Family looking for answers about mother who vanished during cross-country trip

Relatives of a mother of two who vanished on a trip from Alabama to Wyoming are desperate for answers about what has happened to her.

Katheryn “Katie” Ferguson, 33, was last seen Oct. 5 by police in Arkansas as a passenger in the vehicle of her on-again, off-again boyfriend, who is under investigation in her disappearance.

Adam Shane Aviles Jr. of Cody, Wyoming, has not been charged in the disappearance. He was arrested on a charge of felon in possession of ammunition, according to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 13.

Authorities in Wyoming said a search of his 1999 Dodge Durango turned up dried blood, a loaded Glock magazine and a “projectile hole” in the front passenger door, according to the complaint.

Multiple attempts to reach Aviles’ attorney were unsuccessful Friday.

The complaint said that on Nov. 2, a person whose initials are M.H. contacted the Cody Police Department to report her daughter, K.F., was missing.

Ferguson’s sister, Amanda Ferguson, confirmed to NBC News on Friday their mother is Mona Hartling and the person listed as M.H. in the complaint.

She said her younger sister had been living in Alabama since May, having left her home state of Wyoming for a fresh start to live with family and get away from Aviles, who she alleged had been “abusive” during their relationship.

“She was scared of him. She didn’t want the girls around him,” said Amanda Ferguson, 36, of Cody.

But Katie Ferguson had recently contacted Aviles to get her and take her to Cody after relapsing on drugs, the complaint said. The pair along with their two daughters were making the cross-country trip. It was not clear when they set out.

The girls, ages 1 and 4, are now staying with their paternal grandmother, Amanda Ferguson said.

The day her mother reported Katie Ferguson missing, Aviles told Cody police that she was not missing but did not want to have contact with her mother, the complaint said.

Two days later, Wyoming's Park County Sheriff’s Office deputies found Aviles’ Durango abandoned in a rural area near Cody. Trash bags were blocking the windows, and deputies broke in because of the vehicle owner's connection to a person who had been reported missing, officials said.

Deputies wanted to make sure there was no one who required medical attention inside the Durango, the complaint said. A law enforcement officer indicated “he could smell the odor of ‘putrefied blood'" inside the Durango, the complaint said.

The passenger's seat was missing and there were cleaning wipes inside, according to the court document. A Glock pistol magazine loaded with live ammunition was near the vehicle’s center console, the complaint said.

“There was also what appears to be a projectile hole in the front passenger door,” the complaint said.

As deputies investigated the vehicle, Aviles approached with a gas canister. He told deputies it was his Durango and that it was out of gas, the complaint said.

Before he returned to Wyoming, Aviles had at least three other interactions with police, investigators determined. The circumstances and outcomes of those encounters were not clear Friday night, and the complaint did not provide specifics.

The first was Oct. 5 in Trumann, Arkansas, the report said.

“K.F. was present in the passenger seat and Aviles Jr. was operating the vehicle,” the complaint said. “There was no projectile hole in the passenger side door on bodycam video.”

The Texas State Patrol interacted with Aviles on Oct. 9. A body camera review of the incident showed Ferguson was not in the Durango and a projectile hole in the passenger door was concealed with tape, the complaint said. On Oct. 11, Aviles encountered Colorado State Patrol, and Ferguson was not in the Durango, the document stated.

Aviles was operating the vehicle during each of the three encounters, the complaint said.

Aviles was convicted of heroin possession in 2017 in Park County, Wyoming, the complaint said.

Amanda Ferguson said she last spoke to her sister on Sept. 24, and it was not a pleasant conversation because she was mad at her for getting back with Aviles.

She described her sister as a “goofball” and doting mother who would never miss her youngest daughter’s first birthday, which was late last month.

She remains hopeful that her sister is alive, but worries that evidence is pointing to the contrary, she said.

“I still have a little bit of hope. But with all the evidence I’ve heard, if Katie is still alive, I just want her to know that we love her and miss her and we’re here for her,” Amanda Ferguson said. “But if she isn’t, I want to know where she’s at so I can properly say goodbye to her. Our whole family would love that.”

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