Unknown Jessica Phelps Killer- Michigan- 1997 Jul 15, 2013 7:56:05 GMT -5
Post by Scumhunter on Jul 15, 2013 7:56:05 GMT -5
(Above photo credit: mlive.com)
FLINT, MI -- It's been more than 16 years since 4-year-old Jessica Phelps disappeared from her family's east side home, but Angie Spade thinks someone still knows what happened to her cousin.
Jessica vanished from her Maryland Avenue home July 1, 1997. Her skeletal remains were found in an Atlas Township culvert April 2, 1998. Police ruled her death a homicide but her killer was never found.
However, Spade, 35, of Mt. Morris, hasn't given up hope that someone has information that will bring Jessica's killer to justice. Spade created a Facebook page in November 2012 to raise awareness about her cousin's case. So far, the page has garnered more than 2,000 "likes."
"I had to do something," Spade said, adding that Jessica was like a daughter to her. "I don't want people to forget her."
Jessica's disappearance and death gripped the Flint area and nation. Members of the public, many who never even met Jessica, came from across the state to assist in the search. One man offered his helicopter for aerial searches while others arrived on horseback and with dogs.
Tips poured in from across the state and country after Jessica's case was featured briefly on America's Most Wanted and flyers with the 4-year-old's photo circulated from coast-to-coast.
Authorities initially thought they cracked the case from one such tip.
Former Flint police Sgt. Gary Elford, who has since retired, told Mlive-The Flint Journal in 2000 that authorities received a tip that Jessica was possibly taken by a man in Tawas. The tip eventually brought the investigator face-to-face with a girl that looked just like Jessica. But, excitement soon faded when Elford opened the girl's mouth and discovered she lacked Jessica's tell-tale cavity.
However, the influx of new tips on Jessica's death ebbed away as time passed. Staffing changes at Flint police and a seemingly endless flow of new homicide cases gradually limited the time and energy investigators could spend on Jessica's death.
But Spade said she hopes the Facebook page can help siphon new information from people in order to reinvigorate the investigation.
"It only takes one small, or seemingly small, detail to blow this cold case wide open," according to Spade.
Jessica's case currently rests with Flint police Sgt. Greg Hosmer.
"It's still open," Hosmer said of the investigation. "It's never been cleared."
Hosmer said the investigation has hit many dead-ends along but tips still slowly trickle in.
"I just got a tip at the end of last year," Hosmer said. "It didn't pan out."
Jessica's case provides a number of difficulties due to the fact that her body was discovered so long after her disappearance, Hosmer said. Unlike a number of cold cases that earn headlines for being solved thanks to advances in DNA technology, Hosmer said DNA plays little to no role in Jessica's case because her body was exposed to the elements for such a long period.
Authorities still haven't been able to conclusively determine how Jessica died, although Hosmer believes it was asphyxiation.
Solving these types of cases relies heavily upon people coming forward to share information, Hosmer said.
"Relationships change," Hosmer said. "Someone could come forward and spill their guts."
For Spade, finding out who killed Jessica and how they did would be the only way her family could finally find closure.
"Sixteen years later, the pain is still there," said Spade. "It still feels fresh."
Anyone with information on Jessica's disappearance or death is asked to contact Flint police at 810-237-6800.
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