PORTLAND, Ore. – The first accounts of 7-year-old Kyron Horman's disappearance were a parent's nightmare: A boy vanishes from the safe haven of his elementary school.
But over the course of two months, shock has turned into frustration as the case has taken bizarre twists. Suspicion rests on the boy's stepmother, who is mute about what happened the morning the child disappeared, while lurid tales of infidelity and even a murder-for-hire plot swirl.
And still, after the largest missing child search in Oregon history, the question remains: Where is Kyron?
"You don't stop," said the boy's father, Kaine Horman. "You can stop when we find him. Until then I've got no reason to stop. I mean, I'm tired. So what? He's scared, he's alone he's afraid. He's not here."
On the morning of June 4, a busy Friday at the 300 student Skyline Elementary school in a rural area of northwest Portland, kids displayed their science fair projects as proud parents snapped photos. Kyron Horman was no different, posing for stepmother Terri Horman with a toothy grin in front of his red-eyed tree frog poster.
With so much going on, no one noticed what happened to the diminutive, bespectacled boy. Terri Horman told investigators she last saw him walking down the hall to his classroom.
While his teacher recorded him as absent, there was confusion about a doctor's appointment and the hours passed. Nothing was considered amiss until the afternoon, when Kyron didn't get off his school bus.
Authorities launched a search that would involve more than 500 people from 18 jurisdictions, some from outside the state, and the FBI. Days stretched into weeks with no sign of Kyron. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Department acknowledged it had become a criminal investigation, because it was simply not in Kyron's nature to just wander away.
"It's like a portal opened up in the school and Kyron just vanished into it," said Kyron's biological mother, Desiree Young.
At the end of June the investigation took an unexpected turn. Kaine Horman, Young and her current husband issued a statement saying they were cooperating with police. Terri Horman's name was noticeably absent. Hours later Kaine Horman filed for divorce and a restraining order to keep his wife away from him and their 20-month-old daughter, Kiara.
Court documents would reveal that the restraining order was sought because sheriff's investigators told Kaine Horman that his wife had tried to hire someone to kill him in the months before Kyron disappeared. When asked in the restraining order to describe how she hurt or threatened to hurt him, Kaine Horman wrote simply: "Respondent attempted to hire someone to murder me."
Another bombshell dropped two weeks later when Kaine Horman filed contempt of court papers against his wife, accusing her of taking up with one of his old acquaintances from high school who had reached out to the family when Kyron went missing.
Kaine Horman says she showed the acquaintance sealed court documents that included the address where he was in hiding with Kiara. Kaine also said the pair — who by all accounts had just known each other for a short time — exchanged hundreds of text messages, including sexually suggestive photos.
"Everyone feels betrayed," Young said of the developments involving Terri Horman. "That's the general consensus of the family. It's everyone feels betrayed."
Terri Horman has not been charged. Except for a few passing words to a television reporter, she has made no public comments.
Her attorney, Stephen Houze, says she is the subject of threats and a "witch hunt." Television news shows regularly display pictures of a bikini-clad Terri Horman from five years ago when she was an amateur body builder — juxtaposed with images from a family news conference soon after Kyron's disappearance in which she appears overweight and slovenly.
She has reportedly moved in with her parents in southern Oregon, although there hasn't been much activity at the family home, leading to speculation that she is elsewhere. She filed papers this week saying she would not contest the divorce.
Houze has not responded to repeated requests from The Associated Press for comment.
In recent days one of Terri Horman's friends, DeDe Spicher, reported to the Multnomah County grand jury looking into the case. Investigators will not comment on her role, if any. Young and Kaine Horman have accused Spicher of hampering the probe, but her lawyer maintains she is cooperating.
Former Multnomah County prosecutor Josh Lamborn, now in private practice and not connected to the case, said a grand jury's involvement does not always result in criminal charges — contradicting rumors that spread earlier last week that an arrest was imminent. Sometimes, Lamborn said, grand juries are simply investigative tools.
But he said that Terri Horman's reported behavior since Kyron's disappearance have not helped her in the eyes of investigators or the public.
"It kind of confirms to them that this is a person who is acting different from what you would expect a crime victim's family member to act," Lamborn said. "When your son or stepson is abducted you would expect that person to act in a particularly way, very supportive, doing whatever they possible can to help investigators."
Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was abducted and murdered in Northern California in 1993, and who now runs KlassKids Foundation to prevent crimes against children, offered a different take.
"Some people seem to be losing sight that this case is about a missing child," said Klaas of the "circus" atmosphere in the Horman case. "The focus shouldn't be about this stepmother, Terri, and the bizarreness that she surrounds herself with or that surrounds her."
Skyline Elementary is shuttered for the summer, but a fence surrounding the grounds has become "Kyron's Wall of Hope," festooned with balloons, pinwheels and stuffed animals.
One small purple note reads in a child's scrawl: "Dear Kyron, I hope you come home safe. You are mist."
Seven-year-old Makayla Mariani, who lives across town and didn't know Kyron, came to the wall earlier in the week to leave her own message and a teddy bear.
Makayla's mom, Desiree Thomas, said she doesn't know what to think.
"It's kind of hard to put together," she said. "It's such a crazy, twisted story."
And still the question remains: Where is Kyron?
Kaine Horman has moved back home and returned on a limited basis to his work as an engineer at Intel, while trying to keep life as normal as possible for toddler Kiara. He regularly visits Kyron's Wall of Hope.
He and his ex-wife, Young, speak often with the media, in hopes of keeping Kyron's story in the news.
"There's no better advocate for a missing child than the child's parents," said Klaas. "If it seems that the parents have given up hope, then hope is lost."
The father and mother's latest appearance came Friday when Young reiterated her belief that Kyron is still alive and that Terri Horman is involved somehow in his disappearance, although she has no evidence.
Her angry resolve to find her son has become tinged with more evident sadness as the weeks are stretching into months.
"I don't know if I'm getting through it," she said. "I'm just taking one day at a time. Eight weeks is a hard marker for me."