Photo Courtesy of The Charley Project
When an unknown visitor knocked on nine-year-old Anthonette Cayedito's apartment door in the middle of the night, she got up to answer it. Born Christmas Day in 1976, Anthonette was already responsible for much of the household duties. The little girl saw to it that everyone was fed, and the apartment was cleaned.
Sometimes there was adult supervision, but most of the time, Anthonette took care of both the apartment and her younger sisters. So, it wasn't strange when dressed in her pink nightgown, she went to see who was knocking. Mysteriously, however, Anthonette was never seen again.
Penny Cayedito, the girl's mother, had returned to her Gallup, New Mexico home near midnight. She sent the babysitter home early and went to bed just before 3 a.m. Claiming to have slept through the knock, Penny didn't become aware of Anthonette's absence until 7 a.m., when it was time for the girls to get up for school.
The Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety was notified, followed by the Gallup Police Department. Soon, an intensive search began, and the public was told to keep an eye out for the little girl with a birthmark on her right cheek and scars on her knee and lip. Anthonette, according to her family, wore a silver necklace with a turquoise cross pendant and required eyeglasses.
Local residents, friends, family, and professional search teams jumped into action. Still, they found no evidence of the little girl or her abductor. One of Anthonette's sisters told investigators that the door's mysterious person could have been one of their uncles. The girls' uncle was quickly ruled out after intense police interrogation, and the case was once again at a standstill.
Photo Courtesy of Newspapers.com
Approximately a year after Anthonette's disappearance, Gallup police received a mysterious phone call from what appeared to be a female child. The caller, claiming to be Anthonette Cayedito, stated she was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then, the voice of what appeared to be an enraged male can be heard shouting, "Who said you could use the phone?" A struggle seems to take place next and is quickly followed by a shriek. The phonecall is abruptly cut-off and, therefore, could not be traced. Decades later, theories still abound as to the call's authenticity.
In Carson City, Nevada, roughly four years after Anthonette's disappearance, a server at a local diner notified authorities after an odd encounter with a teenaged girl. The waitress explained to investigators that the young girl was with a couple that appeared to be "unkempt."
According to the waitress, the young girl repeatedly dropped her fork, and each time the waitress bent down to retrieve it, the girl would squeeze her hand. The server also claimed to have found a note hidden under the teen's plate after the group left. The message was written on a napkin and read, "Help me! Call police." Police have stated the waitress's story was investigated, but it could not be verified.
In 1992, the popular television show Unsolved Mysteries featured Anthonette's story. Calls flooded the show's tipline, but no new information ever materialized. After Anthonette's mother failed a polygraph, many suspected she knew more about the disappearance than she claimed.
Penny Cayedito died in 1999, almost thirteen years to the day of her daughter's abduction. What, if any, additional information Penny had, has since gone to the grave with her. Anthonette Christine Cayedito is one of many missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls in the United States whose crimes go unsolved.
A report published in July of 2020 by an independent research project discovered 2,306 documented cases of missing Native American women and girls in the United States. Of those abductions, murders, and disappearances, approximately 1,800 have occurred within the past 40 years.
The Sovereign Bodies Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to create, disseminate, and research gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people. Upon analyzing data that tracked and mapped missing and murdered Indigenous women, the Institute discovered that 31% of cases involve girls younger than eighteen. Shockingly, nearly 60% of the crimes were homicides. According to the study, most of the cases in the U.S. and another 2,000 in Canada currently remain unsolved.
After examining 105 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, researchers also found that 62% had not been added to any official missing person databases. In over half of the cases, the victim's tribal affiliation was not mentioned. According to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the five most common tribal affiliations of missing children are Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Chippewa, and Alaska Native.
The FBI, the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, and the Gallup Police Department have received few new tips on Anthonette's disappearance, although the case remains open.
The bright, helpful little nine-year-old girl will be forever frozen in time with a toothy grin and delicate coffee-colored eyes. But she will never be forgotten. Anyone with information is asked to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.