On October 18, 1989, Siblings Charles Chia, 8, and Jennifer Chia, 6, were kidnapped after getting off their school bus. Their bus stop was just 100 yards from their apartment building in the southern area of Reno, NV. Nine months after the children’s disappearance, their remains were discovered in a shallow grave along a stretch of Interstate 70, just outside of Blairsden, California, approximately 60 miles west of Reno. The investigation of the Chia murders remains open yet is presently unsolved.
The Disappearance of Charles and Jennifer Chia
On the afternoon of October 18, 1989, Charles and Jennifer Chia rode the school bus home from Anderson Elementary, 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, NV. 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.
The Discovery Of The Chia Children
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 down the side of a roadway embankment on a turnout on Interstate 70, just outside of Blairsden, CA. 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.
An Extortion Conviction
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.
The Ongoing Investigation
Despite the 32+ years 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. He continues to encourage anyone with information to contact him directly at (775) 830-8877.
There are several ways to contact authorities with further information. The Reno Police Department can be reached (775) 334-2444. The Nevada FBI can be reached at (775) 825-6600, An organization called Secret Witness has been assisting investigators and the family. They can be reached at (775) 322-4900, or online at www.secretwitness.com. You can also text a tip to 847411 (Tip 411) with the keyword “SW”.
Charles and Jennifer Chia were laid to rest in Mountain View Cemetery in Reno, NV. They share a cemetery plot. Jennifer’s inscription includes her personal information and a Cinderella etching. Charles’s inscription includes his personal information and a Donald Duck etching.