Pittsburgh mom relives daughter’s disappearance every day — for 6 years
Christine DiDiano no longer jumps when she hears news that a body has been discovered.
She also doesn’t dream much of her daughter, Alivia Kail, perpetually 19 in the photos in her Brookline living room. She has lately, though, she said, probably because it’s that time of year again, and she cherishes those dreams.
“In the beginning, every time they announced there’s a body found, I was right on the edge of my seat saying, ‘Oh, God, this might be Alivia. This could be Alivia,’ ” she said. “I don’t have that anymore. I’m past that.”
This weekend marks six years since Kail’s family last saw her, when she picked up clothes from her brother’s West Mifflin home March 4, 2011, saying she was headed to Florida with her boyfriend, Alexander Lorenzi, then 22.
Lorenzi was back in Pittsburgh within two weeks, but Kail’s family and friends haven’t heard from her since.
Authorities haven’t charged anyone in the case, and Allegheny County Police said Friday they don’t have any new information.
Lorenzi could not be reached for comment Friday. But his attorney, Douglas Sughrue, said suggestions through the years that his client never cooperated with authorities are “wholly untrue.”
“We cooperated the entire time,” he said.
How to help: Anyone with information about Kail’s disappearance can contact Allegheny County Police at 412-473-1200.
“I’m actually still living in (that day),” DiDiano said. “I have not passed that point — even though I know in reality it’s been six years — because I’m waiting for an answer; I’m waiting for a development. That was the day of the shock. That was the day that we knew, physically, in our life, she’s gone. Vanished. Poof.”
DiDiano said the years have been a learning experience.
“You have to grieve something that you don’t know,” she said. “Then you have to learn to live with no answer. And then you take a break. But she never leaves my mind. She never leaves my heart. Every year, we celebrate her birthday with cake. We get together. We have pizza.”
She continued: “Sometimes whenever all the kids and grandkids are in the room, that’s when it really sneaks up on you like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s just one more that’s not here.’ ”
DiDiano has changed since Kail’s disappearance, she said. She compartmentalizes more and is less trusting.
Every day, she imagines what it would be like to get her daughter back — what it will be like, she said.
“I have that faith in God that I’m going to get her back,” she said. “I imagine, just, oh boy, if I get her back, if I find her and she’s alive out there. It doesn’t matter how broken she is, I’m going to fix it one way or another.”
“And yet, at the same time, wow, that’s a lot (to go through), and I’m not going to be able to fix her,” she said.
With several missing persons cases in the news recently, DiDiano said her heart breaks for the mothers experiencing what she has.
Dakota James, 23, was last seen Jan. 25 in Downtown Pittsburgh heading toward, police suspect, his North Side apartment. He is last seen on security footage from a camera on Scott Place, walking toward Fort Duquesne Boulevard. He does not appear in footage taken from any bridges to the North Shore.
Skeletal remains found Feb. 24 in McKeesport were identified as those of 26-year-old Dominick Brown-Hill, missing from Penn Hills since 2012.
Police in Georgia made arrests last week and again Friday in the nearly 12-year-old disappearance of beauty queen and high school teacher Tara Grinstead, who went missing from her home in 2005.
No case is the same
State police Cpl. Adam Reed said missing persons cases come in different shapes and sizes.
Some involve runaway juveniles. Some involve individuals who are considered to be at risk for harm based on a medical or psychological condition. Sometimes foul play is involved, which necessitates a wider investigation that goes beyond just locating the missing.
Other times, people just choose to leave. “It’s your right as an adult to simply up and leave without telling people,” Reed said.
Digging deep, such as requesting phone records and collecting data from personal electronics, generally is reserved for cases in which police suspect foul play, Reed said.
Regardless of circumstances, there is generally a resolution.
“It’s not common for someone to stay missing, but it does happen,” Reed said.
DiDiano said when she hears of other cases being solved, she feels no envy — only relief.
“I’m glad that people are getting closure,” she said. “I’m relieved because that’s hope.”
Police served at least five search warrants targeting Lorenzi in the month following Kail’s disappearance. A search of a pickup parked on Lorenzi’s property yielded a bag of Kail’s clothing, three spent shell casings, a cooler loaded with ice and food, earrings, fishnet stockings, a white sheet with a possible bloodstain and a plane ticket from Pittsburgh to Fort Myers, according to search warrants from the time.
Sughrue dismissed the findings, saying it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when some of Kail’s clothing was discovered in Lorenzi’s truck.
“I don’t see why that was a surprise when it was known they had been dating and she had spent some time there,” he said.
Police said at the time that they believed Lorenzi was not cooperating and knew more about Kail’s disappearance than he let on.
DiDiano still believes that.
Sughrue said he and Lorenzi stopped cooperating when authorities waited until Sughrue was in Hawaii on his honeymoon to execute a search warrant at Lorenzi’s home.
“They just didn’t care,” he said.
Theories surfaced in 2013 suggesting the possibility that Kail was sold or forced into sex trafficking. Those break DiDiano’s heart.
She asks God to comfort her daughter.
“No matter where she’s at, comfort her,” DiDiano said. “If she’s alive out there, comfort her. Let her feel me. Let her know.”