YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) —
Oct. 25, 8:56 a.m.
Amy Hambrick had that laugh.
The mother of the woman who was missing for almost five years before her remains were found in August said it was the laugh that made her unforgettable.
“She was always laughing, and it was one of those ones you don’t forget,” said Debra Dolin, who spoke to a reporter on the phone from West Virginia. “It was contagious.”
It was that laugh, however, that hid her drug addiction from her mother for a while, the addiction that police think may have taken her life.
There was more to Amy than her drug addiction. She loved music and concerts. She was a mother who deeply cared for her daughter.
Amy’s remains were found Aug. 26 by a woman on Thorn Hill Road who was looking in a heavily wooded area for her missing dog. As a part of a series on homicide investigations, a reporter from WKBN was present when detectives were called out after the remains were found and through the entire investigation.
The remains, which were wrapped in a curtain that was bound with duct tape, were pieced together in the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office in late August, and just a week later, it was discovered that they belonged to Hambrick, who had gone missing in November 2017. She was 29 when she disappeared, leaving behind a daughter who was 10 at the time.
When she first went missing, family and friends of Amy were aggressive in trying to find her. There were vigils and interviews with local media and pleas for help on social media.
Police were also actively looking for her. There were searches of fields with cadaver dogs in North Jackson, where she was reported to be going when she went missing; Coitsville and the West Side. There were warrants served on electronic devices and interviews with family, friends and acquaintances. Tips that Amy had been seen in Michigan, Nevada and Colombia were looked into. A few psychics, unsolicited, even called to offer their input. However, none of that activity yielded any answers as to what happened to Amy or where she might have gone.
At first, Debra said she was not very concerned because it was not unlike Amy to disappear for a few days and then reappear. But as time went by, Debra said, she began to be worried.
“I was devastated,” she said. “I had a bad feeling.”
Amy’s sister, Amanda Rogenski, however, was frantic from the minute she heard Amy was missing. She said she knew something was wrong because Amy would never leave her daughter.
“I was constantly trying to reach her,” Amanda said. Amanda said she was reaching out to family and friends and people on the West Side who may have known Amy when Amy lived there.
Amanda’s daughter and Amy’s daughter were born 10 days apart, so that made her worried even more, Amanda said.
“There’s a bond there,” she said.
“I was definitely trying to hurry up and find her,” Amanda added. “I was just dumbfounded she would just up and leave.”
At first, Amy’s older brother Nathaniel Hambrick was like his mom when Amy went missing. He figured she would pop up in a day or two.
Because of Jaden.
But then one day turned to two, and two to three, and then Nate began to worry.
“It was very uneasy,” Nate said. “You felt something was wrong.”
Nate said the family was on edge, and anytime they turned on the news and saw a body or a set of remains had been found, they would have butterflies in their stomachs in case those remains or that body turned out to be Amy.
Like Amanda, Nate also asked around about Amy.
Nate had a notebook filled with names. Dates. Places. Connections. Anything, place or person that might have a clue as to where his sister could be was in that notebook. He also took an interest in the case of another missing woman, Kricket Reinbold, 38, of Tunkhannock, Pa., who was staying in the same area of the lower West Side his sister had been before she disappeared on June 14, 2020.
Kricket’s family said she was also known to use drugs, although family members said she “dabbled” in drugs and was not an addict.
Nate said his sister had been staying on Oneta Street, off of Steel Street, while police said that Kricket had been staying on Hartzell Avenue before she went missing, which is also off of Steel Street.
A partial set of Kricket’s remains were found in January 2021 by Ohio Department of Transportation workers on Interstate 680 North near the Salt Springs Road exit. Detectives went back to the area twice more and even swept the Mahoning River but could only find a partial set of her remains.
Kricket’s cause of death was also listed as undetermined.
While Amanda was dumbfounded, Debra said she had bad thoughts. Mothers have different bonds than sisters.
“As her mother, I knew deep down she was gone,” Debra said of her feelings as Amy’s disappearance stretched on. “It was just a matter of finding her.”
Amy was a graduate of Chaney High School and was into the band Hed PE and country artist Deana Carter, Debra said. She was one of five children and was described by her mother as a “social butterfly.”
“She loved her friends and family,” Amy said.
Amanda, Amy’s sister and the youngest of five children, also said Amy’s laugh was memorable. She laughed herself as she described her sister.
“She was just a funny person,” Amanda said. “She was one of a kind.”
Amanda said growing up was difficult for the pair, but they got through it by making each other laugh.
“It’s so hard to explain what she was like personally,” Amanda said. “She was the life of the party. She could walk into a room and put a smile on your face.”
Nate also said her laugh was unforgettable.
