Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Jessica Flores, 36 was last seen February 24, 2019. She left for a night out, taking her boyfriends car, a 2010 Nissan Altima, and headed out. With six children, she was expected to come home, no one ever thinking this would be the last time she would ever be seen alive.
Jessica with her friend Melina Cottrell made a Facebook live video the very night she was last seen. Later, her car was found off the Skyway on the Illinois side partially burned. A large pool of blood was found in the back seat.
The witness, Melina Cottrell came forward and told police her accounts of what happened the night Jessica was murdered. Here is a direct account of what is written in the affidavit.
The affidavit states that Jessica Flores and Melina Cottrell left Jessica’s boyfriend, Andy Martinez’ residence in South Chicago Heights residence on February 24, 2019 with Andy’s vehicle, a white 2010 Nissan Altima. When Andy realized something was he made an official missing persons report.
Shortly after the vehicle was found abandoned in Chicago, set on fire and had a large amount of blood in the rear passenger compartment.
They then received information that Jessica was shot and killed while she was in Gary, Indiana. They knew Melina Cottrell was missing and went to her mother’s house to question her. Her mother had not seen Melina since February 19, 2019 and believed Melina was also missing.
March 6, 2019 Detectives drove to a tow yard in Chicago where the Nissan was processed and swabs were taken from the vehicle.
March 7, 2019 Detectives organized a large area search for Jessica which included law enforcement from South Chicago Heights & Steger, Illinois, Gary city & Lake County Sheriff’s who all assisted. Lake County Aviation Unit brought their drone. Jessica was not located.
March 8, 2019 Detectives spoke with Melina who told the following narrative of accounts. She said they were at a friend’s house at 3300 Pennsylvania in Gary hanging out when she got a call from Jessica. Jessica came to pick her up and they hung out all day and in to Monday February 25, 2019. They both hung out on 33rd and Pennsylvania St then she drove Jessica to her house, stopped at a gas station in Illinois and met up with another one of Jessica’s friends for a moment. They left and went to Jessica’s house to change clothes.
They then went to a bar called Paradise Lounge in Gary, Indiana and met up with Melina’s friend Reggie. Reggie never made it to the bar so the girls left. They then went to George Heath’s residence where they saw Drew Carter there. Melina stated that she had never met Drew before. George’s girlfriend was also at the residence. After some time there, Melina, Jessica and Drew decided to go to the liquor store. Melina said Drew drove them with Jessica’s vehicle. When they got back to George’s house, Melina said that Drew began to argue with Jessica outside saying that Jessica and Melina’s visit to Drew’s house cause the other white female to get away from Drew (Pamela Crider). Melina said she got away from the argument and walked back inside George’s house. Drew and Jessica eventually came back inside the house and at that point Jessica and Melina decided to leave. Jessica and Melina attempted to make it to the vehicle, followed out by Drew who eventually convinced Jessica to allow him inside the vehicle.
Inside the vehicle, Drew promised Jessica and Melina he would get them some cocaine. Drew gave Jessica directions to a place that he called his aunt’s house to meet a man named “Pint” Melina said that Drew took them to the residence off 10th Avenue and Clark Road. Melina said Drew was inside the house for a long time which caused Jessica to start blowing the horn. Melina said Jessica started to vomit out of the vehicle as they waited for Drew. When Drew returned with drugs in hand he had Jessica get in to the passenger seat so he could drive. Melina said Drew drove them back to George’s house.
Melina said that Drew got upset again because Pamela Crider had not returned to George’s house. George did not open his door when they came back that time. When they realized they were not getting back in to George’s house that time, Drew made both Jessica and Melina get in the back seat. Jessica and Drew began to argue again and he drove several times around the neighborhood. Melina believed that Drew was attempting to find Pamela Crider, stopping the car several times and turned himself around to argue with Jessica. The last time Drew stopped the car he asked Jessica if he could have sex with Melina and Jessica said ‘no’. Drew then turned around and shot Jessica one time. Jessica’s body immediately slumped to her right.
Melina said she got out of the car, her ears ringing, and attempted to run away, running a short distance, then tackled by Drew. After he tackled her, he walked her back to the vehicle. She said she did not know the exact location of where the shooting occurred. They got back in the vehicle and Drew asked her for her phone to check and see if Melina called the police. She said she was scared and knew that she was not free to leave. She said that Drew drove back to his aunt’s residence. Drew made Melina go inside with him. Jessica’s body remained in the vehicle. Melina met his aunt and cousin but did not get their names. While she was inside the aunt’s residence she spoke to the aunt who told her that Drew had not been himself lately and that he had been acting aggressive. Drew attempted to have sex with her but did not want to rape her, just wanted her to submit to him. Drew attempted to make her feel comfortable by talking to her and giving her crack which was also inside the residence. She said she wasn’t speaking much and just allowed Drew to talk, which he continued to do until he eventually went to sleep. She laid down and waited about an hour before she escaped.
