Jessica Ussher and Julie Reeder
Elena Roy was reported to have been last seen by her husband/partner Chris Cataldo on Nov. 3, 2021 in the home they shared in Fallbrook. The two had been together for 14 years, following a ceremony at the church in Wildomar, although the marriage was not a legally recognized wedding by the state of California.
According to Cataldo, Roy left their home on Nov. 3 at approximately 1:30 p.m. to go on a walk, after an argument, and never returned. She disappeared just days before her 84th birthday, and her family maintains that this disappearance is out of character, although Cataldo said she was an avid walker and would occasionally go on walks by herself and come back home after an hour or so. He also said in a previous interview with Village News, that Roy had "incrementally increasing dementia" issues over the past four or five years.
Roy's family says that the last time Roy was seen by anyone other than Cataldo, was actually the day before, when she was captured on video in Grocery Outlet on Main Avenue.
Roy's disappearance prompted a full-scale search with hundreds of volunteers taking to the streets, alleyways and even rural areas surrounding Fallbrook in an attempt to find her in the days and weeks after her disappearance.
In a previous interview with Village News and Valley News, Roy's son Jerry Swart, said Search and Rescue had about 60 people out looking for his mom. "They had the helicopter out for two days along with drones and dogs," he said.
Roy is white, 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and weighs about 120 pounds. She has graying dark hair and wears glasses and the day she went missing, was reported to be wearing a white, light blue and dark blue top with dark pants, a silver and turquoise bangle bracelet and blue leather-soled shoes with flowers on them. Her husband said she had her purse with her as well.
There's been no sign of Roy since her disappearance. "There has been no bank activity on any of her cards," Cataldo said a week after her disappearance. Roy's daughters agree that there has been no activity on her accounts over the last two years, with the exception of her husband pulling out her money.
A native Californian, Roy was born in Orange County and comes from a large family. She was described to be very family-oriented and close to her many siblings. Roy's daughters stated that they also were close to their uncles and aunts and have been since the day they were born.
In an interview with the Village and Valley News, Roy's daughters, Jessica and Tami, and granddaughter-in-law Doreen, said they were disturbed that Cataldo didn't call them sooner, on the day their mom went missing. Tami said, "Chris informed us that she was missing at 8:45 p.m. on Nov. 3 and told us not to panic."
According to Roy's daughter Jessica, the family immediately made their way to Roy's home where they met with Fallbrook Sheriff's deputies who began asking them questions."He [Chris] really had no good explanation of why he waited until 9:00 to call us. He said he drove around looking for her at dusk," said daughter Tami.
The daughters also explained that Cataldo and Roy were inseparable, and they thought it was strange for Roy to go walking alone. The daughters said Cataldo told Roy's family that he never lets Roy go anywhere alone because of her dementia and Roy's daughter Jessica said, "They were always together. I live a block away from her and I would see Chris and Elena walking together...she's had a few close friends throughout the years, but at the end, her primary social network was her family. We were all very close."
When asked about what happened on the evening of Roy's disappearance, Roy's daughters said "We found it strange that when the Sheriff asked us if Elena had any close family or friends in the neighborhood that they could contact in case she had walked over there, Chris said that he did not want to wake up anyone in the neighborhood – but we didn't care what time of day it was, we just wanted to find our mom."
Roy's daughters and granddaughter also stated that during the search for Roy they found out that Roy had been found walking alone once before, but Chris did not mention this to them.
"During the search a fireman reached out to us through Facebook, saying, "I think this is the lady I picked up a year ago." The fireman was on his way home with his family and noticed Roy walking on the side of DeLuz Rd in the dark, which was obviously dangerous. He pulled over and asked Roy if she needed a ride and subsequently drove her to the sheriff's station. The family recalled the fireman commenting on Chris' demeanor when he collected Roy from the Sheriff's station, stating that, according to the fireman, Cataldo seemed nonchalant when he arrived, which made him suspicious.
After answering the Sheriff's questions on Nov. 3, the family began searching for Roy and drove around the surrounding area. However, due to foggy weather conditions, the Fallbrook Sheriff's department was unable to conduct a helicopter search on Nov. 3, and instead used a helicopter on Nov. 4 and 5 when the weather permitted. Search dogs were also used in the search to detect Roy's scent.
Roy's daughters said that Cataldo told them he looked for Roy at dusk which they found strange that "he waited until it started to get dark before he went." Jessica said, "I don't understand why he didn't just drive to the Sheriff's station if he was diving around and couldn't find her."
Additionally, the family stated "Chris only cooperated with the Sheriff and did not assist us with our searches. He only followed us in his car once during a search organized by the Latter-day Saints on Nov. 5.
Roy's family and Cataldo put up missing posters all around Fallbrook and subsequently a $10,000 dollar reward was offered through Crime Stoppers. Cataldo and the family each contributed to the fund as well as Crime Stoppers.
According to Cataldo, Roy would leave and walk on her own. He said, "It has been gradually getting worse over time. She did take off on me one time when we were at Grocery Outlet and she got mad that I was trying to adjust her mask. Before I knew it, I turned around and she was gone. That was disconcerting."
Cataldo said the last time she disappeared, about a year before, she did turn up before dusk."That didn't happen this time. As we got fairly close to dusk, I went out and looked for her," he said, adding that Roy is an avid walker. He said the last time Roy disappeared, the people who found her took her to the sheriff's substation and that is what he thought would happen this time as well.
A few days after her disappearance, Cataldo said in an interview with Village News, "She hasn't showed up, it's been cool days, cold nights, fog, and it destroys me to think where she might be, she might be in a ditch half dead or fully dead or something," he said, adding that he hoped he was wrong, but after this long of a period of time, odds were that she wouldn't be coming back. "I hope that I am wrong, but I am holding out hope," he said.
Cataldo and Roy were together for 14 years and in Fallbrook for eight years. Roy's family stated that, "By the time she went missing we trusted him despite a rocky beginning." The daughters said Cataldo met Roy at the church in Wildomar after completing a seven-year prison sentence. "He was there for the halfway house," said Roy's daughter, "and about a month later we had an intervention at my mom's business at the time to make sure she knew."
After that the family said things settled into a natural rhythm but they still had questions. "Every time we'd observe them, they had fun together. He did not like us around though. You could tell by the look on his face," said Jessica.
According to Cataldo, Roy was distancing herself from her family, but the daughters disagreed, maintaining they were still close.
In February 2022, three months after Roy's disappearance, Cataldo asked Roy's daughter Tami to "collect her [Elena's] artifacts." When Tami showed up at his house he was having a garage sale which included many of Roy's belongings, which was distressing to her and the family. She said, "It was upsetting to me, especially after remembering that when I spoke to him on the morning of Nov. 4, the day after she disappeared, he spoke about my mom in the past tense. And I took issue with that right away." A loud argument ensued in Cataldo's driveway and the sheriff was called.
During several visits to the Village News office, Cataldo stated that he was leaving Fallbrook, claiming there was really nothing keeping him in the area anymore.
Currently, Roy's family is encouraging as many people as possible to join their Facebook group "Bring Elena Home." They feel that there is power in numbers and would like to post all concerns, resources, and updates in that group. The family also uses this group to organize searches and display past and current missing posters.