Last Saturday shortly after 1 P.M., Kristine Kupka, a 28-year-old senior honor student at Baruch College who is five months pregnant, left the Brooklyn house she shares with five roommates for an afternoon outing with a man her family says is the father of her unborn child. She did not return.
Wholly at odds with her character, relatives say, Ms. Kupka did not show up for the college’s midterm examinations, which began on Monday. She has been absent all week from her job as a waitress at a Chelsea restaurant, where she had rarely missed a day’s work in three years. She has not kept appointments with her midwife, and alarmed friends and relatives say she has not been in touch with them.
In recent days, as the agony of silence has given way to a nightmare of doubt and growing suspicion, friends and family members have flocked to New York from Atlanta, Chicago and Madison, Wis., where Ms. Kupka grew up, to help in the search, and hundreds of posters bearing her picture and description have gone up in her neighborhood and at Baruch College — all to no avail.
”We’re deeply worried,” Kathy Kupka, 33, said yesterday on the seventh day of her sister’s disappearance. ”We’ve checked the hospitals and the morgue. We’ve enlisted the help of the police. We’ve checked for credit card activity, and the A.T.M.’s. She hasn’t written a check. There’s just no trace.”
Another sister, Terry Wantuch of Madison, said: ”Kristine has gotten straight A’s every semester, and has been excited about going on to law school. Missing her midterm exams is totally out of character. We’re very worried.”
Lieut. Stephen Biegel, a police spokesman, said yesterday that the police were aiding the family in the search, but that investigators had no evidence of a crime and had not listed Ms. Kupka as a missing person. Several hours later, however, the police formally classified her as a missing person, but said it was not necessarily a criminal matter. ”There’s no suspects at this time,” said Sgt. Ellen Tietjen. ”They’re investigating a missing person case.”
The man said to be the father of Kristine Kupka’s baby, and who was said to have been with her when she left her home at 291 Westminster Road in Kensington a week ago, was not missing, Kathy Kupka said. Neither the police nor Ms. Kupka’s family would disclose the man’s name.
”Kristine wanted the baby,” Kathy Kupka said in a telephone interview from her home in Brooklyn. ”She was spiritually, emotionally and financially ready. She was not planning marriage. She was happy with that. We were already buying baby clothes. She was swimming, totally into it, taking vitamins every day.”
Asked if she suspected foul play, she said unhesitatingly, ”Yes.”
Kristine Kupka, she said, grew up in Madison, attended the University of Wisconsin for a year, moved to New York in 1993 and enrolled as a part-time student at Baruch, a unit of the City University of New York with 14,500 students and a half-dozen buildings on the East Side.
She became a full-time Baruch student in 1995, majoring in philosophy, and has also worked at Negril, a Jamaican restaurant on West 23d Street. A manager, Kellie Madden, described Ms. Kupka as ”very stable, very responsible, articulate and bubbly,” and said co-workers were concerned because her disappearance was ”totally out of character.”
Kathy Kupka said her sister was to graduate in January and was looking forward to the birth of her baby in February. She said Kristine called her regularly, and maintained contact with friends here and around the country.
Kristine was described as having short red hair and blue eyes, 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing 140 pounds and ”visibly pregnant.” When last seen on a sunny, warmish afternoon, she wore a lightweight black shirt and black skirt. She had no jacket, no luggage and only a few dollars. Anyone with information is asked to call the family at (718) 832-3393.
Although there is no apparent connection, three other people have disappeared in the city in the last 20 months, touching off extensive searches by families. Patrick McNeill, 21, a Fordham University student, vanished in February 1997 and was found drowned off Bay Ridge two months later. Lawrence R. Andrews Jr., 22, of Brewster, N.Y., disappeared after New Year’s Eve revelry at Times Square and was found six weeks later, also drowned off Bay Ridge. Peter Caragiulo, 21, of Brooklyn, vanished last March and was found in April in a subway utility room, dead of head injuries of unknown origin.