Kiely Rodni’s mother reveals she almost didn’t go to camp party as she begs teens to come forward

EXCLUSIVE: Kiely Rodni’s mother tells Rachel Sharp how ‘nothing was out of the ordinary’ the day her daughter disappeared and why she thinks someone knows something that will lead them to the missing teen

Thursday 11 August 2022 21:31 BST
Kiely Rodni vanished in the early hours of Saturday morning
Kiely Rodni vanished in the early hours of Saturday morning (AP/Placer County Sheriff's Office )

The mother of Kiely Rodni has revealed that her daughter almost didn’t go to the campground party the night she disappeared as she issued a gut-wrenching plea to local teenagers to help “piece together” what happened.

Lindsey Rodni-Nieman spoke to The Independent on Thursday as the search for her missing 16-year-old daughter entered its fifth day and investigators are no closer to getting answers as to her whereabouts.

She said that Kiely had planned to go to a car show in Reno with her mother on Friday night but texted her during the day to say that she was going to go to a party at the Prosser Family Campground instead.

It is not clear if the teenager ever left the campground that night.

She was last seen at around 12.30am on Saturday (6 August) at the party, where officials said around 200 to 300 teenagers had gathered in the woods. Her phone went offline at around the same time.

The teenager’s car – a silver 2013 Honda CRV – is also still missing five days on with multiple law enforcement agencies combing the local area by land, air and water for any clues as to what happened.

Ms Rodni-Nieman told The Independent she wishes Kiely had never gone to the party that night.

“There was this classic car show in Reno – she’s so dynamic she loves everything from playing the violin to car shows – and so she was maybe going to see some drag races with us there,” she said.

The mother and daughter talked about the plan on Friday morning – the last time they saw each other.

“Later that day, Kailee then texted saying she was going to go to a party instead of going to the car show. She’d been to the car show already and there was this party in Prosser,” said her mother.

“I said ‘yeah that’s fine, of course you can go to the party’.”

While she thinks about how things would be different if Kiely had joined her at the car show that night, she said “it’s not helpful”.

“There’s a Willie Nelson song that ‘I’ve got a long list of real good reasons, for all the things I’ve done… And regret is just a memory written on my brow. And there’s nothing I can do about it now’,” she said.

Kiely Rodni in a photo just hours before her disappearance
Kiely Rodni in a photo just hours before her disappearance (PCSO)

“It’s not helpful [to think about that]. What is helpful is to pray and keep the faith that we’ll be seeing her soon and keep the faith that whoever knows something is going to find the courage to come forward and share their information.”

There was “nothing out of the ordinary” with Kiely on the day she vanished without a trace, she said.

Ms Rodni-Nieman said she last saw Kiely on Friday morning and spoke to her by text message that night – not long before her last known sighting.

It was just like any normal day.

Kiely had come downstairs in their home that morning and mother and daughter chatted about their plans for the day.

“It was ‘morning, hi, love you’ and talking about plans for the day – just a little check-in as normal,” said Ms Rodni-Nieman.

“She was going to see some friends and maybe go to the gym… We also talked about her plans to go camping the following night. And then we said ‘have a great day and love you’.”

She said: “She did not seem out of the ordinary at all.

“Everything seemed the same, she had a big smile on her face and she was ready to greet the day. She was having a good day and week and was excited about going camping the following night. We had a great exchange.”

The mother and daughter stayed in contact throughout the day and last spoke at around 11.30pm that night when Kiely texted to say she would be setting off on the 25-30 minute drive home from the party.

“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 choked back tears as she spoke of her regret that she didn’t stay awake until her daughter got back home.

Ms Rodni-Nieman said that she asked her daughter to wake her if she was asleep so she would know she was back home safe.

Kiely Rodni has not been seen since the early hours of Saturday
Kiely Rodni has not been seen since the early hours of Saturday (PCOS)

“The thing I regret most is not waiting for her to get home,” she sobbed.

“I fell asleep. I asked her to wake me when she got home… but I didn’t notice until 8am the next morning.

“When I woke up and noticed she hadn’t woken me I first thought maybe my husband was still awake when she got back and so she didn’t wake me.

“But I jumped up and checked her car and it wasn’t there. I went to her room and she wasn’t there.”

Ms Rodni-Nieman said that their family members share cellphone location data and so she checked her daughter’s phone.

The last location data was at the campground where the party took place at 12.03am.

She has since learned that Snapchat data shows her cellphone at the same location at around 12.30am.

Ms Rodni-Nieman said it would be odd for her daughter to let her phone go dead, adding that she has a charger in her car.

After seeing her location data at the campground on Saturday morning, Ms Rodni-Nieman immediately messaged Kiely’s best friend to check if she had gone to stay there.

Her friend confirmed that she hadn’t and drove right away back to the campground to look for her.

When the friend couldn’t find Kiely or her car, Ms Rodni-Nieman said she “knew immediately that something was wrong”.

She contacted several local law enforcement agencies and California Highway Patrol and filed a missing persons report right away.

“There was no question that this is so out of character that we needed to get a search going right away,” she said.

Kiely Rodni’s 2013 silver Honda CRV which is also missing
Kiely Rodni’s 2013 silver Honda CRV which is also missing (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)

Over the last five days, a huge search has taken place around the campground, with dive teams, cadaver dogs and multiple law enforcement agencies including the FBI and DHS all drafted in to hunt for the missing teen.

Investigators have also combed through the route from the campground to Kiely’s home, including the dirt road that leads to the family property.

Her disappearance and lack of contact is completely out of the ordinary, said her mother.

