They say grieving is a six month process. But for 19-year-old Ellie Green, mourning the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Angela Green, 52, has been so much more.
It’s been a 13 month mystery, fraught with questions, devoid of answers and full of shifting stories about why Ellie never saw her mother again after June 20, 2019. For seven months, Ellie was made to believe her mother had died, only to later learn Angela may still be alive.
“I came to peace with most of the fact that my mom was gone, and then I had to back track,” said Ellie, who grew up in Prairie Village and graduated from Shawnee Mission East as valedictorian in 2018. She is now an honors student at the University of Kansas, studying data analytics and finance.
Most of what Ellie knows about her mom’s disappearance she heard from her father, Geoffrey Green. But Ellie felt his explanations frequently elicited more questions than answers. She said he told her last June that Angela had been committed to a mental institution. In July, he informed Ellie and her boyfriend’s family, the Krauses, that Angela died of a stroke. After Ellie filed a missing person’s report in February 2020, Ellie said that Geoffrey told her Angela had run away. He also reportedly hired a criminal defense lawyer and has chosen not to speak with the police.
(Geoffrey Green did not return multiple calls or a text asking for comment for this story. Paul Cramm, his lawyer, did not return multiple calls requesting comment).
All these months later, Ellie still doesn’t know where her mom is or what happened to her. The Prairie Village police don’t either. They said Angela’s missing person’s case remains an open investigation. But Ellie said she was told in mid-July that the case had gone cold after roughly 200 leads were exhausted.
“As many possibilities as anyone else can think of, I’ve thought of all those, and more,” Ellie said. “I hope she’s out there, and she’s safe. But the likelihood of that is not super high.”
Ellie has not given up hope on uncovering what happened to her mother, and believes publicizing her story could garner clues that would advance the case.
“I’m hoping for answers that would provide closure, information that the public would have and just justice for my mom,” Ellie said.
The Prairie Village police department is still taking tips, leads and information from the public at 913-642-6868 or their TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.
A quintessential nuclear family
Before last June, Geoffrey, Angela and Ellie were a quintessential nuclear family, Ellie said. The Greens lived in suburban Prairie Village for Ellie’s entire life, and she attended Shawnee Mission schools from kindergarten through senior year. Her dad worked a 9-to-5 job at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri, doing information technology work. Her mom stayed home, gardening, cooking and cleaning. She threw much of her energy into raising Ellie, her only child. Growing up, Ellie was closer with her mom than with her dad.
“She loved me almost too much,” Ellie said. “I was like her world. Which is why if she ran away, I would have a hard time understanding why she wouldn’t have contacted me by now.”
Angela moved to the U.S. from China as a young adult, leaving behind life as an aspiring TV reporter to marry Geoffrey in 1998. The two had previously met in China, where Geoffrey had traveled, Ellie said. Angela spoke Mandarin as well as English, which she passed along to Ellie.
Michelle Guo, Ellie’s 27-year-old cousin and Angela’s niece, said Angela wasn’t the type of person to have a close group of friends, but was social with neighbors, bringing them flowers or baked goods.
“She would talk to me when we were both outside … about our kids and schools and neighbors. She was such a sweet lady,” said her next-door neighbor, Nicole Walton. Walton didn’t talk to Geoffrey as frequently. “He was not as open as Angela,” she added.
Others found it easiest to connect with Geoffrey about his passion for vintage cars, saying he was fairly quiet outside of this. Ellie described her father as “mellow” and the more patient parent of the two. He was born on the East coast, and worked as an automechanic and sales person before getting into IT. Geoffrey retired from his job at the courthouse in December. A colleague from the courthouse declined to answer questions about Geoffrey and said other staff similarly did not have comments.
Growing up, Ellie said she saw her parents fight but “nothing to the extent of somebody doing something really potentially harmful to each other.”
Throughout high school, Ellie’s parents were strict and kept a “tight rein” on her, said Sarah Krause, Ellie’s boyfriend’s mother. Ellie added that her mom “was really hard on her,” wanting Ellie to strive for perfection.