Detective stated that during the interview he asked Melina if she felt as though she was free to leave the vehicle after Jessica was shot. She said she was afraid for her life and knew that she was not free to go. After she was tackled by Drew, she sustained injuries including her left leg she said was swollen from the knee down, her right leg was scratched and had two scratches on her back. She knew when Drew took her back to the vehicle and placed her in the front passenger seat and took her phone, making her open her phone saying he wanted to make sure she did not call the police.
MELINA'S SUSTAINED INJURIES SHE POSTED AFTER DREW ALLEGEDLY TACKLED HER.
The Detective had her do a six-person photo lineup and she circled Drew’s photo as the one who killed Jessica. A second photo lineup was made as she identified one to be George Heath as the man she called ‘Stacks’. She identified two pictures of the exterior of George’s residence. She identified a single photo of Jessica, also nicknamed ‘Heaven’ and ‘Bella’. Detectives then drove Melina to the 900 block of Morton Street in Gary, Indiana where she pointed out a particular residence as the house she escaped from where she was being held by Drew. She said this was also the last place she saw Jessica’s body and the last place she saw the vehicle that Jessica’s body was in. This was also the last location which Drew got cocaine on two separate occasions that night.
Melina then took them to the 3100 block of West 22nd Avenue in Gary where she pointed out a particular address as that of George Heath.
When Detectives asked her why she didn’t go straight to the police when this happened, she said she did not want to get in to any trouble and she said she was scared that if she spoke something would happen to her family.
No one in Jessica’s family or her boyfriend had heard from Jessica and there was no activity on her Facebook page.
On March 6, 2019 Detectives observed the Nissan Jessica drove which was recovered by Chicago PD. The backseat where Melina said the murder occurred had distinctive blood stains. They observed a large amount of blood on the seat, the back of the seat and the pool of blood under the seat. The Detective reported that in his experience the amount of blood in the vehicle would not suggest that Jessica survived the gunshot injury.
On March 11, 2019 Detectives spoke with forensic pathologist Dr Wang at the Lake County Coroner’s office who reviewed the photos of the vehicle. The Doctor advised that ‘the shape of the blood pattern and the blood spray were consistent with an injury to an artery and that the blood spray was consistent with arterial spray. The pattern appeared to be caused by a gunshot wound, causing an injury that would be fatal if medical attention was not received immediately. He advised that the blood pool located underneath the seat is likely from the injured victim sitting in one place for a long period of time.
Later, Drew Carter III, 41 of Gary, Indiana was then charged with murder, kidnapping and two counts of criminal confinement. He pleaded not guilty. He requested a speedy trial, and due to the State having to wait for lab results most likely being unavailable for the date of the jury trial, and anticipation of additional evidence and investigation needed, the state had to request a motion to dismiss the charges against Drew Carter noting that the prosecution would be filing charges at a later date.
However, when he was picked up and charged for Jessica's murder, he had two guns in his vehicle. He was charged on two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. Today, he remains in County jail awaiting trial.
George "Stacks" Heath, 55, a potential witness in the case, was also murdered shortly after on March 8, 2019, approximately 5:00 P.M. caused by a gun shot wound to the back of his head at his home on the 3100 block of West 22nd Avenue in Gary. George was reported to be with Melina, Jessica & Drew sometime the night of Jessica's disappearance. There has been no charges or arrests in George's murder.
A police report made February 23, 2019 between 6:00 - 6:15 P.M. Pamela Crider reported that she picked up a female friend from 15th & Clark Road in Gary and dropped her off at 3136 W 22nd Avenue in Gary. She then observed "Stacks" aka George Heath who lived at the residence become loud and upset, striking Pamela sever times to the head, throat and chest areas causing pain, threatening to kill her if she didn't get away from his house. She was afraid for her safety, refused medical attention and said she just wanted to leave and go somewhere she felt safe.
Before George was murdered, he spoke to the family and told the family what allegedly occurred. He stated that Tiny brought Pamela Crider to his home to kill her because she had used all his drugs. When Melina & Jessica arrived they were speaking to Tiny and while Tiny wasn't paying attention, Pamela took off with her vehicle.
