(NBC NEWS) — On Thursday at 9 p.m., “Dateline” reports on the tale of Megan Nichols, who vanished from her Illinois home overnight.

Nichols’ mother, Kathy Jo Hutchcraft, found a note from Nichols’ saying that she ran away, but a grisly discovery made three years later changed the course of the investigation.

Thursday’s all-new “Dateline” features exclusive interviews with Nichols’ mother, investigators, and the college student who helped uncover the truth.

Here is a preview of Andrea Canning’s report:

It was July 4th weekend and Megan was missing — considered a runaway.

The officer told Kathy Jo not to worry, teenagers often disappear and then turn up.

Kathy Jo and her mother headed home and started making calls.

GEMMA LOSS: Her mom had called me. I think it was like one o’clock in the morning, and she told me that Megan was missing and wanted to know if she was with me, and she wasn’t.

Kathy Jo decided to search her daughter’s room — looking for clues, anything.

KATHY JO HUTCHCRAFT: When I pulled back her blankets, I saw the, the cell phone.



This phone had no phone case, it was just upside down. And it looked different because I’m used to seeing, used to seeing purple or pink or something flashy and I picked it up and pushed the button and it said, “Hola, hello,” as if it was a brand-new phone.

ANDREA CANNING: Yeah. That’s like factory settings.

Megan’s iPhone had been wiped clean.

ANDREA CANNING: Your heart musta just sank in that moment.

KATHY JO HUTCHCRAFT: Yeah. I, I told my mom, I don’t know what to do. And she said, well, I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to go pray.

They went into the TV room down the hall. Got on their knees.

Then, it was Kathy Jo’s mother who saw it first.

KATHY JO HUTCHCRAFT: And my mom knelt down on the seat, and she handed me an envelope that said, “Mom.”

KATHY JO HUTCHCRAFT: And when I opened up the envelope, there was a note.

A mysterious note and a dramatic story that would come to define the search for missing Megan.

HOLDEN AUGUST: It’s very intense high school drama.

ANDREA CANNING: This is a high school love triangle.

Watch “DATELINE: The Note,” Thursday at 10 p.m. on NBC4.

About ‘Dateline’

“Dateline NBC” is the longest-running series in NBC primetime history and is in its 32nd season. Dateline is anchored by Lester Holt and features correspondents Andrea Canning, Josh Mankiewicz, Keith Morrison and Dennis Murphy.

The stories range from compelling mysteries to powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations. When major news breaks, they go to the scene, putting the pieces together to bring the viewer the full picture. And in every story they tell, they help the real people who lived the events share their journeys with the viewer.