Years have passed since Mary Kastens has seen her son, Zachary Anderson. Sometimes she wonders if his past has led them where they are today: without answers.

Zach disappeared in mid-January 2017. A couple of friends invited him to go gambling — just north of Topeka. They stayed at a Ramada Inn in Topeka. The two returned home to Wichita. However, he was not with them. The friends had some of Zach’s belongings, including his cell phone. They did not report him missing for a couple of days, Kastens said. 

“My husband and I had went up there to try and talk to them on Sunday,” she said. “One of the frustrating things was the officer at the front desk there was not helpful at all, and just kind of dismissed us.”


For the longest time, that’s all Kastens felt: dismissed. Her son has a criminal history, including using drugs, which she believes influenced the investigation in the beginning.  

“I kind of just got the feeling from the first detective and the police officers that were assigned to this case, that they didn't really care because of his lifestyle that he had fallen into,” she said.”

“It’s been very disheartening and frustrating by that fact,” Kastens continued. “You know, I want to be honest, my son was heroin addict. And, as a mom that hurts anyways, you know, when you find out that they're doing all those things.”

It was never what Kastens expected for her son, one of four children. With the phone calls and knocks at the door, she hopes Zach will be there on the other end. It’s been never-ending grief. One of the toughest setbacks was early in the investigation. Just a few months after Zach went missing, she said the a Topeka Police detective assigned to the case had listed the case as inactive.

“So we went all these months without nobody looking for him and not telling us that they were looking for him,” she said. “And so that was very…I’m not gonna lie, we're angry. You know, and I'm still angry. I'm angry at a lot of things, you know, I'm upset because of the choices that he's made. I'm upset with nobody really telling us what to do and how to help.”

Through the years, people have made missing persons flyers and shared Zach’s story on Facebook. A grocery store employee reached out to Kasten’s telling her that she saw him at a Dillons — near 29th and California in Topeka — around when he went missing. The worker recognized a tattoo on his neck. At the store, Zach had bought his daughter a teddy bear for her birthday. He had every intention of coming home, Kastens said. No matter his struggle, he was always there for his daughter.

“He took her fishing, took her to the park to the zoo, just loved her unconditionally,” Kastens said. “And like I said, he was a kind hearted, sweet person. And, you know, life took him. The choices that he made, just took him down a wrong path, but he was still a good dad through all of it.”   


Many families of adults who are missing are in a similar position as Kastens. Police will put an attempt to locate a person, but it’s not always considered a high priority compared to violent crimes or finding runaway youth. 

Yet, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation launched a new Missing Persons Clearinghouse this week. It allows people to search for missing individuals throughout the state. There are nearly 600 missing people — 300 juveniles and 300 adults in Kansas. Zach is listed in the database. 

“Behind each of those people is a family who's wondering what happened to this person or can we get some resolution as to what occurred here? Being able to fill the gaps for those families and provide those answers is important to us,” said Melissa Underwood, a spokesperson for the KBI. 

The database gives people the ability to search by demographic, region, age and other ways. Some cases are decades old. The community, Underwood said, has created a movement with finding the missing and can help law enforcement close the cases. 

Kastens said she’s encouraged by the database and the state’s efforts. She also said her family’s relationship with Topeka Police has improved vastly. A new detective on the case communicates with them. They are also working with Wichita Police to finding Zach.


Topeka Police is asking for the community’s help with finding Zachary Michael Anderson. Anderson is from the Wichita-area, but was last seen on Jan. 18, 2017, at the Ramada Inn in Topeka. There is concern for Zach’s health, as he suffers from seizures and does not have his medicine, according to Topeka Crime Stoppers. Zach may also use the name Ryan Anderson or Shawn/Sean Black.


Missing from: Topeka, Kan.

Missing since: Jan. 18, 2017

Age then: 27

Height: 6’0’’

Weight: 170 pounds

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Blue

Distinguishing marks: Several tattoos, including the name “Savannah” on his neck; a skull on his chest; dollar signs on the back of his right hand.

If you have information that could help the case, contact the Capital Area Crime Stoppers for Topeka and Shawnee County at (785) 234-0007.

KAKE News will feature the story of a missing person every weekday in our newscasts at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. If you have a person you’d like for us to share a story about, please contact Anchor Annette Lawless at [email protected]