specific case.

And while arrests have been made, "there's a long road between arrest and conviction," Zeccola said.

Lopey said his department is putting "a lot of resources in Hannah's case," adding that there may be an additional arrest made in the near future.

"Putting him (Ed Henline Sr.) in jail is one thing, keeping him there and getting him convicted are two different things," Lopey said Monday afternoon. "We need to get the DA the info he needs to pursue this case successfully."

Arrests and evidence

Henline Sr., 57, was arrested Nov. 15, charged with first degree murder. Two days later, his son, Henline Jr., 35, was arrested in Klamath Falls, Ore., charged with conspiracy and accessory to commit a crime in connection with the case.

Henline Sr.'s bail was set at $500,000 on Nov. 19. He pleaded not guilty and remains in custody at the Siskiyou County Jail. He's being represented in court by Deputy Public Defender Kathryn Barton.

Zeccola said at first, the Zaccaglini family was "shocked" that Henline Sr. had bail set, but they're grateful progress is being made.

Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus said $500,000 is the bail per the "bail schedule," which is the local law made by the judges for standard bail amounts, and that "virtually everybody gets bail set... That is their right unless there is something extraordinarily dangerous about them given their crime, or that makes them extraordinarily unlikely to come to court."

Henline Jr. remains at Klamath County Jail. Lopey said he has elected not to submit to voluntary extradition, forcing law enforcement gain a Governor's Warrant, which proves his identity and shows probable cause of the criminal charges levelled against him. Lopey said he hoped to have the warrant by Tuesday afternoon.

Once Lopey has the Governor's Warrant in hand, Henline Jr. would be extradited to Siskiyou County for an arraignment whether he likes it or not, Lopey said.

Sheriff's spokesperson Allison Giannini said a search warrant was served at the Henline home in McCloud the day after Henline Sr.'s arrest. Detectives were looking for "anything pertinent to the case."

Other than this, law enforcement has been tight lipped about the evidence that led up to the two arrests, though Giannini said the discovery of the bones was not a factor.

"Because the analysis isn't done on those, investigators used other evidence for the arrests," she said. She was unsure when Chico State anthropologists would finish their analysis, though she hopes it will be "sooner, rather than later."

Karin Knechtel-Mero

Lopey said he feels Hannah's disappearance and the disappearance of 27 year old Karin Knechtel-Mero on Feb. 15, 1997 could be "somewhat related," and a parallel investigation is being conducted in her case.

Karin had been living at the Henline home with her boyfriend, Henline Jr., when she was last seen, he said.

"Right now we are doing everything we can to help the families through this," Lopey added.

15 years of questions

Zeccola said one of Hannah's family's biggest questions is why the community didn't rally to find her. Now that there's been progress made in the case, Zeccola said she hears plenty of outrage, which would have been more helpful in the days, weeks and months after her disappearance.

She's angry that more wasn't done by McCloud High School and the local press to get Hannah's case out there, and holds the majority of law enforcement at the time responsible for inaction.

Zeccola praised Lopey and District Attorney Kirk Andrus for the compassion and interest they've shown since the case was reopened in June.

"It's such a 180 degree turn, the response we've seen," Zeccola said. "Until last year, we heard nothing. We were stonewalled, told we needed to quit bugging the Sheriff's Department. Even the FBI gave up on this case... they never got any cooperation."

Zeccola pointed out that Hannah's case is still not solved, and she is still missing. She asks anyone that knows anything about the case, no matter how small or inconsequential it seems, to report the information, either by calling Siskiyou County Sheriff detective Jeff Moser at (530) 842-8764, or by going to the website

Zeccola added that although Henline Sr. and Jr. have been arrested, they have not been convicted. She hopes that enough evidence is gathered to convict them if they are indeed responsible – something she's personally been convinced of since a few months after Hannah's disappearance, she said.

"The website has accumulated quite a few tips that are all being followed up on," Zeccola said. "They go straight to Lopey and Andrus, and they do a great job of getting back to people right away. I don't know where some of them came from, and I don't care. I only want answers."