Seven years after the discovery of her body, police believe they know who killed Greeley’s 12-year-old Kayleah Wilson


Timeline for the disappearance and death of Kayleah Wilson:

» Sunday, March 28, 2010, 3:40 p.m.: Twelve-year-old Kayleah leaves her home to walk to meet a friend at the Greeley Mall across the U.S. 34 Bypass. She was going to a birthday party with that friend. That is the last time she is seen by her family.

» Same day, 7 p.m.: When her daughter hasn’t returned at the time she was supposed to, Kayleah’s mother, April Wilson, first calls her friends to see if they know where she is.

» About 10 p.m.: April notifies Greeley police of her missing daughter. Police begin a search of the area, and also contact Kayleah’s friends. They believe at first the girl may have been a runaway. Then they learn she never met her friend or arrived at the birthday party.

» Monday, March 29: April and Kayleah’s brother, 17-year-old Mackenzie, put out missing child posters with her photo and the words: “We love you! Come home, call us. Jesus loves you! We are going to Cowboy Church on Easter.” The family hangs the posters on fences and telephone poles in the area and pass out the posters to people living nearby or just walking in the area. There are no answers.

» March 31: Greeley police have determined it’s not a runaway case and increase the searches and investigation. Search dogs are brought in, but find no trails of the girl. Police send out the first press releases because they are no longer looking for a runaway. Twenty-five police officers are on the case, and the FBI is notified. They will bring in 50 agents to search.

» April 1: A Facebook group, “Prayers for Kayleah Wilson’s safe return” has launched a campaign; the Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force steps in to help. Searches are organized for the next several days. No one finds any trace of the girl.

» April 4: On Easter Sunday, April Wilson’s family attends the Northern Colorado Cowboy Church services to receive help in praying for Kayleah. Police agencies continue to search, combing the outlying areas from her home and the Greeley Mall.

» April 5: A security camera at the Greeley Mall parking lot shows Kayleah walking through the lot, but then out of camera range. There is nothing else and no one else suspicious in the video. More searches are organized.

» Early morning, May 19: A ditch rider turns on the water to an irrigation ditch in west Greeley, about a half-mile from the Wilson home. At the base of a 10-foot waterfall, he sees a small body, turning in the rolling water. Police immediately cover the area and Kayleah’s body is found. The same day, Kayleah’s former boyfriend, Robert Montoya, 18, is arrested and bond is set at $100,000. He is not arrested for the murder, but because he admitted to having sex with the 12-year-old girl, he was arrested for sexual assault on a child.

» May 25: Hundreds attend the memorial service for Kayleah Wilson in downtown Greeley. Her body has been cremated, and some ashes are left in a memorial wall at Sunset Memorial Gardens. The rest of her ashes are in an urn that April Wilson places in her bedroom, so she can talk with her daughter.

» Ten months later, on March 22, 2011: The trial begins for Robert Montoya.

» March 25: After a three-day trial, Montoya is convicted and sentenced to eight years to life in the state penitentiary.

» December 2014: Montoya wins an a appeal of his conviction. His case is remanded back to court for the possibility of a new trial.

» April 2016: No new trial is held, charges are dropped against Montoya, and he is allowed to go free.

Source: Greeley Tribune archives, as compiled by Mike Peters

Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner said he and his officers know who murdered 12-year-old Kayleah Wilson in spring 2010. Garner said detectives just need to gather enough evidence to prove it.

“We don’t have any doubts,” he said, “but there are standards of proof we have to meet.”

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the discovery of her body.

Seven years ago in March, Kayleah’s name became a household word when she vanished as she made her way to meet a friend at the Greeley Mall before the two were supposed to attend a birthday party together. When her mother, April Wilson, hadn’t heard from her daughter later that night, she called the police.

At first, the Greeley police believed Kayleah might have run away from home, although they discarded that theory early on. What followed was a massive search of the area, one that included support from the FBI and national child search agencies. The case, which garnered national headlines, was a major one for the Greeley Police Department.

“Any unsolved homicide is a big deal,” Garner said, “but the murder of a 12-year-old girl is particularly onerous.”

Law enforcement set up roadblocks and canvassed neighborhoods but for almost two months, they were unable to find the girl.

It was a ditch rider who found her by chance, early on the morning of May 19, 2010, when he turned on the water in a west Greeley irrigation ditch. Her body was rolling in the water at the base of a 10-foot waterfall in the ditch.

Six days later, hundreds of people flooded downtown Greeley for a memorial service in her honor.

In the weeks before the discovery of Kayleah’s body, the Greeley Police Department would devote 25 officers to the case.

Police were never able to make an arrest for her murder; they eventually arrested Kayleah’s boyfriend, 18-year-old Robert Montoya, for sexual assault.

He was convicted of that crime the next year. Three years later, he won an appeal, and last April, the Weld district attorney dismissed the charge against him.

The Greeley police’s file on Kayleah’s murder remains open.

“It’s not something we set on the back burner,” Garner said.

He said as with other cases, Kayleah’s remains open, and at any given time a varying number of officers might be working on it. He said he’s confident the case will one day be closed.

“We would like to see anyone involved held accountable,” he said. “We think ultimately that’s what will happen. We believe we know who murdered Kayleah.”

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