The Disappearance of Kierra Coles

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*The news reports and media surrounding the disappearance of Kierra Coles feature numerous inconsistencies and some misinformation. As such, it is difficult to develop a clear timeline regarding the events leading up to and directly after she went missing. We have done our best to develop a concise timeline based on the information available and will mention the areas in which these inconsistencies occur. If any errors are present, please email storiesoftheunsolved@gmail.com.*

EARLY LIFE:

Kierra Coles was born on September 24 of 1991 or 1992 to her parents, Joseph Coles and Karen Phillips. The fourth of five children, she was constantly encompassed by love and was close with her family, especially her mother. The pair would speak on an almost daily basis, with Kierra constantly keeping Karen in the loop regarding her life.

Kierra had two jobs, one as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service, a company she’d worked for since April 2017, and part-time as a Lyft Driver. Her job with the Postal Service was based out of the Charles Hayes post office, where she would fill in as needed on various routes.

2018 was year of big changes for Kierra. She had recently moved out and gotten her own apartment, which was located near the intersection of 81st Street and Vernon Avenue in Chicago’s east Chatham neighbourhood, and she had purchased a new car. It was also the year she got pregnant with her first child. According to Karen, Kierra had worked hard to become a permanent employee with the Postal Service, so that she could start a family of her own, and she is said to have been very excited about becoming a mother. Her baby was set to be born on April 23, 2019.

Kierra and her boyfriend had been together for five years. He had another partner at the time who he had previously fathered children with, and she is said to have bee pregnant at the same time as Kierra. He also had a child with a third woman. Reports have stated he also worked for the Postal Service, but it’s currently unknown if this claim is true.

According to those who knew her, Kierra’s goals in life were to be a good mother and to accomplish all the things she’d set for herself, including getting a well-paying job, her own place and buying a new car. She is said to have worked incredibly hard to achieve these goals and turn her aspirations into reality.

DISAPPEARANCE:

According to Karen, Kierra had requested October 1 and 2, 2018 off from work for personal reasons. On October 3, she is said to have called in sick and asked for a leave. It’s currently unknown if she herself was the one to make this phone call, as the United States Postal Service Inspection Service is bound by employee confidentiality. This means they also will not reveal the reason she gave for calling in sick.

The last known sighting of Kierra is said to be at the intersection of 82nd Street and south Coles Avenue on that same day. However, given this location is three miles from her apartment, it’s unknown if this is a misprint by the media or an actual sighting that was called into investigators.

Throughout that day and going into October 4, Karen tried numerous times to get ahold of Kierra via telephone. As all her calls were going directly to voicemail, she initially assumed that her daughter’s phone had run out of battery. However, as the hours passed, she began to feel more and more uneasy, which prompted her to contact Kierra’s sister to ask if she’d heard from her. Knowing Kierra was fairly active on social media, especially Snapchat, her sister checked the app, but saw no recent activity.

As concern grew, members of Kierra’s family went to her apartment to check on her, while her sister contacted her boyfriend. Eventually, Karen called the Chicago Police Department and asked them to perform a welfare check, where it was learnt she was not home, despite her car being parked in front of the building. It was not long after this that a missing persons report was filed.

SEARCH:

There is currently much speculation regarding the day Kierra disappeared. Most – if not all – news outlets have reported she was last seen in October 2, while her family, specifically her mother, say she went missing one day later, on October 3. The miscommunication comes from the fact that she was last seen in-person on the 2nd, while surveillance footage found would potentially show her last movements the following day.

Initially, the police department treated the case as a non-suspicious missing person, a distinction that would change as the weeks went on and investigators began to suspect foul play. The USPS Inspection Service also launched its own investigation, given it is the law enforcement branch of the United States Postal Service.

When speaking with investigators, Karen revealed that she’d last spoken to her daughter just a few days before her disappearance and had last seen her in person the Sunday before. At the time, she’d been happy about hearing her baby’s heartbeat. As for what they discussed, Karen shared that Kierra had been curious about what type of milk was the best.

Her sister revealed that she’d last saw her when she’d picked her up from work on the Monday before she went missing. This information conflicts with that shared by Karen, who’d said Kierra had taken that Monday – October 1 – off from work.

