A Prairie Village woman disappeared without a trace in the summer of 2019.
Her husband told conflicting stories and refused to talk to the police.
Now, her daughter wants answers.
by mary henn
illustration by makalah hardy
On Valentine’s Day 2020, Ellie Green drove from Lawrence to Topeka to get a copy of her mother Angela Green’s death certificate. It was a chilly, overcast day, just a few weeks before pandemic shutdowns, when Ellie pulled up to the Office of Vital Statistics, inside a five-story concrete building across from the state capitol.
Based on the story she’d been told by her father, Geoff Green, Ellie expected the death to be recorded sometime the previous summer. Angela died from a stroke, Geoff said—though he’d refused to answer any questions about where and when she died and asked his daughter to keep her mother’s “death” secret from Angela’s family.
Ellie typed her information into a kiosk and waited her turn. Then she waited some more. After an hour, one of the clerks came back to her with a record of her mother’s marriage. There was no record of Angela’s death.
“I knew something was wrong,” Ellie says. “When I found out there wasn’t a death certificate in Topeka, I knew I was in for a very long ride.”
Two years later, Ellie Green is still looking for answers. With the help of her mother’s side of the family, she recorded phone calls with her father, hired private investigators, had soil samples from family property tested by a lab and sat down for interviews with Dr. Phil and podcasters.
Angela’s disappearance from a quiet, leafy street in Prairie Village seems implausible. It’s difficult to imagine how a woman—a wife and mother—can go missing from a suburb in Kansas without a trace, especially in our modern, digital world, where Facebook shows you ads based on conversations you have in the aisles of Target. The moments surrounding Angela’s disappearance are not only chilling but also indicative of larger societal issues and the limitations of law enforcement.
“I knew something was wrong. When I found out there wasn’t a death certificate…I knew I was in for a very long ride.”
The last time Ellie saw her mother, Angela, was on the evening of June 19, 2019. Ellie had just returned from a two-month study abroad in Europe, where she walked the ancient cobblestone streets of Prague and posed for photos in the poppy fields of Northern Italy.
Angela wanted to spend time with Ellie after she’d been away for two months—Ellie had been Angela’s whole world since the day she was born. Angela was upset that Ellie wanted to go hang out with friends. As the fight escalated, Angela gathered some of Ellie’s stuff and told her to leave. “I expected to come back home later that night, after the fight,” Ellie says. “It was super weird that my mom never reached out to me.”
After her mother kicked her out, Ellie went to stay with her boyfriend and his family in Fairway, and her father Geoff texted her to say he went to stay with Brad and Marva Green, his brother and sister-in-law.
Four days after the fight between Ellie and Angela, Geoff texted Ellie to tell her that her mother was getting treatment for her mental health. He had her taken away by “mental health people” in the parking lot of a store. “It was a struggle,” he texted. Several minutes later, Geoff texted Ellie and asked her not to tell Angela’s family, the Guos, about her being admitted for treatment until he “knew more about her condition.”
Angela had exhibited some odd and obsessive behaviors in the past, Ellie says, but she was surprised to hear that she needed in-patient care.
“I knew my mom acted kind of weird, but I didn’t know it was to the extent to where she needed to be taken away,” Ellie says. “Now, I look back and think she might have had some anxiety. She didn’t like driving on the highway. She liked things to be perfect. Sometimes she’d drop me off at school and she would be happy, then she’d pick me up and start yelling at me for something that happened five years earlier.”
Ellie says that her father insisted she wait to visit her mother until her mental health improved. When Ellie asked Geoff where the hospital her mother had been taken to was, he responded vaguely, Ellie says, saying it was somewhere “down south.”
Throughout the summer of 2019, Ellie continued to stay with her boyfriend and his family, under the impression that her mother was receiving treatment. Ellie and Geoff continued to communicate, and he visited Ellie, her boyfriend, and his family—they did yard work together and smoked ribs on the Fourth of July.
Four weeks after the fight between Ellie and Angela, Geoff texted Ellie saying he needed to talk to her. He drove to her boyfriend’s home in Fairway to see her.
Late that night, on July 16, Geoff told Ellie that her mother had died of a stroke in the hospital. He didn’t tell her which hospital. Geoff also mentioned he did not want to have a memorial service for Angela and that he wanted to wait to tell the Guos about her death. Ellie respected her father’s wishes with the intent of letting him grieve on his own terms. “No one really questioned him,” Ellie says. “I didn’t want to ask him a ton of questions and offend him while he was grieving.”
