Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Disappearance & Murder of Kayleah Wilson

Image source: Dignity Memorial

Kayleah Wilson was only 12 years-old when she was tragically murdered during the spring of 2010. The young girl was last seen alive by her family on March 28th, 2010. That day, Kayleah left her Greeley, Colorado home to walk to the local mall. She planned to meet a friend at the mall so the two of them could go to a birthday party together. Kayleah was expected to return home by 7:00 PM, but she never arrived. She was reported missing by her mother around 10:00 PM that same night. 

At first, police thought that Kayleah might be a runaway. Then, after speaking with people in Kayleah's circle, investigators learned that she had never met up with her friend as planned, nor had she shown up for the birthday party. By March 31st, the Greeley Police announced that they no longer believed Kayleah had run away. Several different investigators were assigned to the case, including members of the FBI. 

Kayleah's mother April Wilson revealed to detectives that Kayleah had a relationship with an 18-year-old named Robert Montoya. Robert was interviewed shortly thereafter, during which he admitted to having a sexual relationship with Kayleah between the months of October 2009 and February 2010. Robert also admitted that he was aware that Kayleah was only 12 years-old. However, he reportedly did not provide police with any information about Kayleah's whereabouts. 

Widespread searches for Kayleah turned up empty. Then, on the morning of May 19th, 2010, a ditch rider turned on the water in an irrigation ditch in west Greeley. The rider noticed a body rolling in the water at the base of a 10-foot waterfall. Police were called, and investigators rushed to the scene. It was almost immediately believed that the body was Kayleah - but due to decomposition, an identification could not be made on the spot. 

That same day, Robert Montoya was arrested and charged with sexual assault on a child as a pattern of abuse. The charges stemmed from Robert's admission that he had several sexual encounters with Kayleah. At that time, -police reportedly did not have enough evidence to charge Robert with anything related to Kayleah's disappearance - but they did have enough evidence to bring about the sexual assault charges.

Two days later, on May 21st, 2010, it was confirmed that the body found in the irrigation ditch did, in fact, belong to Kayleah Wilson. From that point forward, the case shifted to a murder investigation. 
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Police have never revealed Kayleah's exact cause of death - only that she was murdered. Robert Montoya seemed like an obvious suspect, but he had only been charged with sexual assault - not murder. 

Image source: Denver Post

It's known that Robert Montoya admitted to having sex with Kayleah when was she was just 12 years-old. But did he also kill her? And if he didn't, then who did?

The timeline of events in this case may lead to a few viable theories. 

October 2009.

In October 2009, Kayleah's mother April Wilson allowed Robert to move into her residence after his own mother had asked him to move out. According to Robert's arrest affidavit, Roxanne Montoya wanted her children out of the house so she could continue having a relationship with her boyfriend, Jonas Garcia. Garcia is a registered sex offender and was therefore banned from going into homes where children were living. 

Over time, April noticed that Kayleah and Robert had grown close, but she thought they were just friends.  She initially did not notice a physical relationship between her daughter and Robert. 

December 2009 - January 2010.

According to the affidavit, April began to suspect that Kayleah and Robert were in a physical relationship during December 2009. April told police that she noticed that they had been spending time alone together in Kayleah's bedroom. She never saw them engaged in any sexual activity, but her suspicions about Robert and Kayleah's relationship continued to build.

The affidavit further explains that April confronted both Kayleah and Robert about their relationship during the first week of January 2010. During their conversation, both Kayleah and Robert admitted that they had been having sex. They also told April that they considered themselves to be a couple. April explained to detectives that, upon hearing this, she immediately kicked Robert out of her home and ordered him to stop having any interaction with her daughter. 

Early February 2010.

April explained that Kayleah was initially angry with her after she kicked Robert out. However, as time passed, Kayleah stopped talking about her relationship with Robert - leading April to believe that she had moved on. 

The affidavit states that April caught Robert with Kayleah one final time during early February. She spotted the two of them together at an abandoned car dealership on 28th St. April said she confronted them and once again ordered Robert to stay away from Kayleah.

On February 19th, 2010, Greeley police were dispatched to Brentwood Middle School, where Kayleah was a student. The officers were sent to the school after receiving reports of a young man looking into the classroom windows from outside the building. Once there, police made contact with Robert Montoya. It's unclear what was said during this encounter, but no arrests were made. 

At the time of this incident, police were unaware that Robert had an inappropriate relationship with one of the students at the middle school. It seems likely that the police ordered him to leave the property after they approached him, and Robert complied - giving no further reason for action to be taken. 

Robert himself would later admit to police that he went to the middle school that day because he wanted to see Kayleah. More about this will be addressed below.

March 1st-27th, 2010.