Finally, a family friend said she’d last been seen by them and her aunt when they went to an appointment with her. It has not been revealed when this appointment occurred, but it is assumed to have happened the week Kierra went missing.

According to reports, Kierra’s boyfriend, his girlfriend and their children left Illinois shortly after her disappearance. Investigators have not revealed if he’s been questioned in connection to the case, and the family has shared that he has not attended any vigils, nor kept in contact with them.

Kierra’s car was accessed by Karen, who was hoping to find clues that could help lead her and investigators to her daughter’s location. Within it were found her prenatal vitamins, her cellphone, her purse (sans her wallet) and a packed lunch, all of which indicated she must have made it to her vehicle before she disappeared. There have been some reports that state her keys were missing, while others say they were found within her apartment.

Surveillance footage from a neighbour’s residence was obtained, which potentially shows Kierra’s last movements. The camera is pointed toward the area of 81st Street and Vernon Avenue and shows a woman, who her family initially believed could be Kierra, walking past her car, across the street and out of frame. Her family, especially Karen’s boyfriend, Dan Perkins, believed something must have occurred in order for her to walk away from her car and past the walkway, which would have led to her apartment. However, they have since revealed they no longer feel the woman in the footage is Kierra.

The clothing the woman in the footage is seen wearing has been up for debate. Some feel she’s wearing a Postal Service uniform, indicating that Kierra is the one captured on the film, while others feel it doesn’t match what is typically worn by postal workers. There’s also a question regarding why Kierra would be wearing her work uniform if she had called in sick that day. A representative with the USPS Inspection Service has publicly shared that the organization does not believe the woman in the footage to be Kierra, as there are other postal workers who live on the same block.

A search for more surveillance footage has been unsuccessful.

Her family wanted to confirm through her cellphone that Kierra was the one to call in sick, but they were unable to, due to the passcode she’d used to lock her phone. When Karen spoke with the person who’d answered the call, they were adamant that the individual they’d spoken to was, in fact, Kierra.

In order to help in the search for Kierra, her father quit his job as a factory worker in Racine, Wisconsin and moved to Chicago. For a time, he was living in his car, which was parked outside of his daughter’s apartment, and he vowed to not leave the city until she was located. He would spend his time handing out flyers across Chicago and would frequently speak about the case, both online and to media outlets. He’s also looked through abandoned buildings, climbing in through openings and taking boards off doors, in the belief Kierra might be held someplace against her will.

Joseph wasn’t the only one to hand out flyers. Many of Kierra’s friends and co-workers, as well as members of her family, handed them out throughout her South Side neighbourhood. At a vigil held just a short while after she went missing, a prayer service was held before flyers were passed out to those in the community.

Police are aware of Kierra’s personal relationships and have spoken to those who can account for her whereabouts until October 2. They have said they’ve interviewed those who would know the details of her schedule around that time.

In the months after her disappearance, investigators searched areas in and around Chicago. Along with searches of her car and home, a November 2018 search saw volunteers search the Whistler Woods Forest Preserve in Riverdale, after tips came in suggesting the area might be of some importance to the case. A couple of bones were located and taken by Area South detectives. However, it’s not been revealed if they belong to a human or if they are animal remains.

In March 2019, Kierra’s family, friends and co-workers gathered in the Bronzeville neighbourhood of Chicago to help keep the case in the public eye. A few months later, in July 2019, Joseph attended a press conference at Daley Plaza with the families of other missing persons, including the sister of Stacy Peterson. The event had been organized by George “Ben” Ivey, who is the founder of the anti-violence group, Stop the Violence. Joseph represented his daughter with a black t-shirt with gold lettering, which read, “Bring Kierra, the boss Coles, and little Boss Coles Home Safely!!” and he revealed that investigators had run out of leads in the case.

It’s unknown if Kierra’s credit and debit cards have been checked for use since her disappearance.

A large reward fund was set up in the hopes of enticing those with information to come forward. The USPS Inspection Service offered up $25,000, while the National Association of Letter Carriers provided $2,500. By 2020, the amount had risen to nearly $50,000, as a Chicago-based activist and a private company had also contributed funds.

