In a five-page police report, Det. Elsworth Jones wrote that he had a meeting with multiple members of Christine Jarrett's family in 1997, prior to a hearing in the petition case, and that they had "differed on the opinion" of her whereabouts.

"Some believed she was deceased and others believed she was still living," Jones wrote.

Jones said Jarrett's brother, Will Wilson, thought she might be staying with a friend named Cindy, who lived in North Carolina but had previously lived on Old Washington Boulevard.

Jones said he interviewed the woman, Cindy Travis, at Gelfman's request, and Travis told him Robert Jarrett had called her after his wife's disappearance and said that "he and Christine had a bad fight" before he fell asleep in the basement.

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Jones said Travis' husband, Raymond Travis, told him that Christine Jarrett "was real protective of her kids and would not have left them," but that "she would have left if it were not for the kids."

Neidhardt, in a letter to Gelfman asking to be pardoned from appearing in court, painted a similar picture.

Neidhardt, who records show still lives across the street but who could not be reached for comment, wrote that Christine "Chris" Jarrett had been one of her best friends since 1984, when Neidhardt and her husband moved to Claire Drive.

"Along with many others, I have dearly missed my friend and cannot imagine what would make such a decent friend, good mother, and devoted wife and homemaker leave her home unannounced," Neidhardt wrote. "I never did understand Chris's devotion as Mr. Robert Jarrett's wife because he was not devoted or nice (as in physical and verbal abuse) to her on many occasions."

Neidhart said Christine Jarrett had hinted that she wanted to run away a month before she'd gone missing, but "with her sense of humor and her venting personality," Neidhardt hadn't taken the comment seriously.

Neidhardt said she thought Robert Jarrett had a "financial motive" for wanting his wife declared dead, a declaration she said was "completely wrong without a body for proof."

Neidhardt said Robert Jarrett had "stated on several occasions that he had every reason to believe" that his wife would be found "alive and well," and she wondered why he'd changed his mind.

Neidhardt called her friend's disappearance "emotionally taxing" and receiving a subpoena "to aid in declaring her legally dead emotionally uprooting."

Money left behind

The petition also listed "the property in which Christine Ann Jarrett has an interest in" as a 1978 Pontiac and a 1987 Sunsport Motor Home she owned with her husband; their home; a life insurance policy worth $25,000 and with her husband listed as her beneficiary; and an annuity worth $43,000, with her estate listed as the beneficiary.

It also says that Christine Jarrett had executed her last will and testament on May 4, 1988, naming her husband as the sole heir to her estate.

The annuity involved one payment she had already received, as well as regular payments every five years starting in 1995 until the money ran out, with the Traveler's Insurance Company.

According to Salvatore Anello, an Arbutus attorney, the annuity was awarded to Christine Jarrett as part of a worker's compensation claim in which Anello was her attorney.

Jarrett's arm had been injured while working on a production line at the Calvert Distillery, Anello said.

Upon being told by a reporter Thursday that her body had likely been found, Anello shouted, "They found her? They found her?"

He'd gotten to know Christine Jarrett well as a nice, soft-spoken woman who was easy to talk to, and he'd always been suspicious of her disappearance, he said.

"The story made no sense at all. She was a devoted mother. I met with her many times. She always talked about those boys," he said. "I never believed she would desert her boys. She was crazy about those boys."

Anello said the annuity money waiting for her was another reason he questioned her disappearance, especially after she didn't return in 1995 to claim the second allotment.

"Everyone felt that if she were alive, she would have materialized for that money, because it was like $10,000, but she never showed up," he said.

Anello had always questioned Robert Jarrett's story, he said, but never more so than when Jarrett's attorney, James F. Brewer contacted Anello about the annuity and Jarrett's hope to collect on it by having his wife declared dead.

"I'll tell you this: It took a lot of nerve," Anello said of Robert Jarrett's actions.

Anello said he always thought Christine Jarrett would be found, but now that she apparently has been, and on the grounds of the house, he has more questions.

"It's surprising the boys didn't know anything," he said of the couple's two sons, now both adults, "because that's a major operation, putting someone in a cement block under a shed."

Robert Jarrett is being held without bail at the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup on charges of first-degree and second-degree murder.