Mothers of missing children mark ‘heartbreaking’ holiday by calling for help with stalled investigations

“I would like to say Happy Mother’s Day to her if she’s watching this,” the mother of missing postal worker Kierra Coles told her daughter Sunday. “But for the most part, I would like the police to step up and do more in Kierra’s investigation.”

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Karen Phillips speaks at a news conference on Mother’s Day asking the public to come forward with information on her missing daughter, Kierra Coles.

Karen Phillips speaks at a news conference on Mother’s Day asking the public to come forward with information on her missing daughter, Kierra Coles.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Kierra Coles was about three months pregnant with her first child when she vanished more than three years ago.

The U.S. postal worker’s disappearance initially drew widespread media attention and speculation, but her trail quickly went cold. For Mother’s Day, Coles’ mom joined other parents of missing children to mark the “heartbreaking” occasion and raise alarms about the stalled, years-long searches that have left them grasping for answers.

“I would like to say Happy Mother’s Day to her if she’s watching this,” Coles’ mother, Karen Phillips, told her daughter during a news conference Sunday in Daley Plaza. “But for the most part, I would like the police to step up and do more in Kierra’s investigation. I don’t feel like they have done enough to cover my daughter’s case.”

Karen Phillips speaks at a press conference on Mother’s Day asking the public to come forward with information on her missing daughter,  Kierra Coles. Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Karen Phillips speaks at a press conference on Mother’s Day asking the public to come forward with information on her missing daughter, Kierra Coles. Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Coles, now 29, was last seen near her Chatham apartment on Oct. 2, 2018. Her car was found out front with her phone and a packed lunch inside, adding to the mystery.

Phillips noted that Chicago police investigators initially told the family they had multiple suspects, but the list was ultimately whittled down to nothing. She questioned why detectives haven’t interviewed the father of Coles’ unborn child, who she said lawyered up after her disappearance.

“Every day is heartbreaking,” Phillips said. “You know, you have to get up and prepare yourself to go through another day without your child … wondering what’s going on. Is she safe? Is she not safe? You know, where is she?”

Her concerns were shared by the three other mothers whose children have gone missing, seemingly without a trace.

Shantinel Howard’s daughter, Jerrica Laws, was last seen on Aug. 16, 2015, when she left her Park Forest home for a walk. Howard insisted police investigators haven’t “put all their stock” into finding her daughter, who she described as “a God-fearing young lady.”

Shantinel Howard speaks at a press conference on Mother’s Day asking the public to come forward with information on her missing daughter Jerrica Laws. Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Shantinel Howard speaks on Mother’s Day asking the public to come forward with information on her missing daughter, Jerrica Laws.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

“The detectives really didn’t believe me when I said she didn’t have a boyfriend, she didn’t have Facebook, she didn’t have Snapchat or Twitter,” Howard said of her daughter, now 30. “That wasn’t her type of life. But because she was an adult, they didn’t take what I feel [were] the necessary steps to look for her. Because they said she can willingly leave.”

Howard said it took more than three years to get police officials to go through the “proper channels” to search for her daughter, instead of merely logging her DNA and other information. Her frustrations came to a head again recently, when she learned police officials weren’t checking morgues for her daughter as they assured her they would.

“The system is broken,” she said. “And ... no mother, father, sister, brother, whomever … [should] have to go through this. It hurts too bad.”

Weeks before Laws went missing — on July 25, 2015 — Diamond Bynum and her young nephew, King Walker, disappeared under similarly mysterious circumstances after leaving a family home in Gary, Indiana. Bynum, now 28, suffers from a genetic disorder and is mentally disabled, while King is turning nine on Wednesday.

La Shann Walker holds a poster of missing children King Walker and Diamond Bynum at a press conference on Mother’s Day. Sunday, May 8, 2022.

La Shann Walker holds a poster of missing children King Walker and Diamond Bynum at a press conference on Mother’s Day. Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

King’s mother, Ariana Walker, complained that Gary police disregarded requests to issue an Amber Alert, noting that the family also had to “fight with them” to coordinate with Chicago police after a reported sighting in the city. La Shann Walker, Bynum’s mother and King’s grandma, added that tips have led nowhere and said it’s been difficult to get answers from officials.

“We would just like for them to do something to get justice for us,” said Walker. “And it’s just a horrible ordeal to go through. It’s going on seven years and we’ haven’t got any answers.”

Police officials from Chicago, Park Forest and Gary didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Anyone with tips should call Chicago police at (312) 747-8380, Park Forest police at (708) 748–1309 or Gary police at (219) 881-1214.

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