There are no documented interactions between Kayleah and Robert during this time period. It is possible that they did interact without anyone finding out, but there is no evidence to suggest this happened. Police were still unaware of their relationship at this point. 

Robert himself later claimed that he did not see Kayleah beyond February 2010. 

March 28th, 2010.

As previously stated, Kayleah vanished on March 28th. She left her home around 3:40 PM en route to Greeley Mall. Surveillance footage captured her walking near the mall shortly thereafter. At the time she was captured, she was walking alone. She was never seen or heard from again. 

Kayleah never meets up with her friend, nor does she make it to the birthday party. Her mother April begins to worry when she does not return by 7:00 PM. After waiting for Kayleah to return, April finally contacted police around 10:00 PM. 

March 28th - March 30th, 2010. 

Detectives spent the next two days interviewing various people in Kayleah's life. While speaking with Kayleah's mother April, police learned about the inappropriate relationship between Kayleah and Robert Montoya. Kayleah's friends also corroborate her relationship with Robert. In fact, some of Kayleah's friends told police that she had made comments about possibly being pregnant with Robert's child. 

March 31st, 2010.

Police questioned Robert Montoya on March 31st, 2010. During this interview that Robert admitted to having a sexual relationship with Kayleah up until mid February 2010. His arrest affidavit describes this interview, stating in part, "[Robert Montoya] did admit that he knew [Kayleah] was only twelve years of age and he was an adult."

Robert told police that his relationship with Kayleah ended in mid-February 2010 after Kayleah's mother learned that they were speaking again. He admitted that he continued to try and contact Kayleah. On some occasions, he hid in the bushes near her residence. Robert also admitted to waiting for her outside of her middle school. He referenced the February 19th incident, and he also said that Kayleah had called him a "stalker freak" after he tried to encounter her at the school. 

Even after these admissions, police did not immediately arrest Robert. Meanwhile, the search for Kayleah continued.

May 19th, 2010.

During the early morning hours of May 19th, the body of a young female was spotted in the water in an irrigation ditch. The irrigation ditch is located less than half a mile away from the home of Kayleah Wilson - leading many to believe that it is her. However, as previously stated, the body was too decomposed to make an immediate identification.

Image source: CBS News

That same day, Robert Montoya was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child in connection to his relationship with Kayleah.

May 21st, 2010.

On May 21st, 2010, it was confirmed that the body found in the irrigation ditch was, in fact, Kayleah Wilson. Her death was classified as a murder. Many expected Robert Montoya to be charged with murder in addition to sexual assault - but those charges never came forth. 

March 2011 - June 2011.

Almost a year after Kayleah's disappearance, Robert Montoya went to trial for the child sexual assault charges. According to reports, the defense's main argument was whether or not Robert and Kayleah had any sexual encounters after January 18th, 2010 - Robert's 18th birthday. When he moved into April Wilson's home during October 2009, Robert was still 17 years-old, therefore still considered a minor in the state of Colorado. 

When Robert was questioned by police in relation to Kayleah's disappearance, he said that his relationship with her continued up until mid-February 2010, which would have been after his 18th birthday. 

After a three-day trial, the jury found Robert Montoya guilty of the child sexual assault charges. Months later, in June 2011, a judge sentenced him to eight years in prison. 

July 2011-December 2014.

The investigation into Kayleah's murder still continued after Robert Montoya was sent to prison. Some hoped that police would pursue murder charges against him, but once again, no additional charges were filed. 

Meanwhile, Robert began working on appealing his sentence. On December 31st, 2014, a judge granted Robert a retrial. Robert's defense attorneys cited the original argument in the first trial - whether or not Robert had a sexual encounter with Kayleah after his 18th birthday. At this point, Robert claimed that he actually did not have sex with Kayleah after being kicked out of the Wilson's home. His defense attorneys argued that his confession back in March 2010 was coerced by police. 

April 2016.

Two years later, the Weld County District Attorney ended up dropping the charges against Robert Montoya - making him a free man. He no longer faces any charges related to Kayleah Wilson. 

May 2017.

Seven years after Kayleah's body was found, police announced that they know who killed her. Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner is quoted saying "We don’t have any doubts. But there are standards of proof we have to meet.” It was not explicitly stated that the person police referred to is, in fact, Robert Montoya - but many speculate this to be the case.

Where the case stands today.


Tragically, the murder of Kayleah Wilson is still classified as unsolved. Police hope to eventually receive the evidence they need to move forward with charges. 

If you have any information that could finally help crack the case, please contact Greeley Police at (970) 350-9600.
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Sources:
CBS News, 2
Greeley Tribune
Robert Montoya's arrest affidavit
Summit Daily
Westword

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