RALEIGH, N.C. – Kelli Bordeaux took a break from life as a soldier at North Carolina's Fort Bragg to do what many 20-somethings do on a Friday night: Maybe have a few drinks, play pool and belt out some songs at a local karaoke night.
Three weeks later, the 23-year-old woman still hasn't come home. Investigators say phone calls and text messages show nothing out of the ordinary happened that night. Their only lead? She left the bar with a man who is a registered sex offender and swears he had nothing to do with her disappearance.
Now her relatives, some of whom came to Fayetteville for the first couple weeks of the investigation and searches, have returned home, where they wait for the phone to ring with the good news that Bordeaux has been found.
"It just feels like it's been an eternity already," said Matt Henson, the older brother of the missing private first class. "Every day is long and dragging."
Bordeaux, 23, was last seen the early morning of April 14 at Froggy Bottoms bar in Fayetteville, where she had gone the night before to sing karaoke. Police can track what she was doing and with whom for much of the night through phone records and text messages.
"She was doing what a 23-year-old young girl would do, just having a regular Friday," said Fayetteville police Detective Jeff Locklear. "Nothing out of the ordinary was taking place, just a normal crowd there."
Then, police believe she left the bar with a man she met at the bar the week before — a registered sex offender. He says he dropped her off at the entrance to the apartment complex where she lived with her husband, who was in Florida visiting family that weekend.
"And at that point, she's never seen or heard from again," Locklear said.
Locklear has twice interviewed the man, who's now behind bars for not living at the address he gave authorities as a registered sex offender is required to do.
Henson, who lives in St. Cloud, Fla., and Bordeaux's mother, Johnna Henson of Newport, Tenn., spent a couple of weeks in Fayetteville as volunteers and professionals searched for Bordeaux. Eventually, they had to return home and to their jobs — he's in sales and she's a pharmacy technician.
"I cried all the way home," Johnna Henson, 48, said of the more than five-hour drive to Newport. "I kept thinking, I can't believe I'm leaving North Carolina not knowing where my daughter is. Tears were running down my face the whole way home."
Bordeaux's brother and mother, along with her sister and husband, paint a picture of an attractive, fun-loving girl who wanted to help people. She joined the Army in 2011 to become a combat medic and had hoped to eventually become an officer.
She was just 5-foot-1 but could take care of herself, said her husband, Mike Bordeaux, who works in construction on Fort Bragg for a civilian company. "From her standpoint, she was never worried" about her safety, he said. "I'm the husband. I'm always going to worry."
They would go to work within an hour of each other, then get off about the same time. They liked to cook dinner, watch shows on Netflix and play video games — Modern Warfare was her favorite, and she was better than her husband at the games, he said.
"We didn't even go to bars or anything like that," Mike Bordeaux said. "We'd go out to eat, go to the movies, go to batting cages. ... I've never been to the bars out here, in North Carolina. I've never been to one. In Florida, we used to go to a bar and play pool and what not."
They met through friends in Florida, and he was attracted at first by her beauty. He fell in love first, he says, but he didn't have a hard time convincing her to do the same. They will have been married two years June 12.
He also had wanted to join the Army but acquiesced to her, thinking both shouldn't be in the military. She moved to Fayetteville in November.
"I came to be with her in December and do all the manly stuff like hang up pictures and do all the heavy stuff," he said.
He didn't know she was going to Froggy Bottoms that Friday night.
Bordeaux's sister, Olivia Cox, of Hinesville, Ga., said she did know — Bordeaux had gone the week before and wanted to come back to do karaoke, which she had never done before. Cox also came to Fayetteville to help search.
Henson recalled a happy childhood with his sister that included lots of time spent at the beach. Bordeaux was the youngest of the three siblings.
"I felt really lucky I had the childhood I had," Henson said. "I always felt loved. It was really easy growing up, for all three of us."
But life had gotten harder — their father died of cancer last year. A grandmother died a few months later.
"After everything my family has been through, there's no way she would leave us without a word," Henson said.
For now, he's certain Bordeaux will return home.
"Unless there's a body, I'm 100 percent sure that she's going to be found alive," he said. "I'm pretty much 100 percent optimistic unless I have evidence pointing me in a different direction."
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc