Their due dates have passed, but these women have still not been found…
The ticking of the clock is resonating as a heavy blow in Chicago, as communities continue to demand answers in the cases of two pregnant and missing women who have disappeared from the south side over the last year. As of today, their due dates have passed, further compounding the concern and worry of friends and family.
Back in October of 2018, we shared the story of 26-year-old postal carrier, Kierra Coles. She was three months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, and her projected due date was April 23. She was last seen leaving her apartment on October 2, 2018. She lived by herself in her new apartment, having lived there for four months. She was regularly in touch with her mother, Karen Phillips.
When Karen could not get ahold of Kierra for three days, she reported her missing to the police. The key piece of evidence in Kierra’s disappearance is CCTV footage showing her leaving her apartment on the morning of October 2nd, walking up and down the street a few times before disappearing from view forever.
The search for Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui is barely a week old as authorities search desperately for answers. The 19-year-old was last seen on April 30th, leaving the Latino Youth High School in Pilsen. Like Kierra, CCTV footage taken from the school’s exterior shows Marlen walking off campus alone at 3:05 PM. She was nine months pregnant and was expected to deliver her unborn child on May 5.
Less than a week after Marlen was reported missing, a newborn infant was discovered on top of a trashcan in an alley in the 1700 block of North Keystone Avenue. The umbilical cord was still attached, but was not clamped, so the infant was actively bleeding. The infant was unresponsive and starting to turn blue when a couple rescued him and got him medical care. Now, the family of Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui wants authorities to perform a DNA test to see if the baby boy could be her child.
In the cases of both missing women, there were rumors and allegations of involvement on behalf of the fathers of the unborn children. Police now suspect Kierra has met with foul play, though they have not specified it was at the hands of her boyfriend. While her mother has publicly discounted rumors the father of Kierra’s child was involved in her disappearance, the family of Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui believes her husband to be responsible for her disappearance.
Pregnant and missing women are some of the missing persons who are at the most risk. The March of Dimes estimates 1 in 6 women will be abused during pregnancy. Pregnancies are a time of heightened stress and emotions, and this can trigger abusive behavior in intimate partners. Perhaps the partner is upset because the pregnancy was unplanned or kept from them. As a stress response, the financial burden involved with giving birth and raising a child can be enough alone to trigger this behavior. The partner might also have feelings of jealousy towards an unborn child, because the mother’s attention is now divided. The leading cause of death in pregnant women after car accidents is homicide as the result of intimate partner violence. This is why it is not uncommon for pregnant and missing women to be investigated as homicides from the start.
If you are pregnant and you are the target of domestic or intimate partner violence, please visit The March of Dime’s website for resources, including a guide to a safe exit strategy for a volatile situation.
If a loved one has gone missing in your life, please contact Lauth Investigations International (317-951-1100) for a free consultation from the firm of the leading expert in missing children and adults.
The month of May is a time to celebrate the women in our lives who brought us up. During this time, when they should have been talking of treasured childhood memories while visiting with family, one Baltimore family was in the grip of fear and uncertainty following the disappearance of a mother in their lives. Akia Eggleston, 22, was reported missing on May 7, 2017, and since then, both family and law enforcement have been trying to make sense of her disappearance. Was she a victim of intimate partner violence, or did she simply vanish without a trace?
As if it were not horrifying enough for a loved one to go missing without answers, the anxiety of Akia’s disappearance was only escalated by the fact she was eight months pregnant. Shortly before her disappearance, she’d recently had a prenatal checkup for, what her doctors described as, a “high-risk pregnancy.” The baby was determined to be breach and Akia was scheduled for a cesarean. She was placed on bedrest.
When Akia failed to show up for her own baby shower, her loved ones began to suspect something was wrong. Her family told police Akia was excited about her impending delivery and would never have left her two-year-old daughter willingly. She also placed a $900 deposit down for the baby shower.
Concerned family calls went unanswered prompting the family to go check on her at the apartment where she was staying. What they found only heightened their suspicions. According to Akia’s stepfather, Shawn Wilkinson, “The only thing left in her apartment was her bed and a couple of dressers. It looked like she had moved out, but we know she couldn’t move anything because of her high-risk pregnancy. She could barely walk.” A recent article by Fox News in Baltimore, marking the one-year anniversary of Akia’s disappearance, also notes her personal belongings were missing and there was a sizable hole in the wall.
One of the unique problems in the case of missing adults in the United States is law enforcement is not always able to treat cases like these with the urgency they might require. Akia’s age was a factor preventing law enforcement from ruling out she did leave the apartment of her own free will. According to The Charley Project—a publicity vehicle maintaining awareness of missing persons cases—reports before the time of her disappearance, the family did not know the identity of the father of her unborn child, only that he was a family friend. Law enforcement determined from text messages between Akia and her female roommate she was planning on moving in with him. Reports indicated Akia had remained active during her pregnancy despite having been placed on bedrest, so law enforcement had to consider the possibility Akia left the apartment of her own accord.
Another piece of evidence, strengthening this resolve, was the last confirmed time Akia Eggleston was seen alive—on surveillance footage at a nearby bank. Detective Michael Reno told Crime Watch Daily, “The bank surveillance shows her at the bank by herself. She doesn’t look disheveled, she doesn’t look like she’s under any kind of stress, she’s there on her own. She presents a cashier’s check to the teller, she receives cash, and she leaves.” The amount of money withdrawn by Akia is characterized by Reno as “a lot,” which might be another explanation as to why police did not suspect foul play when first investigating.
It wasn’t until July of 2017 investigators announced they were considering foul play in the disappearance of Akia Eggleston. Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said, “At this state, I think we’re prepared to pivot, foul play is something we’re absolutely exploring. We’re obviously beyond the point where she could have given birth.” Akia had been placed on a notification registry alerting law enforcement if she was admitted to a hospital to deliver her unborn child, but she never did. The serious implications of her high-risk pregnancy also make it unlikely she would have been able to survive a home birth without medical assistance.
In October of 2017, a vigil was held outside Akia’s home. Shawn Wilkinson was there to speak, reaching out to the community for answers about his stepdaughter’s disappearance, “We need that one individual to step forward and give us some closure.” At the vigil, while everyone prayed for Akia’s safe return home, an eerie clue surfaced. Someone approached Wilkinson and claimed they’d found something in a bush outside the apartment. “I went behind the bush. I flipped it over with my foot to see what it said. It was her bank card,” Wilkinson said. Authorities were immediately contacted, and the card was seized as evidence.
Now one year later, Wilkinson and his family still do not have answers. Is it possible an expectant mother who is prescribed bed rest could move herself and many belongings out of her apartment alone? Or could the unidentified father of the child have played a role? Remember, when her family went to check on her well-being, they noticed a significant hole in the wall. While thought to be woefully under-reported, the National Institutes of Health estimates 300,000 women are the victims of intimate partner violence during pregnancy. The NIH also reports the second leading cause of death in pregnant women—after car accidents—is homicide, with more than two-thirds of those women being killed in their first trimester. Authorities have reportedly spoken to the expectant father of Akia’s unborn child but have not yet named any suspects in their investigation.
Akia Eggleston is 22 years old and is described as 4’8” tall, weighing 145 lbs. with black hair and brown eyes. She would no longer be pregnant. Anyone with information regarding her case is urged to call the Baltimore Police Department at (443) 984-7385.
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, a private investigation firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana–delivering proactive and diligent solutions for over 30 years. For more information, please visit our website.