By Rose Quinn
Published in the Monday, May 10, 2021 edition of the Delaware County Daily Times
If Amanda DeGuio walked through her mother’s front door today, she would step back into the close-knit family she left behind almost seven years ago.
Reuniting with her missing daughter is Joanne DeGuio’s daily prayer.
“Every morning I go to work and I pass St. Denis Church and I bless myself and I say, ‘Maybe today is the day,’” the Upper Darby mother of four and grandmother of five said recently. “One day, it’s going to happen. Bad or good, it’s going to happen.”
Every scenario imaginable has run through Joanne DeGuio’s mind since she last saw Amanda on the morning of June 3, 2014. Some days, the images break her. Other days, they strengthen her motherly resolve even more.
“I miss my daughter … My granddaughters miss their mother,” said DeGuio, who is legal guardian for Amanda’s two daughters, ages 9 and 11. “Somebody knows where she is. I just wish someone would do something.
“Is she locked in a basement somewhere and can’t get out?” she said, hinting at the 2013 rescue of three women who were held captive in a Cleveland, Ohio, house for nearly a decade. “I just want to know where my daughter is.”
Until she is told otherwise, Joanne DeGuio dismisses anyone who refers to Amanda, now 31, in the past tense. But sometimes, even she slips.
“I hate winter,” she said. “Every time it snows, I hate it. I hate the idea of snow falling on top of her somewhere.”
DeGuio worries about “precious time lost” and opportunities missed in the early days, weeks and months following Amanda’s disappearance. With the passage of so many years, she also worries that people have forgotten – or stopped caring, if they ever did in the first place – about her missing daughter.
About Amanda DeGuio
- Missing since June 3, 2014.
- Last seen early in the morning by her mother in the home they shared on Hiawatha Lane in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby.
- Amanda DeGuio is 5 feet 2 inches tall and at the time of her disappearance weighed about 120 pounds. She has blue eyes and brown hair. Distinctive markings include a surgical scar on her mid-abdomen and multiple tattoos: lips on her right buttock; map of Italy “boot” and “Tommy on right torso area, “MF” inside lower lip and “SC” on left ring finger.
- She may be using the names Gianna, Arianna, or Crystal.
- Anyone with information regarding Amanda DeGuio’s whereabouts is asked to call Upper Darby Township Police at 610-734-7669; Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division at 610-891-4700; or Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers Toll Free at 1-800-4PA-TIPS.
- $10,000 reward for information leading to the return/recovery of Amanda DeGuio.
A family complete
Amanda’s family describes her as free-spirited, stylish, charismatic and fun. She loves her legion of friends, and they love her. She has issues, including a Percocet addiction, and she has made a few bad choices involving friends over the years.
Family has always been Amanda DeGuio’s constant, especially her two little girls.
Except for a semester away at Neumann University in Aston, Amanda primarily lived with her mother. When Amanda’s daughters came along, Joanne was thrilled to have them all under her roof. That Joanne’s oldest daughter, 32-year-old Nicole DeGuio DeLio, now lives across the street with her husband, Robbie, and their two children, is just another blessing.
Joanne and John DeGuio, now divorced but supportive co-parents and grandparents, were living in South Philadelphia when they started their family some 33 years ago. With her two sons, Alan and Timmy Kulesza, the additions of Nicole and Amanda made their family complete, Joanne DeGuio said.
“Amanda was our surprise,” DeGuio said with a chuckle. Born in Roxborough Memorial Hospital on March 5, 1990, Amanda arrived four days before her big sister’s first birthday. Over the years, the siblings loved playing “twins” for those few days, and their birthdays were always celebrated together, Nicole said.
“Thick as thieves” is how Joanne DeGuio refers to them.
From the clunky jewelry hanging around her neck as a child, to the baggie pants and ponytail she wore as a young woman, Amanda DiGuio always had a style all her own, her mother and sister agreed.
“As a child, she would dress herself. I had to let her,” Joanne DeGuio said, recalling a pair of white cowgirl boots that Amanda loved so much she slept in them. “She has always been a girlie girl.”
DeGuio holds dear every photo of Amanda, from infant to little girl to middle school cheerleader to young mother. Every image is locked in her mind – and heart.