“I expected to come back home later that night, after the fight. It was super weird that my mom never reached out to me.”
Eight months passed before Ellie called her mother’s family, the Guos, to tell them of Angela’s passing. It had been drilled into Ellie that it “wasn’t her place” to share the news with Angela’s family in New York. Angela spoke to her family only a few times a year—on holidays and Chinese New Year—so it wasn’t unusual that the Guos hadn’t heard from Angela for several months, but they were shocked and confused when Ellie called with the news.
Michelle Guo, Angela’s niece, asked her cousin for a death certificate. Michelle, a corporate lawyer in New York City, was immediately suspicious—she was also close to Angela. Michelle grew up in Kansas, and Angela helped raise Michelle until her family moved away when she was ten years old. After that, Angela and her sister Catherine “grew apart,” Michelle says. “Angela basically cut off my whole family once she had Ellie,” Michelle says. “She was obsessed with Ellie, like to a point where it was unhealthy. There’s just no way she would have left Ellie.”
According to Michelle, Angela was antisocial in general. Even when she went grocery shopping, Angela would make sure Ellie or Geoff went with her so that she wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.
Still, Catherine had tried to call Angela a few times after the summer of 2019. There was no answer. “Angie would do that sometimes,” Michelle says. “If she didn’t want to talk to someone, then she just wouldn’t pick up the phone.”
The day after calling the Guos, February 14, 2020, is the day Ellie drove to Topeka to find Angela’s death certificate. The following day, February 15, Michelle called the Prairie Village Police Department to request a welfare check for Angela. When the police arrived at the Green’s home in Prairie Village, no one was there.
Police began questioning the Green’s neighbors, all of whom said they hadn’t seen Angela in quite some time. While police spoke to the neighbors, Geoff pulled up in his car and told police that Angela was gone for the weekend with friends.
Police returned to the home the next day, February 16. Geoff handed them the business card of a criminal defense attorney and refused to speak. He hasn’t spoken to the police since. (“No comment, thanks for calling,” was Geoff’s only response when reached by phone for this story.)
Michelle has not spoken to Geoff since Angela’s disappearance. Geoff has not answered calls from Michelle or any of the Guos.
“So many people are like, ‘Why didn’t Ellie say something earlier?’” Michelle says. “When I told Ellie, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ She was like, ‘Oh, really?’ She just grew up trusting everything that her parents said. I’ll admit, it’s been frustrating. My sister doesn’t talk to Ellie anymore because she’s so frustrated by the whole thing and how Ellie handled it.”
Understanding the family dynamic is important to understanding how Angela’s disappearance went unreported and unnoticed for so long, Michelle says.
“I think Ellie just had a very odd childhood,” Michelle says. “Ellie’s parents were her only friends—that’s why she just trusted Geoff. Ellie telling my mom about Angela’s death was like going against Geoff’s word, which was a big deal, even though it took months—but that’s why there was a huge gap.”
“I was upset,” Ellie says. “I asked plenty of questions. I just couldn’t get any answers. Sometimes I look back and think that I wish I had pushed him more.”
Angela’s disappearance going unnoticed for eight months was likely rooted in her reclusive tendencies—but her being an immigrant may have made her more vulnerable, too.
“When the police interviewed the Green’s neighbors and asked why they didn’t say anything or alert the police that she was missing, they were like, ‘Oh, we just figured that she had gone back to China or something,’” says Michelle. “Angie had been in the States for over twenty years at that point. She lived in the same house her entire U.S. life, had the same neighbors and never once went back to visit in the entire twenty years. People noticed, but they just thought, ‘Oh, she went back to China,’ which makes zero sense.”
Police apparently acted on the suspicions of the neighbors, too.
“The police had a hard case to start with because they were eight months behind, but they spent a frustrating amount of time trying to see if Angela had gone back to China,” Michelle says. “We were just trying to explain to them that there’s just no way she had gone back—she had no contact with that side of my family anymore.”
“Angie was always very stubborn, and she wanted to come to the U.S. to have an American life,” Michelle adds. “She didn’t want to speak Chinese anymore. She would only speak to my mom in English. My mom thought that was strange. Geoff was also very controlling. She was super dependent on him.”
