When Jennifer Lynn Pandos suddenly went missing from her family home in Williamsburg, Virginia, on February 10, 1987, it truly shocked not just the community but also the nation to its core. After all, as carefully explored in HBO’s ‘Burden of Proof,’ she was merely 15 at the time, and there was a bizarre note left at the edge of her bed that only raised more questions than answers. Yet for now, if you simply wish to learn more about the one individual with the loudest voice in demanding some much-needed justice for her — her brother, Stephen — we’ve got the details for you.
Who is Stephen Pandos?
Although born to Margie and Ronald “Ron” Pandos in a comfortable home in 1968, Stephen’s (or Steve’s) upbringing was sadly not emotionally secure, happy, or fulfilling in any way imaginable. That’s because his veteran father allegedly ran a military base at home with his rules, had an extremely short temper, and was even physically violent, according to his account in the production. In fact, this is part of why he wasn’t really close to Jennifer growing up — there was a mere 3½-4 age gap between them, but they seldom interacted since neither preferred to stay home for long.
“My father was the heavy, for sure,” Stephen elucidated in the original docuseries. “What I remember is just always walking on eggshells… I don’t have a relationship with my father, and I didn’t really before; he scares me. Jennifer and I dealt with [him] very differently; where she would fight back, I was just ‘give it to me, and we’ll get out of here…’ [We were in] different orbits; I was rarely at home. I was always at the golf course or always with friends, and Jenifer was spending weekends away… I think it was our survival technique because being at home didn’t feel safe. My mother never protected my sister or me… she stayed away.”
At one point, even Margie admitted Ron was always on Stephen’s “back about something. He had a very short fuse… You just [had to know] when to stop if you were trying to make a point [to him].” However, it wasn’t until February 1987 that everything began to change for the worse with the disappearance of Jennifer while her brother was attending his first year of college away from home. The truth is he had found it strange his mother wasn’t frantic on the fateful day as she’d called to ask if he knew his sister’s whereabouts, but he didn’t delve into it too much until 2009 rolled around.
2009 is actually quite crucial for Stephen since this was “when the police suggested my parents were responsible for my sister’s disappearance. Because I don’t have any other siblings, at that point I felt justice for my sister became my responsibility.” He thus began looking into every available piece of evidence, coordinated with the James City County Police Department, hired private detectives, and even filed lawsuits in the hopes of obtaining some answers. But alas, all he acquired was some peace in having Jennifer declared dead as a wedge between his family and mother came to light — he felt like she was hiding something to defend his father.
Stephen was utterly sure Ron was responsible for his sister’s demise for years, with Margie being an accomplice by either having written to note or knowing what’d transpired and not revealing the truth. Yet the discovery of Jennifer’s original case file — which had gone missing for nearly a decade — threw him for a complete loop as it revealed details pointing toward her ex-boyfriend Tony Tobler. So since his goal is actual justice rather than blind revenge for his childhood or anything else, he is still following evidence plus his own intuition to one day give his sister’s tale some closure.
Where is Stephen Pandos Now?
There are not a lot of things Stephen regrets doing in his life due to the way they mostly stem from a place of morality, love, care, and affection, but he does admittedly regret how he treated his mother. “[There have been] moments where the shame of thinking my parents were involved in this moral atrocity was lifted,” he expressed in the production. “But those moments, all that is replaced by an extreme guilt for all I have denied my mother… It’s no one’s fault but my own. I have caused so much hurt on top of an already tragic situation [because she lost a daughter too], and it’s crushing.”
That’s why Stephen learned more of the situation by speaking to county investigators and district prosecutors alike before deciding he was going to try rebuilding a connection with Margie. He had no interest in establishing a relationship with his father owing to their own past, so he didn’t, but it honestly doesn’t seem like this aspect weighs on him in any way, shape, or form.
Coming to the 55-year-old’s personal standing, from what we can tell, he remains dedicated to learning the truth behind Jennifer’s vanishing to this day – he has waited years and is okay to wait for more. Though the Charlotte, North Carolina, resident is also doing his best to give quality time to his wife, interior designer Karen Lichtin Pandos, his two teen daughters from a prior union, as well as his mother.