What Ever Happened to Janelle Hornickel's Family
Nearly five years ago, freezing temperatures and drugs proved a deadly combination for
Janelle Hornickel and her boyfriend, Michael Wamsley. They were traveling from Kearney back to their apartment in Omaha.
On the night of January 4, 2005, the couple made several bizarre and frantic 9-1-1 calls
asking for help finding their way home.
However, police couldn't pinpoint their location because, at that time, Nebraska didn't
have a 9-1-1 GPS system to track cell phones.
Eventually, the couple left their car, warm clothes and cell phone behind and headed out on
foot. The temperature outside that night was -10 degrees factoring in the wind chill.
Both were later found frozen to death in rural Sarpy County. Wamsley's body was discovered the next day. Search crews found Hornickel's remains a week later.
Authorities now know the couple was high on crystal meth.
Losing Janelle is a wound even time can't heal.
Twilla Hornickel, Janelle's mom, said, "There's always a hole. So, since her death did come right after Christmas, it's a hard time."
Janelle would've been 25 now, a graduate of Creighton University and likely working in human resources.
"She'd probably have a family. She wanted to have a family. She always liked kids," said Twilla.
Meth destroyed those dreams. Instead, the Hornickel family got a nightmare they never saw coming.
"It wasn't as if her life was drugs," said Twilla. "She had a purpose in life."
In May 2005, the Hornickels tried to find a purpose in her death and agreed to interview with National Geographic.
The program titled "World's Most Dangerous Drug" talks about how meth affects the brain the first time it's used. It's a message of prevention heard around the world.
Twilla read a letter stating, "I have always spoken to my children openly about drugs, but now I felt compelled to talk to my family and have a family meeting about meth use."
The Hornickel family received the letter last week from a woman in Tenn., who recently saw the National Geographic program. It's not the first.
"To begin with, I starting counting. But, at 600, I quit counting," added Twilla.
Kent Hornickel, Janelle's dad, said, "Every time you get one you've gotta have your cry. It might be a happy cry that it's helping. But, that was the only way we could see... We couldn't help Janelle anymore. Maybe we could help somebody else."
Janelle's sisters have their own way of keeping her memory alive.
Jan Howard, Janelle's sister, said, "I try and take every opportunity I can to talk to kids in school or church groups and tell her story and I think a lot of good comes out of that and so I think she's still doing good."
There's also a public service announcement by the Partnership for a Drug Free America. It features one of their 9-1-1 calls.
Those calls are chilling reminders of what their daughter went through that night and what
her family is going through now all because of crystal meth.
"You educate them. You can love them. You can give them a place to come back to... a good
home. And that's all you can really do, except pray," said Twilla.
Janelle and her boyfriend would probably be alive today, if law enforcement had been able to
trace their calls. Next Sunday, on December 16th, we'll look into what ever happened to Nebraska's 9-1-1 system and how the state's recent budget cuts may slow down progress.
So, what exactly is crystal meth? It's a very pure, smokeable form of methamphetamine that can also be snorted or injected.
Drug experts say it's abused because of the exaggerated feeling of happiness it gives the user.
Meth can cause erratic, violent behavior and hallucinations. In the long run, it can cause extreme brain damage, comas and even death. Signs of meth abuse include weight loss, tooth decay and sores on the body from picking at skin.