Kiely normally has a curfew to be home by 11.30pm but sometimes messages asking to stay out until 12.30am if she is at a party.

“We always grant that. She never misses a curfew and if she is going to be late she’ll call or text to let us know,” said Ms Rodni-Nieman.

It’s also not unusual for her to hang out at the Prosser Campground, said Ms Rodni-Nieman.

The campsite has been a regular haunt for local teenagers going back decades and Kiely had been to parties there before Friday.

“It feels like a safe place. Like a neighbourhood backyard,” said Ms Rodni-Nieman.

“It’s a couple of miles out of town and is just this open space with reservoirs and camping and dirt roads. Lots of people go riding dirt bikes or hiking and it’s a community space.”

What was different that night was that the party was “very large” with teens from different schools all over the region descending there.

“There’s not generally so many people there. That’s what made it unusual,” said Kiely’s mother.

Officials have said that around 200 to 300 teenagers and young adults gathered for the party that night.

One of Kiely’s friends, Samantha Smith, said that some “sketchy, older guys” turned up.

The hoodie Kiely Rodni borrowed the night she vanished
The hoodie Kiely Rodni borrowed the night she vanished (Placer County Sheriff’s Office)

She told The Independent on Monday that she was the last person to speak to Kiely in a phone call at around 12.30am on Saturday.

Earlier in the night, the two friends had arranged for Kiely to give Ms Smith a ride home from the party.

However, later Ms Smith said Kiely had been drinking and so “was in no state to drive”.

They then spoke on the phone and told each other to get home safe.

“At 12.36am she called me … and this is the last call anybody had with her. We said ‘love you, good night. Get home safe,’ and that’s the last thing we heard of her,” Ms Smith said on Monday.

That was the last known contact Kiely had with anyone, she said.

Ms Rodni-Nieman said that there are a lot of missing pieces around who Kiely left with, when and under what circumstances.

“That’s the part we can’t figure out – who she left with or when or what,” she said.

The mother issued a desperate appeal to partygoers to come forward to help them piece together what happened as she believes someone must know something that could help locate the 16-year-old.

“We are desperate for any other teens to come out and share the last pieces of the story that nobody seems to be able to piece together,” she said.

“If we could just have that piece of the story of who she did leave with, when, which way did she go. I’m imploring the teenagers and the parents of the teenagers.”

She added: “I do think that there are stories from that night that have not been told and I think that as soon as those people who have stories have the courage to come forward and share it that would be such a massive turning point and could help slingshot us forward.”

She has two messages for the young people out there who have any information about her daughter’s disappearance.

“My message as Kiely’s mom is please come forward even if it’s something that you think could get you in trouble it’s not going to get you in trouble,” she said.

Nothing was ‘out of the ordinary’ the day she vanished, said her mother
Nothing was ‘out of the ordinary’ the day she vanished, said her mother (PCOS/Facebook)

“Just help her come home… even if it’s scary and feels scary… stop keeping secrets.”

Her second message is “as a mom in general” to “just look out for one another”.

“Don’t let someone get lost in the fray,” she begged.

Ms Rodni-Nieman also urged “parents to beg their kids to share anything they know”.

Law enforcement officials have repeatedly said that they are not interested in investigating teenage drinking or partying.

Teen-to-teen meetings have been held throughout the week in an attempt to create a safe space where teens feel comfortable sharing what happened.

Not knowing what has happened to Kiely is “a very difficult place”, said her mother.

But she is refusing to let herself think of the worst possible scenario.

“The mind reels and I think that our imagination is our best asset and our worst enemy and I don’t want to give power to any of my worst thoughts by speaking them out and making them words,” she said.

Ms Rodni-Nieman said the family is just holding onto hope that “one day this is a memory and when that day comes she’ll be back with us”.

She described her daughter as a “dynamic” and “wonderful” teenager who is “interested in so many things” from music and cars to science and cooking.

“She started playing music at two – she plays the violin, mandolin, guitar, the ukulele, she sings – her voice is so beautiful…  she is so dynamic and in that she is able to make direct connections with practically everybody she meets,” she said.

“She is a human of her conviction – she does what she says she is going to do. She has that integrity that either you have or you don’t.”

As the search drags on with no answers as to Kiely’s whereabouts, Ms Rodni-Nieman said she is grateful for all the support from her loved ones, the local community and law enforcement.

Family members have travelled from all across the US to California to support her and join in the search.

The family also has a “great network” in the local community who are also helping Kiely’s eight-year-old brother to cope with the situation.

She also praised law enforcement and the “amazing” search teams who have “extensively” combed through the area looking for Kiely.

But, as time ticks by, the nights and mornings are becoming especially hard.

“It’s the nights and mornings that are really difficult because we’re just at home and idle and it always feels better to be in action and be moving and doing something,” she said.

“I’m so grateful my family is here to help and to breathe love and energy and distraction into the home… Then we go out into the world and the town and we’re surrounded by the love and support of the community.”

Close friends and community members gathered together for a vigil on Wednesday night, including Kiely’s old violin teacher who played some of the teenager’s favourite songs.

“To know that she is on so many people’s minds is comforting to know,” said Ms Rodni-Nieman.

Another press conference will be held on Thursday afternoon to give the public an update on the case.

A $50,000 reward is being offered for information and the teen’s friends have also launched a GoFundMe to help in the search.

Anyone with information is asked to email Sheriff_TahoeInvest@placer.ca.gov, contact Detective Stephanie Frykberg at (530) 392-5609, or call the anonymous tip line at (530) 581-6320.

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