Before moving to Upper Darby, the DeGuios lived in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia and the Havertown section of Haverford. Amanda attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Grade School in Overbrook through the third grade and then transferred to Oakmont Elementary School. She attended Haverford Middle and Junior High schools and graduated from Haverford High School in 2008. She always had a lot of friends in high school, many of whom were upper class students that she shared with Nicole.
“Amanda liked school. She was a solid B student,” her mother said. “She was always very social.”
In middle school, Amanda ran track and cheered for the Marple Junior Tigers. In high school, she was a member of the Lady Fords competitive cheer squad.
“We took our first trip as a family to Disney World to watch her cheer in her sophomore year,” Joanne DeGuio said. “Amanda loved cheering, and they were a good team.”
Amanda was a senior when she landed her first job working at a local pizzeria.
“She loved having her own money,” Joanne DeGuio said.
Amanda was never one to shy away from hard work. And when things did not work out the way she planned, she was quick to adapt.
Her dream was to work in health care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a path that stemmed from her own medical issues as a child, her mother said.
According to Joanne, Amanda was diagnosed with asthma at 11 months of age, and through her teen years spent a lot of time in hospitals undergoing breathing treatments. She also had surgery to correct a hiatal hernia at age 2, and afterward relied on a feeding tube for three months. The surgery left a huge scar on her stomach.
“Nothing ever stopped her,” DeGuio said. “The day she came out of surgery she was riding a children’s car down the hallway.”
Amanda’s acceptance into the nursing program at Neumann in her senior year in high school was a banner day – and a step toward her dream, her mother said.
Amanda lived on campus the first semester but decided the rules were too restrictive and finished out her first year as a commuter. When she found out she was pregnant with her first child, she left Neumann and enrolled at CHI Institute in Marple.
“She knew her life was about to change, and she wanted to have some control. She knew it would be too hard to stay in nursing school,” Joanne DeGuio said. “It was her choice to go to CHI. She did all the research. Her plan was to be a medical assistant and return to nursing school later on.”
Amanda – described as very smart, in both a street and book sense – was always working, and often held multiple part-time jobs. She paid her bills and had excellent credit.
“Then she got pregnant again … the news was not at all devastating. She was happy,” DeGuio said.
Joanne DeGuio misses watching Amanda interact with her daughters. In one word, “amazing,” DeGuio said of their special bond.
Like so many others in Delaware County, and across the state, Amanda was struggling with opioid addiction. Her problem was no secret.
Her family traces her problem to the Percocet she was prescribed after her first daughter was born. Two days before her daughter’s birth, Amanda complained to her mom about pain in her right breast, which had become swollen.
“Her breast was enlarged on May 25 and on May 27 she gave birth. When she brought the baby home, they told her just to put (a bag of frozen) peas on her breast. The next day Amanda was in the emergency room,” DeGuio said.
According to DeGuio, Amanda was diagnosed with flesh-eating disease, which required three surgeries and resulted in the loss of nearly half of her breast tissue.
“She was told she was lucky she didn’t breast feed because the baby could have contracted a bacterial infection,” DeGuio said.
Amanda’s recovery was long and painful. Her mom recalled her being on a morphine drip for at least two weeks and on prescription Percocet for about three months.
“I remember she would cry and say she felt like she was a bad mom because she couldn’t hold her baby,” Joanne DeGuio said. “She was a baby herself at 19. I can only imagine what she was feeling inside.
“I think she worried that she disappointed us, but we were all OK,” DeGuio said. “Amanda was a single mom, but she wasn’t alone. She was loved. She was never without family support.”
Amanda’s body eventually healed, but she never stopped taking the painkiller Percocet, and she smoked marijuana, according to her mother.
“They were her drugs of choice,” Joanne DeGuio said.
“Amanda never had any problem finding her pills. She would take Percocet and plenty of them. We knew it was an issue,” DeGuio said. “It wasn’t until she went missing we even heard about heroin … We don’t know that to be true.
“We only know about pills. And before she went missing, it had gotten worse…We went to Disney World, and we all had a great time. We came home and she’s looking for job, looking for babysitters. The next thing, she is missing,” Joanne DeGuio said.
“I always knew when she was high. It was the weirdest thing how she would go days without it and be normal,” her mother said.
