March 22, 2021

Episode 4: The Boy Next Door

by Stolen: The Search for Jermain

Background show artwork for Stolen: The Search for Jermain

The story of what happened to Jermain began long before the night she disappeared. We go back to the small town of Dixon Agency where she grew up and trace the path that led her to the doorstep of a new neighbor, a teenage boy named Michael.

Where to Listen

Transcript

Connie Walker: About a month before traveling to Montana, I spent a few evenings online searching for anything related to Jermain Charlo. I found some local TV stories, her social media pages, and eventually I ended up on YouTube.


Connie: Vicki posted a beautiful and heartbreaking slideshow she called Bring Jermain Home. There's a photo of baby Jermain hugging her Yaya, their faces cheek to cheek. Another one of teenage Jermain with bright pink hair. And then with her boys on either side of her looking out at the river. I watched the slide show several times, but then before I closed out of YouTube, I found something else.


Connie: Okay, it's almost eleven o'clock now and I'm still on YouTube looking at things related to Jermain Charlo. And she has a YouTube page. She has five videos. I'm gonna watch the one that's called First Blog.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: Hi. Well, for those of you who don't know me, I'm Jermain.]


Connie: Whoa.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: This is now going to be my blog about me.]


Connie: The video is black and white. Jermain is standing up, holding a phone in front of her and looking straight into the camera.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: This whole channel on my YouTube, this is gonna be all about me and whatever I do. Now none of this is scripted, nothing. All real. I don't like fake shit. So ...]


Connie: It's wild to watch Jermain talk. For so long, I've been imagining her and who she is, and it's incredible to get to see her expressions and to hear her voice.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: To be honest, I live in a camper.]


Connie: I live in a camper?


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: I don't know another way to put this, but yep, I do.]


Connie: The date is September 2, 2013, five years before Jermain disappeared. She's 18 years old here, technically an adult, but I can't get over how small she is and how young she looks.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: And I do have a boyfriend. That's who I live with. My parents aren't happy who I am living with and my family is not happy at all. But hey, reality.]


Connie: Jermain says she's living with her boyfriend in a camper, and her family—including her parents—are not happy about it.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: I'm home alone for two more weeks. So every day blog will probably be only me until my boyfriend/fiancé gets home from work. He's a firefighter.]


Connie: Jermain is in the camper alone, she says. Her boyfriend is away fighting wildfires for the next two weeks.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: I usually don't do much. I'm just a lazy-ass bitch who's supposed to be a housewife 'til, yeah, things start working out here.]


Connie: That was hard to hear, but Jermain said she doesn't do much, that she's a lazy-ass bitch who's supposed to be a housewife until things start working out. And she did air quotes and gave a little shrug when she said "housewife." But Jermain doesn't look like a housewife, she looks like a kid. And why is she calling herself a "lazy-ass bitch?"


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: He's probably not gonna be happy because I'm blogging on YouTube, but if he does watch this, I love you and I miss you. That's about it. Have a lovely evening.]


Connie: Wow. I wasn't expecting to find that.


Connie: Jermain never says her boyfriend's name, but I know it's Michael. And while I love getting to see her and hear her voice, I'm left with a feeling of sadness. How did she get to this place where she is living with Michael in a camper, at odds with her family, and left alone for weeks?


Connie: What I discovered is that this video came at a crossroad in Jermain's life. It captures a moment that's important in understanding Jermain and Michael's relationship, and what eventually led her to The Badlander that night in June.


Connie: From Gimlet Media and Spotify, this is Stolen: The Search for Jermain. I'm Connie Walker.


Connie: Let me put my shoes on.


Connie: It's a few weeks later on Father's Day, and I'm in Dixon Agency. Vicki invited me over for a barbeque, and I'm grateful to get to spend more time with her and Jermain's family. After dinner, Jermain's cousin Cedric offers to take me for a walk around the agency.


Connie: I think I've said this before, but Dixon Agency is very small, home to less than a hundred people. And as you can hear, quite a few dogs.


Connie: So were you close with Jermain?


Cedric: Yeah. Yeah, she was like my other sister.


Connie: What was she like?


Cedric: She was awesome. She was really an outdoors person. She would take me in the mountains and stuff all the time, and she showed me the good fishing spots.


Connie: Cedric is Dani's son. He wasn't raised here, but says that he saw Jermain a lot growing up.


