Crime & Courts

Friend says text was last contact with missing KC student

Toni Anderson, middle, poses with friends Roxy Townsend, left, and Carly Prior at their East High commencement ceremony in 2014.
Toni Anderson, middle, poses with friends Roxy Townsend, left, and Carly Prior at their East High commencement ceremony in 2014. Courtesy photo

Roxy Townsend says a text she received from her best friend is the last anyone has heard from Toni Anderson, a University of Missouri-Kansas City student from Wichita who has been missing since Sunday.

“She’s a good girl. She doesn’t get into trouble,” said Townsend, a friend of Anderson’s since the two attended Robinson Middle School in Wichita. Both women graduated from Wichita East High in 2014.

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“She travels all over the world by herself. She loves to travel, and nothing bad happens to her there,” Townsend said.

Anderson, 20, had just left her job around 4 a.m. on Sunday and was on her way to meet friends at a location near downtown, the Kansas City Star reported Wednesday.

Later that morning, Anderson was pulled over by a North Kansas City police officer on Missouri 9 for an improper lane change. Anderson told the officer that she was almost out of gas.

The officer gave Anderson a warning and watched as she drove to a nearby QuikTrip, said Officer Darin Snapp, a spokesman with the Kansas City Police Department.

Townsend said she last heard from Anderson at 4:42 a.m. Sunday, when she received a text that said, “Omg just just pulled over again.”

Townsend, who was in Las Vegas over the weekend, said her friend had been driving home from her job as a server at Chrome, an establishment that describes itself as “Kansas City’s premier strip club.”

Townsend said she replied by text: “Whyy.”

“Toni gets pulled over a lot because she drives late at night a lot, and she doesn’t have cruise control in her car,” Townsend said. “I just figured this was another one of those times.”

She never heard back from Anderson that night – and hasn’t since.

In alerts on social media, friends say Anderson was driving a black 2014 Ford Focus with Kansas license plate 989-GAX.

Townsend said Anderson’s live-in boyfriend, Pete Sanchez, told her Anderson wasn’t home when he woke up at about 7 a.m. Sunday to go to work.

“He didn’t really think anything of it. Sometimes she’ll just go hang out with her co-workers or her friends after work, even though it’s really late at night,” Townsend said. “Or she’ll sleep at a friend’s house. So it wasn’t that strange.”

When Anderson still wasn’t home when Sanchez returned home from work Sunday afternoon, “I knew something was wrong,” Townsend says.

Townsend, a University of Kansas student, said two friends in the Kansas City area contacted police to report Anderson missing. Since then, friends and family have circulated information online asking anyone with information to come forward.

Anderson was alone in her car the last time she was seen, according to the Star. Investigators have video surveillance with Anderson but are not releasing it because it is part of their investigation.

“What we usually do is backtrack and see exactly where that person was last seen,” said Snapp of the Kansas City police.

Investigators are using license plate readers and video surveillance and are tracking Anderson’s cellphone during their search.

Detectives are also trying to determine what caused Anderson to drive toward North Kansas City.

Anyone with information on Anderson’s whereabouts should call the Tips Hotline at 816-474-8477.

“Just please look out for her, look out for her car,” Townsend said Wednesday.

Risen Savior Lutheran Church, 6770 E. 34th St. North, in Wichita will host a candlelight prayer vigil for Anderson and her family from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday. The vigil will be at the outdoor cross on the church property just north of Woodlawn and K-96.

“This will be an opportunity for Toni’s friends, family and the Wichita community to come together in prayer for her safety and strength for her family during this time of waiting,” a statement on the church’s Facebook page said Wednesday night.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Anderson worked for a time as a lifeguard for the city of Wichita. The profile also mentions that she had attended Wichita State University.

A WSU spokesman confirmed Wednesday that a Toni Anderson did attend the university as a full-time student during the 2014-15 school year.

Contributing: Stan Finger of The Eagle; Kansas City Star

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias, stobias@wichitaeagle.com

Bryan Horwath: 316-269-6708, @bryan_horwath, bhorwath@wichitaeagle.com

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