polly-s-poster-cropped-irfan-480When Polly’s mother Eve Nichol and I were summoned to the Petaluma PD on November 30, 1993 my ability to reach reasonable conclusions had morphed into unreasonable and angry denial. We were in the Chief’s office with Petaluma Police Captain Parks and FBI Special Agent Mershon who told us that they had arrested the man who kidnapped Polly. They watched us carefully for signs of recognition, as we looked at the cold blank eyes staring back at us from the Polaroid snapshot. The kidnapper looked remarkably like the composite on the flyer in a crude unnerving way, but with harsh features. We said that we had never seen him before. They told us that we should get used to the fact that Polly was probably dead because the perp had a long history of violence and had spent most of his life behind bars. “What? You dare to tell me that Polly is dead without proof? Has he ever been convicted of murder?” No. “Then fuck you. I’m not interested in your opinion. Go find my daughter, and then we’ll discuss opinions.” Hobbled by a badly strained back, I shuffled out of the station, got into my car and returned to the donated apartment that Violet and I had been using and in which I was spending increasing amounts of time.


Confined to the floor by pain, my world was shrinking as the truth about Polly’s fate slowly played out on television. The kidnapper denied that he had kidnapped “the fucking little broad,” but his sordid criminal history included incidents of kidnapping, robbery, assaults with shotguns, handguns, knives and fireplace pokers. An old girlfriend had committed suicide by shotgun in his presence. He was diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath in 1978. On scene television correspondents breathlessly reported that Polly’s remains had been located seemingly wherever a dog had left its bone. I took comfort in the knowledge that any real break in the case would be conveyed to me by the police, in person and not through the irresponsible speculation playing out on television.


Words weren’t really necessary when Eve and I were next summoned to the Petaluma PD on Saturday night December 4. We were picked up in separate patrol cars. By the time I arrived in the Chief’s office Eve was already there, sitting with her face in her hands, crying softly. Captain Parks and Agent Mershon, the only other people in the room, also had tears in their eyes. They were sorry to inform me that the kidnapper had confessed and led them to the garbage pile near a rural highway off ramp where he discarded our baby. They recommended that we not view the remains, but instead remember Polly as she was in life.


I heard his words, but they hadn’t yet pierced my heart. I asked if we could tell our families before the news broke. Within fifteen minutes the Chief’s office was full of Polly’s relatives. I did not cry as tears welled up in their eyes and as they expelled sighs of sorrow with their heads bowed in anguish. I asked if we could inform the volunteers at the search center so that they wouldn’t have to learn the truth on the television. I called over and conveyed the sad news, my voice soft, but never wavering. Then we climbed into our cars and drove home in a slow, silent, caravan.


The little street on which we lived was covered in winter leaves and as I walked through our front door I remember thinking how beautiful they looked in death. Somebody started a fire, and Violet and I, drained from two months of futile battle, lay down in front of the fireplace. Only then did my emotions fully engage. The rumble began in my core, but quickly found primal voice. I jumped to my feet blinded by tears, a banshee scream escaping from my torched soul. I would have destroyed my home had the men in the room not held me and contained the explosion of my broken heart. Polly was dead and the only thing I wanted to do was to join her.

2 year old x-masFinally, the wire had snapped and I plummeted into the bottom of the abyss without a net to break my fall. I had hung my hope on the illusion that hard work would allow me to snatch life from the clutches of death, but death is irreversible and indisputable. It took a 65-day, high velocity descent to learn that the reality of death exists in its finality. When I hit bottom I shattered like glass and shattered glass cannot be easily reassembled. Even if you manage to precisely fuse the shards, the best that you can hope for is a bizarre mosaic of refracting light that bears little resemblance to the original. Instead of strength you have fragility; instead of clarity you have mirrors of illusion.

Marc Klaas

About Marc Klaas

I am President of the KlaasKids Foundation and BeyondMissing, Inc. Both organizations are 501(c)(3) public benefit non profit organizations.

10 thoughts on “Endgame”

  1. That was powerful. I remember following Pollys’ case as I did and do for all missing children. Somehow the despair of the grieving families flows through me. My children are alive and I could never imagine to know the finality and loss of a young child. That some scumbag did what they did to any child is haunting. Sexual predators need to be incarcerated for life.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Mark. I am so sorry that you had to experience this tragic loss, but glad that you work to help others!

  3. Wow, that touched my core. In my experience working in the coroners office and meeting with families who’s loved ones died unexpected deaths sometimes violent and sometimes by suicide, among other causes of death. I find that the families and loved ones left behind are so distraught and sometimes inconsolable dealing with their loss. It is especially difficult in suicides where there is no note left or reason to why the person committed suicide. I too have personally experienced someone close to me murdered, and I’m not sure if I will ever forgive!!

  4. I finally understood that day that my child, my grandchildren, nieces, nephews, were not safe in this world. There is a horror that we cannot control or save our precious kids from.

  5. Have seen the system in the worst possible light ever…..not always in our best interest to find out the TRUTH behind the lies……….God Bless You for staying on this Planet after what happened to your beautiful daughter

  6. Wow, my first thought… So powerful. Speaking from the heart with thoughts of your child, a love nothing and noone can ever replace.

  7. I remember this case when it happened. I was the same age as Polly and it just haunted me. Thank you for sharing this, Marc, and for everything you do for missing children. I can’t imagine how much strength it must take to turn this tragedy into something positive to help other kids. You’re an amazing person and I have no doubt that Polly is smiling on you in heaven, so proud of her dad!

  8. Polly was kidnapped 4 weeks after my granddaughter, Holly Piirainen in Sturbridge MA. I remember thinking this could be a serial killer traveling across the country as there had been another kidnapping in NY state, Sara Wood. When Polly’s killer was arrested, we had hopes our case was solved. Unfortunately, this was not to be and Holly and Sara’s cases are still unresolved. Thank you Mark for all you have done to protect the children>

  9. Your pain can be felt though your words…Thank you for coninueing to Live Marc…helps us all…Everything you do…you are in my prayers as well as your sweet one…she would be very proud of her daddy.

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