“She would be high and then go weeks at a time and be fine … It was never a 24/7 thing with her,” Nicole said.
“After Amanda went missing, there were a lot of rumors,” Joanne DeGuio said.
Like many parents and their children, Joanne and Amanda had their battles, mostly over Amanda’s poor choices, said DeGuio. “I never tried to sugar coat … I am not the naïve parent who says, ‘Not my child.’”
To this day, “There is nothing ever so bad that she cannot come back home,” DeGuio said. “Did Amanda have issues? Yes. But that’s life.”
Joanne DeGuio relives her last days with Amanda over and over. “Everything was fine,” she said. “I’m stumped.”
Unanswered phone calls
The night before she vanished, Amanda and her mother shared a Caesar salad and a pizza – half pepperoni, Amanda’s favorite – and reminisced over their most recent family trip to Disney and how Amanda’s youngest daughter was old enough to “really get” the Disney experience.
Before the trip, which also included Nicole and her oldest daughter, Amanda experienced what Joanne DeGuio described as a relapse. Amanda acknowledged her problem and wanted to get better, her mother said.
“In May, she asked her sister, ‘Can you please help me,’ ” her mother said. “That was a hard thing for Amanda to do.”
Looking back, Joanne DeGuio said their time in Disney, which coincided with Amanda’s oldest daughter’s birthday, could not have been better. Precious memories were made for everyone.
DeGuio said after the trip, the plan was for Amanda to visit a doctor to undergo a full physical. There was also some talk about her going back to a rehabilitation facility – which would have marked her third stint in rehab – and looking into detoxing with suboxone.
“She never got that far,” her mother said.
On the morning of June 3 – about four days after their return home from Disney – Joanne DeGuio said she woke up, dressed her granddaughters, and then poked in Amanda’s room to tell her she was leaving for work.
“I told her not to forget to bring the suitcases in from the outside. Airing the suitcases is something we always do after a trip. And I asked her to do the laundry from the trip,” DeGuio said, recalling the last words she spoke to her daughter.
DeGuio did not think much of it when she called Amanda during the day and got no answer, or when she returned about 5 p.m. to an empty house.
“Again, I called Amanda’s phone, no answer. I called back a few times and still got no answer,” DeGuio said, noting she still was not overly concerned, especially since her granddaughters were visiting another relative.
“Amanda was 24,” DeGuio said. “When she did not have her daughters, she would go out with her friends. Sometimes she would leave home with an overnight bag.
“When it got to be 8, 9, 10 o’clock that night and I still didn’t hear from her then I got worried,” DeGuio continued.
By the time she called Nicole about Amanda, Joanne DeGuio, who desperately wanted to believe Amanda was serious this time about her sobriety, could not help but wonder, “Is she back to her old ways?”
If Amanda had decided to leave home, she had eight hours to pack. “She didn’t do that,” her mother said.
Nor did she bring the suitcases in from outside or do the laundry as her mother had asked.
Amanda, who does not drive, walked out with only the clothes on her back, and her iPhone.
“Amanda was young, she still liked to go out and have fun with her friends. She knew she had me, or her father or Nicole to watch the girls.
“But no matter what, she always would call and check on those girls.”
Even on her worst day in addiction, Amanda had no problem calling her mother even if all she said was, “Leave me alone,” DeGuio said. “But I still knew she was OK.”
A blessed birthday
In their relentless search for Amanda over the years, Joanne and Nicole have fearlessly knocked on doors, posted flyers and questioned strangers – more times than they can count. Since March of 2015, the family has been working with Kevin Ryan, a private detective whose focus is missing persons.
A couple times a month, Joanne and Nicole visit areas where Amanda was known to frequent in Philadelphia. Sometimes they bring food to distribute to those they meet on the street, but when it is cold, they bring hats and gloves.
“I will never stop looking,” said Joanne DeGuio. “But I don’t even know where to look anymore.”
DeGuio said she struggles with ways to help Amanda’s daughters understand addiction on their level. She wants them to know there is no shame in seeking help and they should ignore those in the world who voice cruel judgments.
“I tell them we should always try to help others because we would want someone to help their mommy,” DeGuio said.
The girls still ask their grandmother when their mommy is coming home, but not as often as they used to. Every night, they pray for Amanda.