Cedric: She was the only cousin that I kind of got super close to.


Connie: We walk over to the Flathead River that runs just behind Vicki's house. For a town as small as Dixon Agency is, I was surprised to learn that it used to be a hub for tribal administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. There were office buildings, a school and tribal police headquarters here too. But in the 1980s, the tribe moved all of their operations to another town on the reservation. Dixon Agency lost people and resources, and has been struggling ever since.


Connie: Now all of those tribal buildings have been torn down, and a lot of the houses that are remaining are boarded up or abandoned. One of them was Jermain's childhood home, a trailer where she lived with her mom Jen and her younger siblings.


Connie: Oh yeah.


Cedric: So that's where Jermain and Nathan and Donovan, that's where they all grew up.


Connie: Okay. So close to ...


Cedric: To Grandpa and Grandma, yeah.


Connie: Cedric says that when Jermain was growing up, most of her family lived within a block or two of each other. And then as an adult, Jermain moved to a house just around the corner with her two boys.


Cedric: Yeah, she lived—there's a house right at the end. She was living there when she disappeared, and we had to take all her stuff out of there. Yeah


Connie: Oh.


Cedric: And put it in storage.


Connie: Jermain's house looks lonely. The grass is overgrown, and along one side of the yard there's an old wooden fence that's falling over. We walk back to Vicki's house. She and her husband David Velarde are sitting on the front steps. We start talking, and David tells me about the night Jermain went missing.


David Velarde: She was with ...


Vicki Morigeau: Michael.


David Velarde: Michael Defrance.


Connie: David points to a house just across the road. It’s small, beige with white trim. It looks like a lot of the other tribal houses in Dixon Agency.


David Velarde: They used to live right across there.


Vicki Morigeau: Yeah, they used to live also in that house too.


Connie: That's how they met?


David Velarde: Yeah.


Connie: The house is just across the street, about 30 yards away. They say that's where Michael Defrance and his family used to live.


Vicki Morigeau: He was the only one around that was pretty much her age. And they got to be good friends. That's how they met.


Connie: I'm here to learn the truth about Jermain's disappearance, but the more I learn about her life, the more I realize that in order to understand what happened that night, I need to know what came before. Standing there, looking across the street at the Defrance house, I see the driveway where Jermain and Michael's camper was parked.


Connie: So many important moments in Jermain's life happened within this triangle of three houses in Dixon Agency: Jermain's, Vicki's and Michael's. So many small steps and decisions made right here that would eventually shape her life. I want to know about them all, including what life was like for her and Michael.


Connie: Vicki didn't live here when the Defrances moved in, so she doesn't know a lot about Jermain and Michael's early relationship. I'd like to ask Jermain's mom about it, but I haven't gotten a chance to meet Jen yet. And aside from that one short clip from a local news story when Jermain first went missing, I haven't seen Jen give any other interviews. Vicki has reached out to her for me, but has also kind of warned me that it might not happen.


Vicki Morigeau: I will introduce you. Like I said, she's got a lot of anger. This is a really hard time for her. I'll ask her, but I'm not gonna guarantee you anything.


Connie: I can totally understand that it might be too difficult or upsetting for Jen to talk to me about Jermain. Her daughter has been missing for over two years. I can only imagine the pain and heartache, and why she might not want to talk about it with a stranger. No one in Jermain's family talks about her dad Shawn Charlo much, but when I find out his name, I reached out to him and was surprised to find that he wanted to talk. In fact, he seemed grateful that I asked. He said no one talks to him about Jermain, even when she disappeared.


Shawn Charlo: Some of my friends came out and said, "Your daughter's on TV. She's missing!" And I said, "Yeah, right," Sure enough, I watched it. That's how I found out.


Connie: Shawn seems hurt that no one thought to call him when Jermain disappeared, but I learned this was kind of a reflection of his relationship with her.


Shawn Charlo: Honestly, I was not mostly in her life. I had her at the age of 19 and the mom was 16. And we were split up, and I seen her once and a while.


Connie: Jen was actually only 15 years old when Jermain was born. Shawn says he and Jen lived together for about a year when Jermain was a baby, but that they struggled a lot.


Shawn Charlo: We was always drinking most of the time, and drinking. And I got—me I was jealous, and sometimes she was jealous.