“He is backtracking, saying that he doesn’t know anything, but he is saying now that she is alive.”
After police conducted the welfare check, Ellie called Brad and Marva, her father’s brother and his wife, to tell them what had been going on. They abruptly returned from a vacation in Florida.
According to Michelle’s detailed timeline of events—which we have not been able to independently verify—Ellie said Marva told her over the phone that “an accident” might have happened and that Geoff should get a lawyer. (It’s possible an accident was involved—Brad and Marva have not spoken to police and did not respond to voicemails left by Kansas City for this story.)
On February 18, Ellie went to the Prairie Village police department to file a missing person report, and police began to check mental health facilities in the area to see if Angela had ever been a patient. Police also conducted a nationwide search for Angela’s death certificate and worked with Homeland Security to check whether she had used her passport to leave the country.
Because Geoff’s description of what happened surrounding Angela’s disappearance had shifted more than once, Michelle advised Ellie to record phone conversations with her father.
While at the police station on February 18, Ellie received a phone call from Geoff, who, during the phone call, told Ellie and police that Angela was not taken to a hospital but had actually disappeared from their family home in Prairie Village after her fight with Ellie. (The audio recording of the phone call between Ellie and Geoff at the police station can be heard on the Voices for Justice podcast, in the episode, “Angela Green Part 1.”)
In that phone call, Geoff said he received a call from someone after Angela’s disappearance stating that she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Geoff also said that he received another call from someone stating Angela died of a stroke a few weeks later. But because Geoff was “busy at work,” he did not take note of the details, like which hospital Angela died at or who was calling with the information.
In recorded phone calls, Geoff also said that he arranged for Angela’s cremation by phone and that an urn was delivered to his home. Geoff said he paid in cash for the service. Where were the ashes? Geoff said he later looked inside the urn and found that it was empty.
When Ellie still spoke to Geoff, she and Michelle would prepare for their conversations ahead of time with a list of questions for Geoff. Michelle would transcribe the calls afterward, making annotations about things that were said.
“Nothing made sense,” Michelle says. “Geoff was blatantly lying.”
Geoff’s latest story, according to Ellie, is that he doesn’t know when Angela left. “He is backtracking, saying that he doesn’t know anything, but he is saying now that she is alive,” Ellie says.
No matter what the circumstances, police cannot force someone to answer questions, says Jeff Lanza, a retired FBI Special Agent based in Kansas City who often gives talks on criminal justice topics to the community. “You can’t force anyone to talk,” he says. “You can use any type of incentive that you have to get them to talk, legally, but ultimately you cannot force them to talk. It puts investigators in a really tough spot when people close to the situation do not want to provide information.”
Because Geoff won’t go on record with his side of the story, there’s no way of knowing for sure why he told Ellie conflicting information about her mother’s whereabouts. Did Angela run away with friends or a secret cult, inspiring Geoff to lie to Ellie to protect her feelings? Was there a tragic accident? It’s open to conjecture.
In later phone calls between Ellie and Geoff (also on the Voices for Justice podcast), Geoff mentioned he might have seen Angela around their home in Prairie Village near the end of 2019. He said he suspected Angela had been in and out of the home since her disappearance. Geoff couldn’t, however, remember the exact date of when he last saw Angela. He said Angela left one day while he was at work and never came back.
If Angela did leave on her own, then she left without any of her belongings. During a search of the Green’s house, police found Angela’s purse, wallet, driver’s license, keys, car and Chinese passport. She didn’t have a bank account. She never used social media. She still had a flip phone, which was also left behind. Geoff later took that phone number as his own.
In the phone conversations between Ellie and Geoff, Geoff said that he hadn’t seen Angela active on any of his bank accounts after her disappearance, and Ellie responded that there aren’t records of Angela starting a job anywhere.
In the recordings, Geoff’s response to Ellie’s questions was frequently, “I don’t know.” At one point in their phone conversations, Geoff said to Ellie, “Be skeptical of everything, including me.”
“You can’t force anyone to talk. You can use any type of incentive that you have to get them to talk, legally, but ultimately you cannot force them to talk.”
On March 11, 2020, police searched the Green’s home in Prairie Village and a storage facility in Olathe where Geoff kept his vintage cars. The police reported that they brought cadaver dogs to both properties.
