By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Anne Elliott was in her mid-20s when her life went off the rails.
Her life until that point was good. A mother of two living in Jackson and working for a dentist’s office.
The trouble started when she got hooked on pain medicine following a breast augmentation surgery. Complications following the first surgery led to a second with more pain pills prescribed.
From there, the downward spiral was fairly swift, her younger sister Emily Nardacci told Cowboy State Daily Wednesday, leading to multiple arrests, several attempts at rehab, and to Anne disappearing from the streets of Salt Lake City in January 2020 at the age of 33.
Since then, Emily, a Pinedale resident, and her father, a lawyer living in California, have been searching for Anne.
In a million years, Emily wouldn’t have predicted this would have happened to her sister.
“She was an amazing mother and I looked up to her,” Emily said. “Something went wrong, and she got hooked and her life was never the same again.”
There’s a backstory to Anne’s life, her sister said, starting with a pregnancy at age 16 and subsequent marriage to an older man in his young 20s. Her subsequent divorce and custody battles created significant stress for Anne, Emily said.
A second pregnancy and a father who refused to help Anne left her on her own to raise both of her sons.
Unfortunately, Emily said, her older sister seemed to struggle with feelings of inadequacy that Emily believes drugs helped ease.
It was as if the drugs opened a door to Anne’s brain that erased all the pain, Emily said.
Opioids soon turned to heroin and other street drugs after Anne.
“It was kind of a perfect storm,” Emily said.
At first, it started with Anne asking Emily to watch her children for her for a night or weekend, so Anne could have time to herself, a request her sister gladly granted.
She now feels guilty about being so generous, since she sees it enabled her sister to get deeper into drugs.
Anne made multiple attempts at rehab in Wyoming, none of which panned out. Emily believes Anne’s failure was due to the lack of follow-up care once a person leaves treatment.
“There were no resources to help,” Emily said, particularly in the Star Valley, where they were raised.
Emily described their hometown as “judgy and prone to ignore and isolate people with problems.” As a result, Anne grew more isolated, her sister said, and always returned to the drug scene.
Emily remembers Anne injected herself with saline after one release from a facility in an attempt to break the habit that becomes ingrained in serious addicts.
Anne lost her job and lived with different family members, including Emily, but was always kicked out due to her drug use.
Spiraling Out of Control
Looking back now, Emily wishes she’d helped Anne more, but back then, it was the hard choice between protecting her sister or her own children and her relationship with her husband.
Eventually, Anne drifted to Salt Lake City in her early 30s, where her drug use intensified, and she became a regular at the local jail.
Utah is where Anne’s problems grew worse, Emily recalled. Anne was frequently arrested for shoplifting, prostitution and misdemeanor drug use, sometimes with police finding her alongside a road with a needle stuck in her arm.
Anne, who sometimes uses her maiden name of Lancaster, also turned to other, harder drugs in Salt Lake City. She got caught up in sex trafficking and once landed for almost a year in the mental health treatment facility in Evanston, where Emily said Anne seemed to be exhibiting signs of a drug psychosis brought on by excessive methamphetamine use.
Anne tried to escape her lifestyle several times, including moving to live with her father in California, but she always slid back to drugs.
No matter what was happening in Anne’s life, however, one thing was constant: she always called Emily, no matter what, whether it was to get a bus ticket home from jail or rehab or if she just needed to talk. Sometimes she called when she was out of her mind on drugs, Emily said.
Many of these conversations with her older sister were disturbing, Emily said.
“That was hard,” Emily said. “You want to protect the people you love but know that nothing you can do will help except just be there for them, regardless of how much they are wrecking their lives.”
Questions Surrounding Release From Jail
Communication with Anne went dark in January 2020. She had been arrested yet again and had been in the Salt Lake City jail for about six months.
During that time, Anne called her younger sister frequently and the plan was for Emily and her husband to meet Anne on the day she would be released and bring her back to Wyoming for yet another attempt to get Anne out of this life.
Two weeks prior to Anne’s release, however, Anne stopped calling. The jail was able to tell Emily her sister was set to be released on Jan. 10, 2020, but due to legal restraints, couldn’t tell her the time of day. Emily and her husband rented a hotel room next to the jail and regularly checked in.
During one 30-minute period between checks, Anne was released and subsequently disappeared.
Emily and her husband stayed in town a few days after, searching for her in parks, homeless shelters and under bridges where homeless and drug users were known to congregate.
At that point, she wasn’t terribly concerned, knowing Anne’s habits, but when she hadn’t heard from Anne for a few months, she called the Salt Lake City police to file a missing person report. Officers were not alarmed given Anne’s past, telling Emily that she would no doubt turn up at some point in jail.
She never did. But police did encounter her once more in March 2020, but did not arrest her — the first time in her long history with Salt Lake City police that a visit with officers did not lead to an arrest, Emily said.
Anne has not been on social media during the more than two years she’s been out of contact with her family, which Emily said is just plain weird because her sister always posted on Facebook, regardless of her state at the time.
“No matter what, she would have called me,” Emily said. “She always did, even when she was out of her mind on drugs.”
Emily believes something was going on in those final two weeks in jail when Anne stopped communicating. She has asked for videotapes from that day to see which way Anne might have gone after leaving the jail or if there was somebody on hand to meet her. Police told Emily her sister had been talking to a man on the phone from jail prior to her release but couldn’t give any specifics.
Emily fears whoever that person might be trafficking her. Or perhaps her sister has overdosed and has yet to be found.
Anne’s DNA is on file and the family is attempting to track down her dental records.
The family hired a private detective who was able to identify a man named “Thor” who knew Anne, however, that tip ultimately went nowhere.
Anne’s disappearance is also being investigated by the national non-profit, We Help the Missing (WHTM), whose volunteer detectives work missing person cases all over the country, including in Wyoming.
Anne is listed the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).
Emily worried that because of Anne’s history of drug use and homelessness, her case is not being taken seriously by law enforcement.
“I feel hopeless because nobody cares,” Emily said. “If she was someone like Gabby Petito, then people would be chomping at the bit to find her. Something happened to Anne. Just because she made bad choices doesn’t mean her life doesn’t matter. It matters to her children, to me and my family.”
Regardless, Emily will not give up until she finds her older sister.
Part of her hopes that Anne is at peace rather than in some horrible situation where she’s being abused or worse.
“I am obligated to Anne’s children who deserve to know where their mother is and what happened to her,” Emily said.
Anne is described as 5 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing 130 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Salt Lake City police at (801) 799-3954 or private investigator Jason Jensen at (801) 759-2259. Those with tips can also call the WHTM tip line at (866) 660-4025. All tips may remain anonymous.