For more than eight years, Sharon Skiba waited behind locked doors. Her life had stopped on February 7, 1999 — the day her son and nine-year-old granddaughter disappeared. In the days and weeks and months that followed, the house she'd once been happy to share with them became her prison. Ghosts invaded her dreams, and she grew older while Paul and Sarah's things — the pictures, the toys, the flannel shirt that still smelled like her son's aftershave — stayed frozen in time. She wanted to flee, to resume her life, but she waited — for Paul and Sarah to come home, for their bodies to be found, for an arrest to be made.
She finally left that haunted place, but the ghosts followed. When Sharon sees a blond girl in her teens, she thinks that's how Sarah might have looked. She'd be driving now, starting college. And Paul would have built them that house in the mountains he always talked about.
But Paul and Sarah disappeared nine years ago, and whatever remains of their story is still out there, hidden in a place known only to their killer.
How soon can you get back here, Mom? Things are really bad. I need you to watch Sarah.
On Friday, February 5, 1999, Sharon Skiba was halfway across the country when she got a call from her son Paul. At Paul's insistence, she'd moved from Minnesota to Colorado in 1990, after she and his father divorced, to be near her oldest son. She got an apartment, but Paul, who was having his own marital problems, moved in with his mother a few weeks later. Sharon and Paul had been living together ever since, first in that apartment, then one Paul rented in Castle Rock, and finally the house in Thornton that he bought after his divorce in 1993. Their arrangement was simple: Paul took care of his mom, and she helped care for his daughter, Sarah, when Paul had her on weekends and in the summer.
Sharon couldn't wait to get back to her granddaughter. They were pals who would spend entire Saturdays shopping wholesale stores for bargains and free samples. But right now, Sharon had obligations in Minnesota. Her mother had passed away, and she needed to clean out her apartment and get her affairs in order before she returned to Thornton.
Can you get here as soon as possible?
When he drove her to the airport the week before, Paul had told his mother that he was breaking up with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Teresa Donovan, who'd given birth to a baby boy, Paul Roger, almost three months earlier. Paul wasn't sure the baby was his and was going to ask his lawyer to file papers seeking a paternity test. If Paul Roger was his child, he was going to fight for full custody — and he needed to know that his mother would be there to help with this grandchild, too. Paul worked long days at his business, Tuff Movers. In fact, the Friday night he called Sharon, he'd just gotten home and was scrambling to make dinner for Sarah. He didn't have much time to talk, but he wanted her to know that he was telling Teresa to leave, that he wanted her out of the house by Sunday night. Paul told his mother he'd call her then.
How soon can you get back here?
Not soon enough.
Paul didn't call Sharon on Sunday night. Instead, late the next morning she heard from Teresa Donovan, who said that Paul hadn't come home. He hadn't taken Sarah back to her mom's house, either, and he hadn't shown up at work, even though he had a job lined up. Lorenzo Chivers — who lived with Teresa's sister Bobbi Jo — had been working with Paul on Sunday, and he was missing, too. Teresa had already called the police, but she said they weren't taking her seriously. So Sharon decided to make a call herself. When she reached Detective Dante Carbone at the Thornton Police Department, he told her that Paul had probably decided to take Sarah for a ride and was out having a good time. Carbone explained that Teresa and her sister had already called a number of times.
"This is my first phone call, and there's something drastically wrong," Sharon told the detective. "My son was supposed to call me on Sunday."
Paul Skiba was just 21 when he headed west in 1981. The son of a cop, he'd been a regular troublemaker in his tiny home town of Centerville, Minnesota, but now he had a misdemeanor drug charge and had skipped out on his court date. He landed in Denver with an alias he used for work: Craig Nelson. The name didn't stick, and neither would the charge when he was eventually arrested on the outstanding warrant.