Connie: Was your relationship with Jen ever violent?


Shawn Charlo: When we was drinking, yes. But not when we were sober.


Connie: After he and Jen broke up, Shawn said he didn't see Jermain very much.


Shawn Charlo: I felt I wasn't there for her when she was growing up, and I felt bad that I wasn't. I should've been in her life. And that kind of tears me up now.


Connie: Listening to Shawn, you can feel the weight of his regret—all those years when he missed watching Jermain grow up. What kind of kid was she? What did she like to do?


Connie: Back when Jermain was still a little kid, there was almost no one she was closer to than her best friend Jocelyn Stevens.


Jocelyn Stevens: We moved to Dixon. I was like four or five, around that age. And kind of the first day living there is when I first met Jermain and we've been tight since.


Connie: We met in Missoula, a place Jocelyn has avoided since Jermain disappeared.


Jocelyn Stevens: I hate coming down here. Sorry I'm looking a little nervous, but that's just what happens when I come into Missoula now. I get just high anxiety. I just get really shaky. My voice gets shaky.


Connie: Jocelyn said since Jermain went missing, she doesn't feel like she's lost a friend, she feels like she's lost a sister. Before Michael and his family moved into the house across the street, Jocelyn and her family lived there.


Jocelyn Stevens: Wherever she went, I went, wherever I went, she went.


Connie: The girls were five months apart, in the same class, and lived within minutes of each other. Jocelyn remembers a childhood full of playing on their own in the Agency.


Jocelyn Stevens: Me and her, we were big Barbie babies. So yeah, we were always dancing to Barbie CDs. We were always learning dance routines on the Barbie movies. That's kind of where we got introduced to makeup too, I believe. The makeup, the high heels, you know, the glam. [laughs] Went from Barbie dolls to Bratz dolls. And then for Bratz dolls, we magically jumped over to Hot Topic.


Connie: Being the oldest kids in their families meant Jocelyn and Jermain did a lot of babysitting together.


Jocelyn Stevens: We'd all just hang out together and be in one house. We always cooked a lot and always had a lot of food to just kind of offer out there, put out on the table. They'd just come over and hang out then until basically our parents got home from whatever it was they was doing.


Connie: Who was she living with at the time?


Jocelyn Stevens: At the time, she actually was just jumping in between two different houses.


Connie: Jocelyn says that Jermain lived with her mom Jen in the trailer, but also stayed with her great-grandparents Sonny and Bev. They lived in the same house that Vicki lives in now. The two houses are right down the street from each other, just a block away. But Jocelyn says that for Jermain, those two homes sometimes felt like worlds apart. Jermain's great-grandparents' house was a sanctuary when things started to get tough at her mom's.


Jocelyn Stevens: I believe there was somewhere in there where, you know, she started getting into something and Jermain didn't like it.


Connie: Jocelyn said that around that time, Jermain's mom Jen had started a new relationship, and Jermain didn't like her mom's new boyfriend.


Jocelyn Stevens: She didn't want any association with him. And she would actually always just complain to me about her mom, how much, you know, she doesn't like her being with this guy.


Connie: Jocelyn says that Jermain and her siblings witnessed her mother being abused. That it wasn't a one time thing, but a regular occurrence.


Jocelyn Stevens: Oh, yeah. I mean, I don't know how long they was in a relationship before it started happening, but yeah, they—they saw it.


Connie: I don't know exactly what Jermain saw, but Jocelyn says it was violent. And I know that witnessing that can be a traumatic event for a kid to experience. Because I went through it myself.


Connie: For me, it happened when I was seven years old and saw my father abusing my mother. Like Jermain, it was a regular occurrence, something I saw time and time again. But it was the last night that it happened that is burned into my brain, because it was the night he threatened to kill her. And I believed him. I remember being paralyzed with fear, standing in the doorway watching it happen, unable to move.


Connie: I spent many years trying to avoid thinking about that night, and how that trauma affected me. And although I've been reporting on trauma in our communities for a long time, the truth is it's something that I'm just beginning to understand. What I've learned is that intense feeling of fear is what makes a traumatic experience so harmful. I'm reading a book called Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. It says, "The salient characteristic of the traumatic event is its power to inspire helplessness and terror." Who feels more helpless and afraid than a child who's witnessing their mother being hurt?