Stories change and confusion builds
This pressure from her mom led to tension in Ellie’s childhood home on June 20, 2019. Ellie had finished her freshman year of college and returned home days earlier from a month-long trip studying in Italy. She planned to stay at her parents’ house for the summer and work, her first time living there in months. But she and her mom got into a disagreement that ultimately led Angela to ask Ellie to leave the house.
“It didn’t feel like a big deal,” Ellie said. “You know when your mom is like, ‘I don’t like that new shirt you got, or why are you hanging out with this person?’ Stupid little things like that.”
Ellie left, thinking it would blow over the next day or even that night like when she fought with her mom in the past, though she said Angela had never kicked her out before.
Her boyfriend, Zach Krause, called his grandparents to see if she could stay at their house for a night, and Ellie moved in with Zach’s family soon after. Still, she thought her dad would give her the okay to come home soon.
But three days after she left, Ellie received a distressing text. She said Geoffrey told her that he’d had Angela forcibly placed in a mental institution by having her taken away in a store parking lot. Ellie said her father had mentioned this possibility in the past, but she was shocked he followed through.
“I didn’t understand why he would take her away without telling me,” Ellie said.
Angela’s mental health struggles were not entirely clear to Ellie — if she had a diagnosis, Ellie didn’t know what it was. She noticed that her mother took Ellie’s departure to college hard, sleeping less and eating less. Angela also started collecting lots of things, to the point of hoarding, when Ellie left. But Geoffrey’s admission stunned Ellie, especially when he declined to give specifics about the situation. Ellie said that he didn’t tell her where the institution was (“down south”) or how long she would be in it (“until she gets better”).
Sarah even texted Geoffrey, asking where Angela was and if Ellie could go visit.
“The dad wasn’t receptive and didn’t ever respond to me (saying) this is where she is, what center she’s at,” Sarah said. “He just kind of ignored me.”
Three weeks later, still troubled by questions, Ellie said her dad asked to meet to talk about her mom. She and Zach, who had been out playing frisbee with friends, pulled up to the Krause’s house at the same time as Geoffrey, around 10:45 p.m on July 16.
“He told me she died in the hospital of a stroke,” Ellie said.
Ellie’s knees crumbled beneath her, and Zach, who was getting a lamp out of the car’s trunk, heard her cry out.
“(My dad) hugged me, and I didn’t want to be hugged, because everything was crashing down,” Ellie said. “I didn’t have any words, didn’t have any tears or anything. The world was blurry, and I was just in shock.”
Searching for answers
Throughout the next several days, Ellie and the Krause family struggled to make sense of Angela’s death. Ellie was told her mom died of a stroke, but given no details of her death or any indication of what would happen next. Would there be a funeral? Ellie said Geoffrey told her he wasn’t ready for that. An obituary? Ellie and Sarah both said he had wanted to write one, but it never happened.
The Krauses invited Geoffrey over the next day — their first time meeting him — hoping to offer space for him to grieve and better understand what happened. For much of the conversation, he looked off into space and did not divulge much information, Sarah said. She asked him if Angela would get an autopsy, and she said that he said no.
“What we wanted to say was, why wouldn’t you be jumping down (the institution’s) throat on the phone and saying, ‘How exactly did she die?’” Sarah said. “Why wouldn’t you request an autopsy? She was 51, you shouldn’t have a stroke at 51.”
But they didn’t want to overstep any boundaries, especially towards someone who had just lost a loved one. Ellie felt the same way when her dad asked her not to tell Angela’s family, who lives in New York, about her mom’s death.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I will respect you,’ because I thought he was grieving,” Ellie said. “He’s my dad, I gave him space, he’s more of an authority than I am. But I kept asking, every couple of weeks, ‘Have you told mom’s family yet?’ And he (said) no.”
For the next several months, Ellie and the Krauses balanced a strange dynamic of inviting newly-widowed Geoffrey into their home while trying to extricate more information about Angela’s death and plans for the future. Geoffrey came to the Krauses’ family barbecues and holidays — he attended their 2019 Christmas celebration, bearing gifts, Sarah said. At the same time, Sarah said he never took her up on her offer to help write an obituary or plan a memorial service.
