Excited to become a first-time mom, Kassanndra Cantrell was looking forward to her baby shower on one of her favorite holidays: Halloween.
“I made her a baby 'boo-t, you know — boo — like a ghost," says Cantrell's best friend, Alexandra McNary, who was planning the shower. "Instead of 'pin the tail on the donkey' we would do 'pin the diaper on the baby' games.”
But the shower never took place.
On Aug. 25, the day before Cantrell, 33, of Parkland, Washington, was supposed to go for her first ultrasound with McNary, she vanished.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office immediately zeroed in on her ex-boyfriend, Colin Dudley, 37, of Tacoma, a man Cantrell met when she appeared in a local production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when she was 18 and he was 22.
Cantrell broke up with him shortly after but reconnected with him after her father died in 2014, says her mother, Marie Smith.
Armed with a search warrant, on Aug. 31, police searched Dudley’s home for clues about Cantrell’s disappearance.
On Sept. 22, after using GPS data allegedly taken from Dudley’s truck, police found Cantrell’s body wrapped in garbage bags in a ravine in a nearby town, according to the search warrant obtained by PEOPLE.
Dudley was arrested that same day and charged with first-degree murder.
He has pleaded not guilty and is being held on a $2 million bond. His lawyer had no comment.
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As Dudley awaits trial, Cantrell’s family and friends are reeling from the death of the good-hearted woman who loved vintage clothes and always made a big impression.
“If I was the firecracker, she'd be the New Year's Eve ball drops in New York,” says McNary. “She wasn’t shy. “She was real loud.”
But when it came to dating, “she was a little more reserved and less experienced,” she says.
Dudley, she says, “had been one of her only serious boyfriends. She told me she was seeing her ex every now and then because she was kind of lonely in quarantine. But she didn’t say much more than that. She kept him hidden. That was weird for her.”
Smith says Dudley hadn’t made a good impression on her or some of her daughter’s friends.
“I never liked him,” she says.
‘She Would Have Been Such a Good Mom’
Police believe Dudley was the father of Cantrell's baby. According to Smith, Cantrell knew her mom wasn't fond of Dudley, so she told her the baby's dad was "a guy she dated a couple of times and 'oops.'"
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But Dudley had also allegedly said something that disturbed Cantrell’s loved ones — “that if any girlfriend of his got pregnant and wouldn’t get an abortion, he would sue to get full custody just to spite the mother for having the child,” prosecutors say in the search warrant.
On Aug. 12, Cantrell told Dudley about the pregnancy.
“She told him that he didn't have to be involved,” says McNary. “She just thought that he had a right to know. She told him that he could give up parental rights and she wouldn't ask him for child support.”
Two weeks later, Cantrell vanished.
Smith held out hope that her daughter would be found alive. Deep down, she says, “I knew something was very wrong.”
Now, Smith spends her days mourning the loss of her daughter and grandchild.
“She had all these plans laid out,” says Smith. “She was going to have all the Mister Rogers stuff and all of the original Sesame Street and all of the old Disney because she wanted this sort of gentle, magical life for the baby. I would tease her and say, 'The grandma is supposed to be the one who spoils the grandchild. So what are you leaving me to do?'"
Breaking down into sobs, she says, “She would have been such a good mom."
Says McNary, “She deserved to have a life and her baby deserved to have a life. She and the baby deserved a lot more than being dumped in a ravine."
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