Heartfelt emotions poured from friends and family at a candlelight vigil Tuesday night for the Kenai family of four who have not been seen or heard from all summer.
About 40 people gathered at the Kenai New Life Assembly of God Church for comfort as family members of Rebecca Adams, 22, her daughters Michelle Hundley, 5, Jaracca Hundley, 3, and boyfriend Brandon Jividen, 37, shared stories and thanked people for their search efforts. The family insisted they have not given up hope, but wanted to remind people as hunting season begins to be on the lookout for any clues that can help provide answers to their disappearance. The family was last seen May 23.
While holding back tears and pausing to collect his thoughts, Dennis Gifford, Rebecca Adam’s uncle, thanked the Kenai Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, search-and-rescue teams and all the volunteers for the hours they dedicated to search the wooded area around the family’s apartment on California Drive in Kenai.
“The reason we picked this day (for the vigil) is for the people who go out moose hunting to get the word out and raise awareness that if they see anything please contact police,” Dennis Gifford said. “Our first hope remains to bring them home. Our second hope is we would like to see a search-and-rescue team created on the Kenai Peninsula.”
With news of human remains found during the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire in June, Dennis Gifford said he couldn’t believe there is not a search-and-rescue team on the Kenai Peninsula. He said one group of volunteers showed fearless dedication when they brought guns with them on the search because they wanted to get into a dense wooded area where a brown bear was protecting a den.
“They said, ‘We’re getting in their one way or another,’” he said.
Katherine Covey, who helped the family gather volunteers and set up a command center for community-led searches, has started search-and-rescue training and is in the process of forming a permanent search team, Dennis Gifford said.
Lieutenant David Ross with the Kenai Police said the department has not received any new investigative leads into the family’s disappearance. Brandon Jividen’s and Rebecca Adams’ vehicles were left at the home along with camping gear and the kids’ car seats. With no leads on where the family could have gone, police couldn’t continue with search efforts, he said.
Audre Gifford, cousin of Rebecca Adams, shared stories that highlighted the loving character of the family and the bond her cousin had with her sister Lanell Adams, who is now back in Washington after spending most of the last three months in Kenai helping with the search.
“Lanell said Rebecca is her soul mate,” she said. “They had a tough childhood and they supported each other through hard times.”
Audre Gifford said Miccelle and Jaracca loved to color and play with their dog, Sparks. Every time they visited their grandmother, Kim Gifford, they would give everyone a hug and kiss and ring the bell on the porch of their grandma’s house when they left.
“I hope to hear that bell ring again,” Audre Gifford said.
The Jividen family has become part of Gifford’s and Adams’ family and they have become united through this difficult period, she said.
Brandie Jividen, Brandon Jividen’s sister who lives in West Virginia, wrote a letter that Audre Gifford read about how he enjoyed bonding with his father through hunting and how excited he was when he became a father.
“As a boy he would sleep curled up with his dog in the doghouse,” the letter read. “He always stinked so bad.”
Kenai resident Josh Cobb, who attended the vigil, reflected on his friendship with Rebecca Adams and how they comforted each other when they both experienced the loss of a loved one. Jeremiah Hundley, husband and father to Rebecca Adams’ children died in a motorcycle accident in 2012.
“When Jeremiah (Hundley) was killed in a wreck, we talked a lot because the year before my dad passed away,” Cobb said. “In some sense I felt like I knew what she was going through. I miss her and haven’t talked to her in a while. I’m hoping for some kind of closure.”
Friends and family of the missing family circled outside the church, lit candles and had three minutes of silence, one minute for every month the family has been missing. Rebecca Adams’ mother Jeanine Adams somberly wept as family huddled around her and hugged her for comfort and support.
“I want to hold my daughter again,” she said.
Audre Gifford said the family had one personal request for everyone in the community.
“I had been in close contact with Rebecca before she went missing,” she said. “Our hope is all of you could go home and reach out to a family member you haven’t talked to in a while and let them know how loved and special they are.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.