This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Teekah, where are you?
It’s been more than 13 years since 2-year-old Teekah Lewis vanished from New Frontier Lanes on Center Street on a dark January night in 1999. Somebody took her. In that busy Tacoma bowling alley, somebody must have seen her get taken.
The chances of solving such a crime fall quickly after the first few days. As time stretches, it can get tougher still. Criminals flee or develop alibis. Witnesses move. Phones get disconnected. Memories get fuzzy.
In Teekah’s case, even the scene of the crime – the bowling alley – has evaporated, razed for a new development.
But give credit to the Tacoma Police Department. Its officers are pursuing this cold case with tenacity.
Detectives stepped up the investigation earlier this year, revisiting old crime reports and trying to connect dots that didn’t seem connectable 13 years ago.
They’ve looked especially hard at reports of child-luring in the Tacoma area. Predators who abduct children often commit similar other crimes before and after.
It is gratifying to learn that a Tacoma police team descended Friday and Saturday on the house of a man convicted of child-luring in 2010. Investigators reportedly arrived in a forensics van, used cadaver dogs and dug in the back yard.
They appear to have found nothing. But they obviously sense they have new leads in the case. And they wouldn’t have new leads unless they’d been looking for them.
Teekah isn’t the only missing child in Pierce County who seems to have fallen into a predator’s hands. Here are some of the most infamous cold cases:
• In 1995, Lenoria Jones vanished at age 3 in Tacoma.
• In 1996, Jeffrey Klungness, then 14, was apparently taken from his Sumner-area house, where his mother was found beaten to death.
• In 1992, Misty Copsey, then 14, disappeared after spending a day at the Puyallup Fair.
The thing is to remember.
Teekah’s family has employed multiple strategies to keep her in the public eye. They have repeatedly held vigils, used the media to appeal for help, and put Teekah’s face on television and even the sides of long-haul trucks.
Sometimes, the passage of time is on the detectives’ side. A perpetrator may make a false step. Somebody he has intimidated may acquire courage. An estranged girlfriend may step forward. A witness or relative may have an attack of conscience. Information technology offers new ways to analyze crime patterns.
As long as Teekah and others like her are not forgotten, their cases may break and justice get lucky. Memory is the ultimate weapon against predators who make children disappear.