Family Holds Out Hope for Answers in Decades’ Old Missing Person Case

Kim Novak has not been seen or heard from in 31 years

Kimberly Novak’s family seeks the public’s help in determining what caused her mysterious disappearance 31 years ago. (Courtesy poster from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation) 

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Kimberly Kay Novak was a free spirit with a knack for finding trouble. She was known to disappear for long stretches due to alcohol and drug addiction that made it hard for her to keep her life on track, according to her family.

At the same time, she was a mother, sister, daughter, aunt and deeply beloved by her family, who remain heartbroken by her disappearance.

Novak, who also goes by her married name Allen, vanished 31 years ago when she was 33. She was last seen in Granger on April 17, 1992, and reported missing by a female friend three months later.

Michelle Hall, special services lieutenant for the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, said Novak’s case is active and continues to be investigated. She declined to provide details.

Novak’s younger sister, Becky Carter, 58, and other family members are frustrated by the lack of information. They believe Novak was likely a victim of a crime and no longer living, as they are convinced she would have been in touch with one of them by now, Carter said.

“We just want answers,” Novak’s niece, Heather Casillas, told the Wyoming Truth. “It’s been too long. None of us kids were able to get to know her and spend time with her. That was taken from the family as a whole.”

Missing in Wyoming

Novak is one of roughly 86 people listed in the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) missing person database dating back to 1974. Her case is one the oldest.

Kimberly Novak was last spotted in Sweetwater County in April 1992. (Courtesy photo from the Novak family) 

A new push by the state legislature may provide law enforcement with much-needed support to help clear cold cases. Two bill drafts are currently in the Joint Judiciary Committee. One would provide funding and grant oversight authority to DCI to create a new cold-case database for any unsolved homicide, missing person or felony rape three years or older. The second bill draft would provide DCI with funding to hire two full-time cold case detectives.

Other efforts by private citizens like Desirée Tinoco, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Missing People of Wyoming, attempt to breathe fresh life into cold cases. With nearly 29,000 members on the Missing People of Wyoming Facebook page, Tinoco hopes that cases like Novak’s will benefit from awareness on social media.

“Many of these cases like Kim’s would never have seen the light of day without the database and social media,” Tinoco said. “There was no access. People didn’t even know.”

Mystery life

Novak grew up with three sisters in Helena, Montana. Carter said Novak had a penchant for “finding trouble.”

“She was a bit of a wild child,” said Carter, the youngest sister. “She was a follower and that was her downfall.”

Novak was active in rodeo and loved arranging flowers. After high school, she worked in floral shops before marrying Tom Allen. The couple had two daughters, but they ultimately divorced. Novak remained in Helena and dated casually, before finding a serious boyfriend who landed a job in Wyoming and took her along.

Carter is not sure where Novak lived in Wyoming; she would go for long stretches without contacting her family. Despite her absences, Novak always returned to Montana for family events and never missed calling her dad on Father’s Day.

Carter last saw her sister in 1986, when Novak returned to Helena with her new boyfriend to receive a payout from their grandfather’s trust. During the visit, Novak visited Carter’s home and met her infant son.

At the time she disappeared, Novak’s daughters lived with her mother. On her last visit home, Novak promised them she would “clean herself up,” Carter recalled. Novak was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, but told her mother she wanted to get her girls back.

For the next three years, Novak had sporadic contact with her family. Carter’s last phone conversation with Novak occurred in early February 1989, while she was visiting her father at his cattle ranch. Novak told Carter she was calling to say she loved her and her father.

Carter said he couldn’t come to the phone, because there had been a power outage, and he was caring for the cattle in subzero temperatures. She encouraged Novak to call back.

That was the last time any family member heard from Novak. Carter revived Novak’s missing person case in 2012 by reporting her to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).  

And though Novak’s father has passed away, Carter is determined to bring Novak home before her mother dies.

“I love her very much and miss her and often wonder what her life would be like if she was still here,” Carter said. “She didn’t deserve this. Unfortunately, she had her demons that she couldn’t get away from.”

Anyone with information about Kimberly Kay Novak is asked to call the Sweetwater Sheriff’s Office at (307) 922-5300 or the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation at (307) 777-7181.

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