Connie: I was lucky. The night that I felt the most helpless and afraid was the last night. I'm lucky we survived and escaped that situation, but it's something that's affected me my whole life. And I imagine it did for Jermain too.


Connie: Jocelyn was there alongside her friend, and saw the toll this trauma took on her. She thinks they were in fourth grade when she started to realize just how much young Jermain was hurting.


Jocelyn Stevens: I don't know, she started, like, just randomly cutting herself. She was trying to get into that, and then she was trying to be depressed about it, saying that, you know, she don't like the way her mom's been treating her. She don't like the way things were going.


Connie: But she was, like, harming herself?


Jocelyn Stevens: Yeah.


Connie: Yeah.


Jocelyn Stevens: There was actually a weird time where she was sticking pins through herself. I mean, I don't know—at that time, I don't know if she was being cool about it, or if, you know, she was just finding different ways to harm herself. But she was really into that for some reason. She'd stick pins in herself and just kind of leave it there.


Connie: Did she talk about, like, what was bothering her?


Jocelyn Stevens: Just mostly her mom and her dad, her biological dad.


Connie: I know that the violence that I experienced and that seemed to be at the root of Jermain's pain is often cyclical, and can be tied back to the intergenerational trauma that is so common in Indigenous communities. It's something Jermain's dad Shawn and I talked about.


Connie: It seems like domestic violence is a pretty big problem on the reservation.


Shawn Charlo: Yeah, I had to go through that when I was little too.


Connie: Oh, really? I'm sorry to hear that.


Shawn Charlo: My mom's boyfriend used to beat up on her.


Connie: How old would you have been?


Shawn Charlo: I can remember since I was about six all the way up to 13.


Connie: Shawn says he was also raised with his grandmother, but that her house wasn't always a safe space either. She was an alcoholic, and sometimes had parties that ended in violence.


Connie: Where was your mom?


Shawn Charlo: My mom was in and out of my life. Like, she'll be around the reservation for a while and then split again. So my grandmother raised me most of all my life.


Connie: I talked to Shawn's mom, Tiny Charlo. She told me that she's also experienced a lot of trauma in her life, and is a survivor of domestic violence. That her mother was too. The things that Tiny and Shawn went through as children, Jermain did too. They witnessed violence at home, and were traumatized by it. And had parents going through their own struggles that made it hard for them to be there for their children. Shawn says he's sober now, but for many years he was an alcoholic, and that's part of why he was absent from Jermain's life.


Shawn Charlo: And I was heavy on—heavy, heavy on the drinking.


Connie: Yeah. Why do you think that was?


Shawn Charlo: Probably depression. I was not around my kids, so I don't have a father, I don't have a mother.


Connie: When Shawn says that, it sounds so familiar. So many Indigenous people go through childhood trauma, and it has a lasting effect on our lives. I learned that most people who experience one trauma usually recover, but people who experience multiple traumas are also more likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Untreated PTSD can lead to a whole host of health problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide.


Connie: There isn't enough research done on the rates of PTSD in Indigenous communities, but in my reporting, inevitably I encounter Indigenous people who have been through multiple traumas throughout their lives, like Tiny and Shawn. The first step in recovering from PTSD is to feel safe, to live without the threat of danger. But given the rates of violence that Indigenous people face, I have to wonder how many of us ever feel that sense of safety.


Connie: Growing up, one of Jermain's safe spaces seemed to be with her great grandparents Sonny & Bev. But when she was 14 years old, Jermain suffered a devastating loss.


Jocelyn Stevens: She'd come over to my house. And that's basically the first thing I heard as soon as I opened my door. She fell right into me and gave me a big old hug and, "My grandma passed away. My grandma's gone." And yeah, that honestly tore us both apart.


Connie: I don't know how Jermain dealt with this loss, but Jocelyn says she struggled to cope.


Connie: So when Jermaine was, like, cutting herself, did you—like, was there anyone to turn to for help?


Jocelyn Stevens: I mean I'm pretty sure there was. We just—we never really talked to anybody about it, just because, you know, I mean it was self-harm. Why would we want to mention that to mom and dad? Just kind of kept it a secret.


Connie: Did she—like, was she upset when she was doing it? Or was she—what was she like?


