Editor’s note: The third in a series of reports on strange mysteries with connections to Christmas. Watch for more, concluding on Christmas Eve.
MYSTERY WIRE — Christmas 1977 must have been a low point in the lives of Bill and Mary Klingel of Dearborn, Michigan. Their daughter had died in a car accident in September, and now they were losing their 2-year-old granddaughter.
The girl, Nikole Betterson, had been in the car along with her father when her mother, Susan Klingel, died in the rollover accident on Labor Day weekend. Now her father had a new girlfriend, and they planned to make a new start out west.
The grandparents cried as they left.
It was the last they ever saw of Nikole.
Jarrett Betterson, girlfriend Barbara and Nikole set out for Las Vegas or California — there are conflicting reports.
No one knows if Nikole made it that far. All traces of the girl disappeared before the trail was picked up again.
Communication stopped, and two decades passed. A private investigator was hired to find Nikole. But there was no trace. The trail led to Las Vegas. Jarrett and Barbara were found, but no Nikole.
According to an Associated Press report, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detective bluffed Jarrett Betterson, telling him that police knew what happened to Nikole, and it was in his interest to cooperate. Betterson asked for time, and set the wheels in motion for the next twist in this tragedy.
Jarrett thought he was going to jail, and Barbara didn’t want to go on without him. Barbara mailed a letter to Jarrett’s mother. In it, she said:
We had hoped our troubles would never touch our families so we kept to ourselves. We’ve tried to follow God. Now it’s about time for him to judge us … Go to your Bibles to see peace, and please forgive us for all the wounds we have put in your hearts with our tragic an youthful blunders.
There was no mention of Nikole.
The scene police found weeks later in the couple’s Las Vegas apartment indicated Jarrett shot Barbara twice in the heart, and then killed himself.
Las Vegas police Lt. Wayne Peterson, now retired, told the Associated Press in 1997:
It may forever remain a mystery. The only people who can solve this mystery may be dead. Their secret may have died with them.
Two decades after the 1997 deaths of Jarrett and Barbara, there are still no clues to what happened to Nikole Betterson.