Shown is a reward poster for information on Pfc. Kelli Marie Bordeaux, a combat medic stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. Bordeaux has been missing since April 14. ()
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The family of missing Pfc. Kelli Bordeaux is hoping for a Christmas miracle.
It's been more than seven months since Bordeaux, a married Fort Bragg, N.C., combat medic, disappeared, and her sister says she has not given up hope that Bordeaux will be home for Christmas and Bordeaux's birthday two days later.
Remains found on the post Nov. 21 raised the possibility of a grim resolution to the case, but authorities determined they were from an animal.
"We're not searching for remains. We want Kelli back," said Olivia Cox, Bordeaux's sister and an Army wife at Fort Stewart, Ga. "We want her laughing, smiling, carrying on; her jubilant self to be here for Christmas and her birthday."
Bordeaux, 23, was last seen April 14 leaving Froggy Bottoms, a bar less than a mile from her house in Fayetteville. She went there to sing karaoke, a first for her but not out of character for the fun-loving Bordeaux, her sister said.
Police say the last person to see her alive was a registered sex offender.
The soldier's disappearance galvanized Fort Bragg and the surrounding community. Some 600 people turned out the next weekend to search for her on foot, on horseback and in boats. A local group searched every Saturday for the first six months, Cox said.
A local business, Black Ops Security Services and Consulting, has offered $8,000 for information leading to Bordeaux.
Bordeaux's mother, brother and sister came to Fayetteville to raise awareness about the case. They held a vigil where they released more than 100 butterflies as Bordeaux did at her wedding in hopes that she would be found.
Cox asked the soldiers of Fort Bragg not to forget her sister.
Police question sex offender
Fayetteville police said Bordeaux left Froggy Bottoms with a bar worker she met the previous week, a registered sex offender named Nicholas Holbert.
Holbert, 25, told police that, at Bordeaux's request, he dropped her off at the entrance to the apartment complex where she lived with her husband, who was visiting family in Florida that weekend.
Detective Jeff Locklear said he has twice interviewed Holbert, who was convicted of molesting a 5-year-old when he was 16.
Holbert has since been arrested for violations connected to his sex offender status. He was living in his car behind the bar and failed to register at that address. He also granted an interview in front of a school. (He is not permitted within 1,000 feet of a school.)
Locklear said he believes Bordeaux accepted the ride from Holbert because, as a career-minded soldier, she feared the repercussions of a drunken-driving arrest.
However, he said he does not believe a young woman would ask to be let out on a dark road. Holbert's account, he said, "does not pass the smell test" and was "not truthful."
"He's not being upfront with us," Locklear said. "I believe that Nick Holbert knows more than what he's saying and holds the keys to what happened to Kelli."
Cox said that on the night her sister was last seen, she received two text messages from Bordeaux's number, 40 minutes apart. The first indicated she was on her way home, and the second that she got home safely.
The family does not believe Bordeaux sent the last text message, Cox said.
Why would it take 40 minutes for Bordeaux to get from the bar to her home 0.8 miles away?
"There's no reason for it," Cox said.
‘She loved the Army'
The youngest of three, a trained dental hygienist and native of St. Cloud, Fla., Bordeaux joined the Army in April 2011 for better opportunities and financial security for her family, Cox said.
She was with the 44th Medical Brigade's 601st Area Support Medical Company, 261st Multifunctional Medical Battalion.
Cox said the Army was a "perfect fit" for her sister, who was upbeat, hands-on and loved challenges. A cross-country runner in high school, she loved daily runs and weekly ruck marches at Fort Bragg, where she arrived last November.
"I was like, ‘You're insane. Who likes running every day?'" Cox said. "She loved the Army."
Bordeaux had signed up for three online courses from the American Military University and had plans to go to the Warrior Leader Course, hoping to quickly make rank.
"Nothing was out of the ordinary. She was going out to have fun," Cox said. "She just wanted to enjoy being Kelli, and it's sad that that led to her being missing."
Mystery, pain persist
Seven months later, Locklear has amassed six binders of investigative information, detectives meet daily to discuss the case and they continue to run down leads.
The Army and agents from Criminal Investigation Command "have done an awesome job" assisting, he said.
Yet the case remains a mystery. There are no electronic traces of Bordeaux since her disappearance; no phone records, bank records or otherwise. No friends say she has contacted them.
"There's been nothing," Locklear said. "I'd try to stay away from saying a person is dead because there's no evidence, body or crime scene. But at this point, the chances of her being found alive would be slim."
Cox said Locklear is thorough and responsive to her weekly calls.
"Even though it didn't happen last night, they're always working on it, and they let us know they're not going to stop," Cox said.
Locklear said Bordeaux's husband, Michael Bordeaux, a 24-year-old construction worker, is not a suspect, and his whereabouts during his wife's disappearance are not in doubt.
Cox said her sister's disappearance has been very painful for him.
"Mike is having an extremely difficult time coping with Kelli being missing, and the fact that he was out of town makes it extremely difficult for him to not blame himself," Cox said.
It has been a tough year for the family, Cox said. Cox and Bordeaux's father died in May 2011, and their grandmother died three months later.
Cox is more than eight months pregnant, and her husband is set to deploy soon, with Christmas and her sister's birthday looming.
"It's extremely difficult, especially for my mother," she said.