He then said that while Tiny was driving Jessica's vehicle driving around to look for Pamela Crider, both Melina and Jessica was inside the vehicle in the back seat, and as their argument escalated, he turned around and shot Jessica in the head. Melina opened the door and attempted to run, but Tiny caught up to her, assaulted Melina and forced her back in to the vehicle. Tiny allegedly took her back to his aunt's house, sexually assaulted her and eventually fell asleep which gave room for Melina to escape. When Tiny woke up, Jessica's body was allegedly still in the vehicle which he then drove off to dump her body. At this point, he said Melina allegedly went in to hiding from Tiny.
George also said that Tiny abandoned Jessica's vehicle in a location known to him as he had a friend over there he was picking drugs up from. He said that somehow Tiny had Melina's phone which he used to track down Melina's whereabouts.
PICTURE OF JESSICA & DREW TAKEN THE NIGHT SHE WAS MURDERED
Remember the woman that disappeared from Tiny's house that made him so irate when Melina & Jessica showed up? February 23, 2019 a report came in at 6:41 P.M. with Pamela going to two separate neighbors home stating that she had just been assaulted and her car was broken down, asking them to contact the police for her.
February 26, 2019 Pamela contacted her family reporting that her was missing and she was unable to locate her vehicle.
February 27, 2019, A report of shots fired was at 5:25 A.M.. Police located her body at 5:45 A.M. Pamela Crider, 42, was found lying unresponsive in the middle of the road on the 2900 block of West 10th Place, also in Gary, Indiana. Pamela was shot in the face twice and left for dead in the middle of the street. There has been no arrests or charges in Pamela's murder.
It is not confirmed if the weapon used to kill Pamela was ever recovered.
PICTURES OF PAMELA CRIDER PROVIDED BY HER FAMILY
Pamela's autopsy showed two gun shot wounds, both to her head. One of the bullets showed the direction of the wound path was left to right, front to back and upward at the anatomic position.
The second bullet was to the left eyebrow. The bullet was situated on the left eyebrow 5" blow the top of her head and 2" to the left of the anterior midline of the head was 1/4" round entrance. The gun shot wound with a 4' x 5' area of gun powder stippling around the wound. There was no exit wound and the bullet was recovered from the brain.
Pamela's vehicle was found on 8th and Carolina in Gary, Indiana in an alley about February 27, 2019 (same day as her murder) at approximately 3:15 P.M.
PICTURES OF PAMELA CRIDER'S VEHICLE AFTER SHE WAS FOUND MURDERED
PICTURES PROVIDED BY PAMELA'S FAMILY
April 16, 2020 a skull was found in a wooded area by the 700 block of Clark Road in Gary, Indiana, quickly identified as that of Jessica Flores. While the family was notified, it didn't go public for a few days and the investigation continues. The Lake County Indiana Sheriff's Office now leads the death investigation.
A massive search lead by law enforcement continued searching the area were the skull was located. Together with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Gary PD, South Chicago Heights PD, Lake County Coroner's Office and several Search & Rescue teams including the Illiana Search & Rescue Teams, Victim Found K9 Search & Rescue and NWI K9 Search & Recovery. They briefed the family as they waited to hear word. This however is not their first search for Jessica, as there were many thru the first several weeks of her disappearance. The more information they received, the more they ramped up to do what it took to bring her home.
The family continues to grieve and working together to notify their large family and those that knew and loved Jessica. It has been a long struggle for them in hopes that Jessica survived the horrific stories they were given when she first disappeared. It is now time to bring forth justice.
I spoke with several of her family members over the course of Jessica's disappearance and met several of them. It is uncanny the strength that this family had to endure during their time of uncertainty. She leaves behind her six children, many siblings, parents, and so many other family members, friends and loved ones.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Kris Adams of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
PICTURES OF THE VEHICLE JESSICA DROVE - PROVIDED BY THE FAMILY
BACKTRACK TO FEBRUARY 20TH - VALENTINE MURDERS
February 20, 2019 (4 days before Jessica's disappearance) Timothy Snow, 55 of Hammond and Tracy Valentine, 48 was found dead on the 400 block of Johnson Street in Gary. Both were ruled homicides.
February 24, 2019 Wayne Valentine, 69, was found murdered on the 2400 block of Jennings Street in Gary. He was located on the ground near a vehicle. Cause of death was gun shot wounds.
February 25, 2019 Tracy's brother Jimmy Valentine, 55 was found murdered on the 2500 block of Calhoun Street in Gary. Jimmy was found dead in a ditch off the roadway. The cause of death was a gunshot wound. All four were found murdered within 5 days of each other, within 5 miles of each other.
TIMOTHY SNOW, TRACY VALENTINE, WAYNE VALENTINE (A PICTURE OF JIMMY VALENTINE WAS NOT AVAILABLE)
Law enforcement reportedly believe that Drew may be linked to all seven homicides.