From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Kaine Horman walks through his son Kyron's room, the place where a boy's favorite things wait for him to come home. He points out the fleet of collectible cars, the little stuffed Kermit, the cozy bed with its SpongeBob pillow, and on the wall, a self-portrait Kyron recently drew, big glasses and all. Kyron, 7, has not been in this room since June 4. Still, he "is somewhere, he's healthy, and he knows we're looking for him," a weary but hopeful Kaine, 36, says. "He's still present tense. He's still here."

Yet on the very day Kaine gave PEOPLE an exclusive tour of his home in Skyline Ridge, a picturesque community outside Portland, the case of his son's disappearance took a strange, ominous turn. Not long after the interview, on June 26, Kaine rushed to meet with investigators, who had shocking news: They told him his wife, Terri, Kyron's stepmother, may have tried to hire a local landscaper to kill Kaine months earlier. Later that day, two more twists: Kaine took the couple's 19-month-old daughter, Kiara, and fled (he filed for divorce and was granted a restraining order two days later) while Terri twice called 911 from the Hormans' home. On July 1 Kyron's biological mother, Desiree Young, 38, seemed to suggest the stepmom knew more than she was letting on, saying, "We implore Terri Horman to fully cooperate with investigators to bring Kyron home."

In a case with no official suspects and no forensic evidence made public, the central question now seems to be, What does Kyron's stepmother know? Terri Horman, 40, a former teacher whom police have not even named a person of interest, drove Kyron to Skyline School on June 4 and is the last person known to have seen him-but she has yet to speak out about the case and remains its most puzzling character (see box). She declined PEOPLE's request for an interview and recently hired prominent Portland attorney Stephen Houze. But Portland TV station KATU claims Terri posted remarks on their website defending herself. "You have no facts, details or knowledge," read one posting, "so please refrain from your accusations." A close friend tells PEOPLE, "Terri loves Kyron. He called her Mom. It's heartbreaking people she doesn't know are throwing stones at her. But she just wants her son back."

Still, the latest allegations will likely only increase speculation. According to the Portland Oregonian, police interviewed a landscaper who claimed Terri offered him money to kill her husband six or seven months ago; investigators later confronted her about the murder-for-hire scheme, which she denied.

What's more, Multnomah County deputies have given Terri two polygraph exams (the results aren't known) and sent out a questionnaire in an effort to reconstruct how she and Kyron spent June 4. Then came her 911 calls to police on June 26. The first, at 5:17 p.m., was later classified by dispatchers as a "threats" call; the second, at 11:39 p.m., involved a "custody" matter. The Multnomah Co. Sheriff's Office refused to comment on these developments. Still, officers at the department searching for Kyron, says his father, have taken a personal interest in the case. "When they go on vacation or even if they've been reassigned," says Kaine, "they're still calling and checking in."

Indeed, something about Kyron, the sweet kid with the big glasses, has touched a lot of people. On the morning of June 4, Kaine told his son he was proud of him for working so hard on a science project, and promised they'd play Wii together after school. "Then I said 'I love you,' and he said, "I love you too, Dad,'" remembers Kaine. "I have not seen him since."

  • Contributors:
  • Elaine Aradillas/Portland,
  • Mike Lewis/Portland.