Jocelyn Stevens: I would say, yeah, upset. But at the same time it's more of I've felt worse pain than this. This don't hurt.


Connie: When Jocelyn says that, she isn't just relating Jermain's to experience, she's been through her own pain.


Jocelyn Stevens: So I mean, in a way, I want to say I learned about MMIW even before it was MMIW. We get raped. We get murdered. Sometimes stuff doesn't get done about it. Sometimes they just brush it up under the rug, drop charges that, you know, were being filed. Because I actually had a rapist out there. So I kind of really didn't have anyone to talk to about it.


Connie: I'm sorry to hear that.


Jocelyn Stevens: It happened when I was 13 years old.


Connie: Oh, no!


Jocelyn Stevens: I didn't know what was going on. I just—it happened, and I didn't say nothing to my mom and dad because I just didn't want to go through with anything. I just wanted to pretend that it didn't happen.


Connie: But Jocelyn says she couldn't forget about it. She told her sister and a friend, and they all set out to find the man who assaulted her.


Jocelyn Stevens: We all ended up, you know, going to find this guy in that big old football field. And I actually, I guess you could say I got my revenge on him, because I hit him up the head with an object. He had to be rushed to the hospital. I just didn't like what happened, and I went and did something about it. So Mom and Dad found out about that.


Connie: You told them what he had done to you?


Jocelyn Stevens: No, we actually had a tribal cop show up at our house. Because my mom was right there when she answered the door. I come down the hallway around the corner, and I see my mom standing next to a cop and, "Are you Jocelyn?" Like, "Yeah, I'm Jocelyn." "So I heard you hurt somebody pretty bad. Why'd you do that?" And then that's when I kind of had to just drop my head. I could not look up. I just had to drop my head. And I said because he raped me. And once my mom heard that she, you know, broke down crying.


Connie: I've been doing this reporting for a long time, and I know the statistics about violence in our communities. But hearing these stories about the violence and trauma that Jermain, Jocelyn, Jen and Shawn experienced is devastating. Jocelyn says the man who assaulted her was never convicted, and she and her family left Dixon Agency and moved to another town on the reservation.


Connie: Coming up after the break, a new family moved into the Stevens house, and Jermain meets the boy next door.


Jocelyn Stevens: She told me about this new guy on the block that she met. She'd be just so weird. Like, "I made out in the room that you used to sleep in! Me and this guy, we did this in the room that your mom and dad had." She'd just be all weird about it.


Connie: Sometime in 2009 or 2010, the Defrance family moved into Dixon Agency and Jermain met Michael. Michael's two years older than Jermain, so he would have been 16 or 17 at the time. His dad is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, but his mom is white so Michael's not a tribal member, he's considered a descendant.


Jocelyn Stevens: You know, living on a reservation of course, it just made me nervous that dude, you're with a white guy.


Connie: Jocelyn didn't know Michael, but it wasn't long before she started to hear about him from Jermain.


Jocelyn Stevens: She told me about this new guy on the block that she met. She'd be just so weird. Like, "I made out in the room that you used to sleep in. Me and this guy, we did this in the room that your mom and dad had." She'd just be all weird about it.


Connie: I don't know a lot about Michael and Jermain's early relationship, but Jermain's younger cousin Chayla remembers coming to visit Jermain and seeing her with Michael.


Chayla: They were together when we would visit here, and they were always hugging and holding hands.


Connie: So it seemed like she loved him?


Chayla: Oh, yeah. She loved him.


Dani Matt: She did. She really loved him.


Connie: It sounds like Jermain fell hard for Michael. I can imagine for someone who had been through so many struggles, to be young and in love was probably a welcome distraction from all of the hardships she was dealing with in her family. But some time after they started dating, Jermain's family began to get concerned about a change in her behavior.


Vicki Morigeau: Jennifer would get a call and say, "Is Jermain sick?" And that's when we found out she was skipping school. Mike's mother did homeschool, and she was pretty much telling Jennifer she can't make Jermaine go to school and she should be homeschooling her. And Jennifer said, "That's not your business," you know? And yeah, I mean, so she never even asked Jen, you know? Said, okay, she doesn't go to school today or anything. They'd just hide her out.


Connie: Things seemed to get more serious between Jermain and Michael. Vicki was living in New Mexico at the time, but she remembers getting a phone call from her dad Sonny, Jermain's great grandfather. He told her he was worried about Jermain.


