‘I can never, ever give up on Jessica’: One year later, Leesburg mother still missing

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 1:15 AM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Jessica Dieztel has been missing for one year.

In the past year, her family hasn’t given up hope in finding the young Leesburg mother.

Jessica’s last known contact was on February 18, 2020. She was reported missing the following month. In the months following her disappearance, law enforcement in both Dougherty and Lee counties chased leads to try and find Dietzel.

The case even gained national attention from such outlets like Dateline and TV personality Nancy Grace.

“I can never, ever give up on Jessica,” Kristina Johnson, Dietzel’s mother, said.

As the one-year anniversary rolled around, Kristina said “she needs to be found.”

Thinking about what could have happened to Jessica is something Kristina just can’t think about, even a year after her disappearance.

“I can’t really look at her pictures right now. It’s really difficult. I can hear her voice like speaking to me just as clear as if she was right here with me, ‘mom,’” explained Kristina.

Since Jessica has been missing, Kristina has been playing mom and grandmother as she raises Jessica’s only child, 3-year-old, Elena.

A year later, here’s what we know about Jessica’s disappearance.

On Feb. 18, Lee County Sheriffs Office said Jessica logged into her Facebook Messenger account through her Facebook friend, Gary Potter’s cell phone.

Jessica did not have a cell phone of her own and used other’s phones often.

Investigators said Jessica used social media a lot to connect with family and friends which has helped immensely in the investigation.

They tracked the Feb. 18 login to somewhere near Five Points Inn, formally the Deep South, in Albany.

Photos from tonight’s prayer vigil for missing Leesburg mother Jessica Dietzel, 22, who went missing a year ago today.

Posted by Bobby Poitevint WALB on Thursday, February 18, 2021

A few days before, on Feb. 13, she was seen on surveillance footage at an Albany convenience store.

They said one of the last times anyone saw her, she was wearing all dark-colored clothes, possibly black, with black Nike shoes and a black bookbag.

Since then, Jessica went off the map.

Lee County investigators said Potter’s house was searched and some property was seized, like his truck. A piece of potential evidence, some hair, was found, however, they are still working to determine if it is connected to Jessica.

Investigators said making a comparison is difficult without a hair-bush of Jessica’s or Jessica herself.

The Lee County investigators said they haven’t been able to get back in contact with Potter, but would like to talk to him more.

“He (Potter) said he did not know her and invoked his right to have an attorney present,” said Captain Shawn McTyeire, the commander of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit.

McTyeire and Special Victims Unit Second Lt. Danny Alday have both been heavily involved in the search for Jessica.

Outside of Potter, dozens of people have been interviewed.

Also, properties have been searched, surveillance tapes looked over, but at this point, a year later, investigators are going back over everything again and following up on new leads when they come in.

Officials from all three agencies involved, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Albany Police Department and the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, said tips don’t come in as often as they use to.

Now retired, Captain Craig Dodd with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office spent a lot of time on this case before he retired last month. He said he fears the worst has happened.

“She did make a comment that she got in over her head on something and she was scared,” said Dodd.

“We’ve done a lot on this case,” Albany Police Chief Michael Persley.

Investigators told WALB there have been a lot of hindrances in the investigation like leads slowing down, lack of communication between some agencies and people afraid to talk about Jessica.

Captain Dodd explained why that is and said there’s a “lot of very dangerous people involved.”

Law enforcement agencies are urging you to contact them if you have any information. Captain McTyeire said they are not interested in talking to you about whatever you may have done illegally in the past, they just want to find Jessica.

Anyone with any information can call (229) 759-6034.

Kristina said her faith in God has helped her over the last year and each day is harder than the last. However, she will keep asking where Jessica is, even knowing the pain that it may cause.

“It’s more difficult with the more time,” said Kristina.

A prayer vigil was held outside of the Albany Police Department on Thursday, February 18, 2021, the one-year anniversary of Jessica’s dissappearance.

WALB’s Bobby Poitevint spoke to Johnson, the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office about where Dietzel’s case currently stands.

Below are those full interviews:

Kristina Johnson reflects on her daughter, Jessica Dietzel, being missing for a year
The Lee County Sheriff's Office talks the latest in the Jessica Dietzel case with WALB's Bobby Poitevint.
The Dougherty County Sheriff's Office spoke to WALB's Bobby Poitevint on their role in the Jessica Dietzel case.
Albany Police Department reflects on the Jessica Dietzel case

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