In July 2020, police told Ellie they had exhausted over two hundred leads and declared the missing person case of Angela Green cold. When the Prairie Village Police Department was asked about Angela’s case, Captain Brady Sullivan said that the department is still actively
“It is classified as a missing person case; however, originally, there was conflicting information regarding her whereabouts that are concerning,” Captain Sullivan wrote in an email. “We are still gathering any facts related to this case and are investigating any new leads that surface. We appreciate any assistance from the public and urge anyone with information to contact us.”
In December 2020, Ellie collected soil samples from a house Geoff had purchased for her a year earlier in a suburb of Lawrence. She gathered soil from Angela’s hostas that Geoff had moved to the property from their Prairie Village home.
Ellie sent the samples to private investigators in California under the instruction of Dr. Phil, on whose show Ellie appeared. The private investigators told Ellie that two cadaver dogs each independently marked all three soil samples positive for human remains.
After the investigators submitted this evidence to the Prairie Village police, they obtained a search warrant for the property in Lawrence.
On December 23, 2020, police arrived at the home in Lawrence. They knocked on the door, but there was no answer. When police entered the home, they found Geoff locked in the bathroom with the radio blasting. The police said later that cadaver dogs were not brought to the Lawrence house and that officers dug around on the property by hand instead.
“I was thinking, ‘You can remember when your dog dies, but you can’t remember when my mom went missing?’ They know. They won’t talk to me, and there’s a reason they won’t talk to me.”
Ellie and Michelle are still searching for details regarding Angela’s whereabouts, and they want to file a wrongful death suit against Geoff so that he will finally go on record with his side of the story—the Fifth Amendment rights that protect Geoff from talking to police when facing prosecution don’t apply in civil court. A GoFundMe has been set up to raise money for lawyers and private investigators for Angela’s case. Michelle has put in around $20,000 of her own savings into the investigation of Angela’s disappearance and feels like there’s been little progress made.
Recently, Ellie and Michelle have had to step back from the case due to the financial, emotional and mental stresses the case has put on them. Since she’s gone public with her questions, Ellie no longer has contact with her father.
Ellie says that she’s tried to get into her childhood home in Prairie Village to get some of her belongings. “He won’t let me go back and get my stuff,” she says of Geoff. “He’s changed all the locks and everything.”
Ellie came back to Kansas a couple of months ago after finishing the final exams of her last semester. Before that, she had been back in the area for Thanksgiving break.
On Thanksgiving, Ellie went to her uncle Brad and aunt Marva’s house unannounced in search of answers about Angela’s whereabouts. That night, Ellie says that Marva told her that the last time she saw Angela was a week after her own dog died.
Ellie says she questioned her aunt’s response, “I was thinking, ‘You can remember when your dog dies, but you can’t remember when my mom went missing?’” Ellie believes that her aunt and uncle may know the details of her mother’s disappearance. “They know,” Ellie says. “They won’t talk to me, and there’s a reason they won’t talk to me.”
On that night at Brad and Marva’s, Ellie did not expect to find Geoff when she arrived.
“He was there,” Ellie says. “He changed the story again. He was saying she is alive.”
Legally, it doesn’t matter that Geoff’s narrative has changed—there is no evidence that he lied directly to the police, and he has a legal right not to talk.
Michelle says that the Prairie Village Police Department doesn’t have the resources that larger police departments have, which is why she and Ellie have had to push so hard to try and move Angela’s case.
“The reason they were able to get a search warrant for the Lawrence property was because the private investigators from Dr. Phil instructed Ellie to go and collect soil samples from the hostas planted there,” Michelle says.
When the Prairie Village Police Department was asked about why they didn’t bring cadaver dogs to the search of the Lawrence property, Michelle says, “The police said they couldn’t get the cadaver dogs. They weren’t available that day. We worked so hard on the side to give the police that evidence so that they could obtain the search warrant. Then they messed it up.”
When Michelle was asked again about who moved the hostas, she says, “Geoff moved the plants. My understanding is that they were used as decoration, and he thought it would be nice to have a piece of Angela there at the house.”
“But Angela wouldn’t have wanted that,” Michelle says. “Ellie has always said, ‘My mom would have hated if he touched her flowers.’”
PHOTOS COURTESY ELLIE GREEN