“You could be in a room with 200 people, and when you heard that laugh, you would stop and start laughing with her,” he said the day before Thanksgiving while speaking to a reporter at the Panera Bread in Austintown.
Nate described his baby sister as a “book nerd” when she was younger.
“She would read everything,” Nate said.
It was in middle school that Amy began breaking out of her shell, Nate added.
“She was very free-spirited,” he said.
Amy worked as a waitress and enjoyed spending most of her time with family, Amanda said.
Debra, Nate and Amanda both said Amy’s number one priority was her daughter, Jaden.
“Jaden was everything to her,” Debra said.
“They were inseparable,” Nate added.
Amanda said Amy loved to watch movies with Jaden. When Jaden was younger, she wanted to wear makeup like her mother, so Amy would hold Girls’ Nights for her. They also went to parks, watched movies, made blanket forts and would dance in the living room.
“She loved being with her daughter,” Amanda said.
It was because of Jaden that Amanda thought of her sister every day while she was missing, because she knew how much Jaden meant to Amy.
“It was always on my mind — because of Jaden,” Amanda said.
Debra and Amanda both remember the last time they spoke to Amy.
For Debra, it was the summer of 2017, and several family members were trying to talk to Amy about her drug problem. Debra said it did not go well.
“It wasn’t a very good conversation,” Debra said.
Debra said she did not know for a while that Amy was using drugs, and when she talked to Amy about it, Amy told her she had it under control.
“It was always just, ‘Mom, I just mess around a little bit,'” Debra said.
Amanda said that Amy had been distant during that time. Amy did have a back problem and referred to herself sometimes as “swaybacked,” Amanda said, and she was prescribed pain medication for her back.
After Amy’s remains were found, an anthropologist who examined them and pieced them together said she could detect arthritis in the spine, but it would have been something that would not have been found unless a doctor was specifically looking for it.
Nate said he also was not aware of the extent of his sister’s addiction, although he did say he knew she “dabbled” in drugs from time to time.
Amy had tried rehab a couple of times, and her personality was still the same for a while, Nate said. But when she got deeper into her addiction and began to neglect Jaden, he knew something was really wrong.
At one point, Nate said he had to “lay down the law” with Amy, for Jaden’s sake as much as Amy’s.
“I basically had to lay down the law to her and tell her if she didn’t get clean, we would file for custody,” Nate said.
The last time Amanda spoke to Amy was a few days before she disappeared, and the conversation was out of the blue, Amanda said.
Amy didn’t have a phone so they spoke on Facebook Messenger. Amy made a call from Messenger a week before Amanda’s birthday.
“It wasn’t anything out of place,” Amanda said of the conversation. “It’s just like we had a conversation like we always had a conversation. She said she couldn’t call me on my birthday for some reason.”
And then Amy was gone.
When detectives informed the family that the remains they found belonged to Amy, Amanda was keeping score at a high school volleyball game and wondering why her brother kept blowing her phone up.
When she finally answered and learned that Amy had been found, she had more questions.
“There’s never going to be that full closure, but at least we do have her,” Amanda said. “But it wasn’t the closure we thought we would have if we found her.”
“Why?” Amanda asked. “Who did it? Why was she out there?”
When Amy’s remains were found, Nate said he had mixed emotions. He said he was glad the family had something of her to bury and they knew her fate, but also the small hope he had in the back of his mind that maybe she was still alive, maybe she just checked out and went somewhere to get her mind together, was now gone.
It was Nate who went back to the woods a couple of weeks after the remains were discovered and found the only part of her that was missing, which was part of her pelvis. It was Nate who got married just a couple of weeks later. The family had asked police to hold off on the announcement of her remains being discovered until the wedding was over.
“I have partial closure,” Nate said. “I’m glad that we have my sister’s remains and we know that she has passed.”
“But there’s still a lot of questions. Obviously, someone took the time to wrap her up in duct tape and dispose of her body.”
Detectives have the same questions. An examination of the remains found no signs of trauma, and the cause of death is listed as undetermined. Police are leaning toward an overdose and someone decided to get rid of her body on Thorn Hill Road. But even they have questions.
“As soon as you get that one bit of closure,” Amanda said, “you want that other bit.”
For Debra, Amy lives on in Jaden. Jaden, Debra said, is a social butterfly like her mom and has the same sense of humor.
“She’s precious,” Debra said of her granddaughter.
Nate and some family and friends have started a foundation for Jaden, Jaden’s Journey, to help her with expenses like college or a car. Jaden even has her eye on an old pickup truck she would like to restore, Nate said.
“She’s kind of a like a little country girl,” Nate said.
Anyone with information on the disappearance or death of Amy Hambrick can call the Youngstown Police Department Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911 or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to Jaden’s Journey can do so by visiting Huntington Bank.
You can read all of the stories in the series on WKBN.com.