Vicki Morigeau: I know she was staying with her mom, but like I said, she'd be back and forth between her mom's and my parents. And I don't know, I think my dad thought things were getting too hectic or, you know, and she's just not doing what she should have done. And my dad said, "Would you guys please come and get her and just take her with you?" And so we did.


Connie: Her family decided the best thing for Jermain was to leave Dixon Agency and move to Dulce, New Mexico, to live with Vicki and David full time.


Vicki Morigeau: We went down and got her, and she went to school there and she loved it.


Connie: Vicki says in New Mexico, with her and Dani and their families around, Jermain seemed to flourish.


Vicki Morigeau: She taught herself how to make sushi. She loves sushi. And I went to a yard sale and I found all the stuff you needed to make sushi and all the little cute dishes. And I remember buying those for her. She was so excited.


Dani Matt: She just kind of fell into it, and wasn't afraid of really anything. Just really adventurous and outgoing. And it was me and my kids and my ex-husband—he was my husband at that point. And the family dynamics and stuff, to be a part of some of that too, I think was something special to her. I think she looked up to me a little bit and always wanted direction, and she wanted, you know, to have a really solid family, I think trying to make a family that she wanted.


Connie: Vicki was studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She says that Jermain wanted to follow in her footsteps, and started to imagine a future for herself in New Mexico.


Vicki Morigeau: She liked to spend time out in Santa Fe when I was at school. She talked about wanting to go to school there. I don't know, she reminded me a lot of myself.


Connie: Jermain and Michael kept in touch while she was in New Mexico. And even though there seemed to be things Jermain really liked about living there, after a year or two, she felt a pull to go back home.


Connie: Why did she come back to Montana?


Vicki Morigeau: You know, I wish she wouldn't have, because I think she would have done way better. I think he was still writing to her, they were still keeping in touch and that kind of thing. But I just really wish she wouldn't have.


John White: Did you try to talk her out of it?


Connie: That's John, my producer.


Vicki Morigeau: Oh, yeah.


John: What were the conversations like? What did she say?


Vicki Morigeau: She's—she just kept saying—and I know she's real close to my dad. She was very close to my dad and my mom. And she had two brothers and a sister here. And I know how totally you can miss family.


Connie: Since Jermain's disappearance, Vicki sometimes thinks back about decisions that she feels could have changed the course of Jermain's life. The moments where, if things had happened differently, Jermain might still be here. And her decision to move back to Montana is one of them.


Vicki Morigeau: I think she would have been better off if she would have stayed. But, you know, she wanted to go home.


Connie: Some time in 2012, when she was 16 or 17 years old, Jermain went back home to Montana, closer to her family and closer to Michael. I found a picture on Facebook from April, 2012. Michael is holding a giant fish that he's just caught. And Jermain is not in the photo, but she commented on it. She says that the bass she caught was bigger.


Connie: A few months later, there's a picture of Jermain at a pow wow on the reservation. She's standing with two other girls, and one of them is Michael's little sister. Jermain's wearing a pink and gold Jingle dress. In the caption, Michael's dad thanks family members for helping get the girls ready for the pow wow. In another, the family is all dressed up. Michael's little brother's wearing a suit and tie, Jermain and the girls are wearing bright, shiny dresses, and Jermain's holding the family dog. Looking at these pictures reminds me of what Dani said about Jermain craving a stable happy family. Based on the photos alone, it seems like she found one in the Defrance family.


Dani Matt: She wanted the mom and the dad household, because I think seeing Michael's family it was a mom and a dad and all of the kids together. And when you don't have those things growing up, I think you crave that for yourself. And when you start your own family, you do everything you can to make that environment that you want.


Connie: Based on the photos alone, it seems like what Jermain found in Michael's family was a welcome alternative to her reality. Especially given what happened later that year. Jermain's dad Shawn Charlo was arrested for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. I asked Shawn about it. He told me he was drinking heavily and had no memory of the assault.


Connie: Shawn was convicted and sent to prison. He was released on parole after four years, but the last time I talked to him he was back in jail. He was arrested again on charges of strangulation of a partner or family member.


Connie: With everything going on, I understand more than ever why Jermain was drawn to Michael and his family. In September of that year, when she was 18 years old, Jermain started her vlog.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: Hi. Well, for those of you who don't know me, I'm Jermain. This is now going to be my blog about me.]