As the Krauses welcomed Geoffrey into their home, Ellie stayed away from hers. She said she had a sense that it wasn’t safe at home, and her frustration with her dad’s silence was growing.
“It even got to a point I wrote down my questions on a piece of paper to be like, you can even write out answers if it’s too hard for you to talk about them,” Ellie said. “But he wouldn’t do that either.”
Meanwhile, Angela’s sister, Catherine Guo, had noticed Angela was not answering or returning calls throughout the summer and early fall. Michelle Guo, Catherine’s daughter, said Catherine was not very worried at the time. But as a marriage in the family neared that fall, Angela’s silence grew more pronounced, and the Guo family became more confused.
Ellie breaks her silence
Yet they were unprepared for what Ellie told them in mid-February. Despite her father’s opposition, a nagging feeling had been growing inside Ellie, a feeling of too many unanswered questions. She decided to tell her mom’s sister what happened over the phone.
“I was just sobbing when I called her,” Ellie said. “I cried for like a minute, and then I managed to get out the words: my mom died.”
Catherine started prepping to fly to Kansas for a funeral, but Ellie stopped her. Through tears, she explained that her mom had died seven months earlier, in July.
The Guos asked Ellie to find Angela’s death certificate.
“I asked my dad, ‘Do you have a death certificate, and where is it?’” Ellie said. “And he said, ‘Yeah I do, it’s at home. I was like, ‘Can you send me a picture of it?’ And he said yes.” But Ellie said her dad never sent a photo.
So, Ellie journeyed to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in Topeka to find it herself. She couldn’t. The death certificate wasn’t there.
“My stomach sank,” Ellie said. “I was like, Oh my god, something is wrong.”
That’s when Michelle, who is a lawyer, called the Prairie Village Police Department to ask for a wellness check on Angela, a way for the police to check on a person if a family member or friend thinks something may be wrong.
After the police knocked on his door, Ellie said Geoffrey changed his story, telling her Angela had run away with a friend.
“He said I don’t know what friend, I don’t remember what car,” Ellie said. “Everything was super vague.”
Ellie filed a missing persons report on February 18. Two search warrants were served in March at Ellie’s childhood home in Prairie Village and a lot in Olathe where her father stores cars. They unearthed her mom’s passport, driver’s license and car, Ellie said. But the search didn’t produce sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime.
“They don’t have that ‘aha’ moment, they don’t have a body, they don’t have evidence of a struggle,” Ellie said. “They don’t have evidence of a weapon. And they don’t have evidence either that she has run away.”
Ellie said that the police even expanded their search for Angela’s death certificate nationwide. They didn’t find one.
For the past 13 months, Ellie’s relationship with both parents has been in limbo. She doesn’t know what to believe about her mom’s disappearance. She spent seven months grieving her mom’s death only to discover that it may not have been necessary. But Ellie doesn’t believe her mom would leave without contacting her only child.
As for her dad, much of their communication has halted. She texts him about rent once a month. But mostly, she asks him about her mom.
“I have asked again and again, ‘Have you heard from mom?’” Ellie said. “And his answer is, ‘No.’”
“And then he asks me, ‘Have you heard from mom?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, if she were dead, I would not hear from her, is that correct? That’s not how people work, right?’ And he goes, ‘Yes, you can think of it that way.’”
Ellie wants answers, especially from her dad. She wants to know where her mom is and what sequence of events took Angela away from her only child. She wants a way to finally close out the grieving process.
“I would hope that Ellie gets some kind of resolution, whatever that resolution is,” Sarah said. “I feel like she just deserves to know the truth, and be able to deal with the reality of whatever the truth is.”
But on top of getting to the bottom of her mom’s disappearance, Ellie hopes to spread her story to other young people weathering difficult situations.
“We’ve heard so many times, life is hard,” Ellie said. “But also life is really, really worth it. That’s something big I’ve learned over this year. There are a lot of people who will support you. I just hope that in sharing my story, if I can inspire one kid to keep trying, then I’ve done something great.”
Even through grief, Ellie is going above and beyond — just as her mom instilled in her.