In January 2020, Joseph held a meeting at the George Bray Neighbourhood YMCA in Racine in order to spread word of Kierra’s story and that of other missing people. He is of the belief that she is still alive and being held captive in a vacant home, and he feels the police could have done more to solve the case.

The official police investigation into Kierra’s disappearance was open up until the middle of July 2020, when it was announced it had officially been suspended. According to those involved, it was suspended due to investigators exhausting all available leads, but this does not mean the case cannot be reopened in the future, should new information or evidence come to light. The case is currently classified as high-risk and police still believe foul play was involved.

Throughout the investigation, the Chicago Police Department remained tight-lipped regarding details. What they would say is that they feel they know what transpired, it’s just a case of finding the evidence to corroborate what they suspect. They have also shared that they have a minimum of two or three persons of interest who were the last to see Kierra before she disappeared, but they have not revealed much about them, other than to say one was an acquaintance of the missing woman.

It should be noted that Kierra’s jobs as a letter carrier and Lyft driver are not believed to have played a role in her disappearance.

Kierra’s family were in constant contact with investigators throughout the course of the investigation, and they have said they’re shocked about its suspension.

THEORIES:

1) The primary theory held by online sleuths and by Joseph is that Kierra’s boyfriend and his girlfriend are responsible for her disappearance. This is due to his odd behaviour after she went missing, including moving out of state and not participating in either searches or vigils. Some online have even shared their belief that the woman in the surveillance footage is the other girlfriend, who wanted it to appear as though Kierra was the one walking away from her apartment and throw off the investigation. They speculate this was done out of jealousy or the fact that their unnamed boyfriend had also gotten Kierra pregnant. However, there has been no evidence provided to prove this is what happened.

According to Karen, she initially didn’t want to believe he could have been involved, given their long-term relationship and the upcoming birth of their child. However, his silence during this time has made her believe he had something to do with it.

2) A second theory in the case is that Kierra simply chose to walk away from her life and start anew somewhere else. In the early days of the investigation, some within her family speculated that she’d potentially gotten overwhelmed by all the changes occurring in her life, but they later backtracked on this theory, as they feel Kierra would have eventually contacted someone to let them know she was okay.

3) A third theory suggested that Dan Perkins, Karen’s boyfriend, had some sort of involvement in Kierra’s disappearance. It’s unclear where this theory originated from, but both Kierra’s sister and Karen reject the idea that Dan had anything to do with her having gone missing.

4) A final theory looks at the neighbourhood where Kierra lived. According to reports, the area is known for gang violence, crime and poverty, so some have suggested that her disappearance could have been the result of a gang abduction or the subject of another crime. There is no evidence that Kierra was involved in any sort of illicit activity and she was known to not do drugs, so many who knew her feel this to be unlikely.

AFTERMATH:

Numerous vigils have been held in Kierra’s honour. In January 2019, her family and co-workers held a vigil outside of the Charles Hayes post office, and the one-year anniversary of her disappearance saw a balloon release and a candlelight vigil occur, with attendees passing out flyers.

Karen and Joseph continue to approach whoever they can in order to keep Kierra’s case in the public eye. Karen thinks of her daughter everyday, and through her disappearance, Joseph has connected with other families with missing loved ones and has encouraged them to reach out if they need help securing resources for their own searches.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Kierra Michelle Coles went missing from the 8100 block of south Vernon Avenue in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois on October 2 or 3, 2018. She was either 26 or 27 years old, and what she was wearing remains unknown. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’4″ and 125 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes, and was three months pregnant. She has numerous tattoos, including a heart of one of her hands; “Lucky Libra” on her back; a jaguar’s head on the back of her shoulder; words on her wrist; and a phrase with “Love my” in a design on her chest. Her ears are pierced. She was known to suffer from asthma, but did not have her inhaler with her when she went missing.

Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing and foul play is suspected. If alive, she would be 27 or 28 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Area South division of the Chicago Police Department at either 312-747-5789 or 312-747-8274. Tips can also be called into the United States Postal Service Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455.

Image Credit: ABC News

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