“I know I am going to have to say something to them at some point … Mommy is not coming home. Mommy is hurt. Mommy decided she can’t take care of you … something,” DeGuio said.
As life moves on, Joanne DeGuio is grateful she has the two little girls with her.
“They are what keep me going,” DeGuio said. “They both have a part of their mother and I see it every day. It makes me smile.”
Amanda’s youngest looks just like her mother, DeGuio said, while the oldest has her mom’s personality and shares her love for purple.
On Amanda’s birthday on March 5, Nicole welcomed her second baby into the world – Francesca Amanda DeLio.
“It took my breath away,” Joanne DeGuio said of hearing her new granddaughter’s middle name.
Nicole was quick to explain that by no means should anyone interpret the honor to mean the family has lost hope in Amanda returning home. Quite the opposite, she said.
“For some reason, God made me pregnant to give birth on Amanda’s birthday. I believe it was a sign from Amanda telling us everything is fine,” Nicole said. “This baby is such a blessing.”
Open and active investigation
Upper Darby Township Police Superintendent Timothy M. Bernhardt remembers Amanda DeGuio from his earlier days on the force. Not because Amanda was a troublemaker, but because he thought even then that trouble seemed to follow her.
“If anyone asked me, I would say Amanda had a heart of gold … and that she associated with the wrong people,” Bernhardt, a 24-year police veteran, said recently. “She was outgoing and spirited, but got surrounded by people with problems … I believe that was her demise.”
Officially, Amanda DeGuio remains a missing person. There is also an outstanding warrant for her arrest for prescription fraud.
Although there has been no evidence of foul play, the ongoing investigation, led by Upper Darby police with the assistance of county authorities, is being handled as a death investigation. Since she was last seen on the morning of June 3, 2014, there has been no credible sighting either by eyewitness, camera or digital device, both police and P.I. Ryan agree. The FBI has information regarding Amanda DeGuio, and her DNA is on file with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, as well as the National Crime Information Center.
No scenario has been ruled out, according to both Bernhardt and Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division Chief James E. Nolan IV.
“It’s a mystery,” said CID Lt. William Gordon.
From countless hours of interviews with family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers, to surveillance of areas in and around Delaware County where Amanda was known to mix, the investigation to date has been exhaustive, and it remains “very much an active case,” Bernhardt said.
Bernhardt considers information that Amanda was an active opioid addict around the time of her disappearance as credible. At least two people known to have been in her circle have since died from an opioid overdose.
“Did she walk out the door and vanish that day, I’m not willing to commit to that,” said Bernhardt. “But from day one, not one tip (regarding her whereabouts) was legitimate.”
Bernhardt, who has been heading the police department since November 2019, was a supervisor in the narcotics unit when Amanda DeGuio was officially reported missing on Aug. 27, 2014. His initial role in assisting detectives focused on tracking social media, including information that led to old advertisements for prostitution on backpage.com and craigslist. Both ads depicted Amanda’s photograph and were determined to have been placed about a year before Amanda went missing, according to P.I. Ryan. That information resulted in a warrant to search a residence in Springfield, which resulted in arrests, but no information leading authorities any closer to Amanda.
He recalled spending “days, weeks, months” in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, with then-Detective Sgt. Daniel Lanni, now police captain, following leads, to no avail. Lanni continues to work the case, along with Sgt. Daniel Oliveri.
Numerous reports of Amanda DeGuio sightings over the years all proved false, noted Bernhardt. The most recent sighting in 2019 led investigators to Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia.
Since January of this year, there has been a review of the case, “from start to finish,” and there are weekly discussions, Bernhardt said.
While tips no longer pour in like they used to, police still receive some.
“I would like nothing more than to deliver good news, either by bringing Amanda home or by telling her where Amanda is,” Bernhardt said, referring to Joanne DeGuio.
“She’s a mother … I’m a father,” Bernhardt said. “You have to have hope.”
Family members are grateful to the police for their persistent efforts, to their “amazing support system” of friends in the community, and to those who follow updates on the Help Find Amanda DeGuio page on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Joanne DeGuio waits.
“She is somewhere,” she said. ‘My hope is if Amanda is alive, she reads this and knows how much we miss her and how much we love her.”
First in a special and occasional series in partnership with the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.