Connie: I feel sad watching this video again, knowing what i know about Jermain's life leading up to this point. I think about her and Jocelyn playing barbies as kids, imagine the fantasies they must have had about their future lives.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: To be honest, I live in a camper. And I do have a boyfriend. That's who I live with. My parents aren't happy who I am living with, and my family is not happy at all. But hey, reality.]


Connie: Jermain said this is all real, none of it is scripted. But I can see the reality of her situation is not as rosy as I'm sure young Jermain imagined.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: So that's him and me. I usually don't do much. I'm just a lazy-ass bitch who's supposed to be a housewife.]


Connie: Now when I hear Jermain say she's a lazy-ass bitch who's supposed to be a housewife, I wonder if those are her words or someone else's?


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: Hello I'm back. Today at school ...]


Connie: The next day, she posts another video.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: If you're asking why my eyes are so puffy, I've been crying my eyes out because I'm so lonely. Which kinda sucks when you're all alone.]


Connie: Jermain says she's been crying her eyes out and she's lonely. It looks like she's still holding back tears.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: Like I said in the beginning, I do have a boyfriend. I still haven't heard from him in four days.]


Connie: I'm surprised when she says that Michael has only been gone for four days. She seems so alone. It's not just what she's saying, but how she looks when she's saying it. She's fiddling with her necklace as she talks, and pulls it from side to side anxiously.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: And that's the sucky part is I don't know when he's gonna be back. I'll have a better blog tomorrow because I'm going grocery shopping.]


Connie: Jermain's last video starts with her still in bed. She's just woken up, and says she's skipped school.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: I thought we were really actually going grocery shopping, but we're not. So I'm staying home today.]


Connie: Jermain says still hasn't heard from Michael.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: I was really hoping that I'd actually get to talk to him sometime this week.]


Connie: Jermain sounds so isolated. But the camper that Jermain was living in was right in the Defrances' yard across the street from her great grandparent's house. Also, Jocelyn lives on the reservation. She's a phone call or short drive away. So why was Jermain feeling so alone when she was so close to home?


Connie: This is just a snapshot in time, and I don't want to make too much of it, but this teenage girl who's living in a camper outside her boyfriend's parent's house seems lost without him.


[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jermain Charlo: It's hard because I don't know what to do.]


Connie: And that was the end of Jermain's vlog. But I wish there were more videos. What did she do for the rest of the two weeks while Michael was gone? What happened when he got home? I wish there was a video of the two of them together. I'd like to see them talking or hanging out, something that would give me some insight into their relationship, some context for what I'm about to find out.


Connie: When we learned Michael's full name, we did a criminal records check. And it looks like there's a file in a nearby town. My producer John went to see if we can get it.


Connie: (phone rings) Hello?


John: Hey, Connie. It's me, John. I just went to pick up the court documents.


Connie: John's driven about two hours to Thompson Falls, to the Sanders County courthouse. The documents he sent me say that in April, 2013, Michael Defrance was arrested.


Connie: State of Montana versus Michael Blake Defrance.


Connie: The documents say Michael was charged with partner or family member assault. In the copy of the police report, there are details about what happened that night, including the name of the person Michael assaulted. It was Jermain.


Connie: On the next episode of Stolen: The Search for Jermain:


Jocelyn Stevens: But when she called, she always had a shaky voice. Like, you could just hear the fear in her voice. "Hey, man. Can you come and get me please? I would love for you to come and get me right now."


Vicki Morigeau: She had a bruise on the side of her face and on her arm. And I said, "Well, what happened?" She said, "I fell in the tub." And I said, "Don't lie to me." She said, "I'm not, Yaya."


Guy Baker: I know what her phone and other phones were doing around the time she disappeared.


Connie: Stolen is a Spotify original podcast and Gimlet production. It's hosted by me, Connie Walker. Our producers are Meg Driscoll and John White. Our editor is Devon Taylor.


Connie: Additional help from Jennifer Fowler, Anya Schultz, Nicole Pasulka and Heather Evans. Theme song and mixing by Emma Munger. Original music by Emma Munger and So Wylie. Special thanks to Lydia Polgreen, Collin Campbell, Reyhan Harmanci and Rachel Strom.