When Robert Arnold Jarrett petitioned the Howard County Circuit Court in 1996 to declare his long-missing wife dead, one of the major reasons he gave for why she hadn't just run away from their Elkridge home was that she was "a devoted mother" to their two sons.
Not even the "marital difficulties" the couple was having in 1991 — when Christine Ann Jarrett, 34, went missing — would have caused her to break off contact with their boys, he said in his petition.
On Thursday, Howard County Police seemed to confirm that Christine Jarrett had never run away when they announced they'd arrested Robert Jarrett for her murder after finding what they believe to be her remains, buried in concrete under the floorboards of a shed in the couple's Claire Drive backyard.
Police said they had always suspected foul play in her disappearance, but had recently received information that "reinforced the possibility," and were given permission to search the home by Robert Jarrett's current wife, from whom he is separated and who lives in the home.
Details about the new information and how police received it remain unclear.
But multiple documents in the court record of Jarrett's 1996 petition — which Judge Lenore Gelfman granted in 1998 by declaring the date of his wife's death as June 10, 1993 — shine some light on the mind set of the police and Christine Jarrett's family and friends following her disappearance.
The documents show a family with mixed opinions on her whereabouts and detail allegations she'd been abused by her husband and that he had a financial motive for wanting her declared dead.
Husband's account indicated search
The petition also includes Robert Jarrett's account of what happened the night of Jan. 3, 1991, the last time his wife was seen. That account went as follows:
Robert Jarrett had come home from work at about 8 p.m. to find that his wife of 16 years and their two sons — who were 10 and 5 years old — had already eaten dinner, so he reheated his own dinner.
His wife was on the phone on and off, but after the boys went to sleep, the couple went into their basement — they'd lived there since August of 1983 — to watch television.
At 9:30 p.m., his wife went upstairs and he fell asleep in the basement. At midnight, he went upstairs to go to sleep, locked the doors, and then noticed the garage door was open. He went upstairs and his wife wasn't in bed.
The couple's two sons "were asleep in their beds and apparently unaware that anything was wrong."
The couple was having "marital difficulties," and his wife had left the home for a night or two before, so he went to sleep without searching for her.
The next morning she was still gone, and when her two sisters called, as they often did, he told them he didn't know where she was. They became alarmed. He called other family members. The next day, he reported her missing to police.
Jarrett went to five area motels — Econolodge, Terrace, White Elk, Tip Top and Executive — but did not find her. He thought she had taken "some money and her purse, and little or no clothing except for what she was wearing."
He wasn't aware she had any other "boyfriend, paramour, or other romantic interest."
He spoke with neighbors, and one, Marcia Lynn Neidhardt, told him his wife had mentioned running away, but hadn't seemed serious about it.
As the years rolled on, nothing turned up. He filed for and was granted a divorce in 1993, and also received full custody of their two sons.
Family and friends raised questions