Texas Town Holds onto Hope for Teen's Safe Return

Saturday, 15 Jan 2011 03:10 PM

 

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COLORADO CITY, Texas (AP) — There are signs of anguish all across this West Texas town: Orange ribbons are tied around trees, stops signs and car antennas. Posters and fliers with photos of missing 13-year-old Hailey Darlene Dunn are plastered on storefront doors and public offices.

In front of her school, a sign reads: "Have hope."

Since late December, law enforcement officers and dozens of volunteers have been searching for the teen. Police in Colorado City have said they're not sure whether the middle school cheerleader ran away or was abducted, and details about the case have been scarce until this week, when a town official named her mother's former live-in boyfriend as one of several people of interest in the case. But despite hundreds of leads, searches by horseback, cadaver dogs and helicopter, and even a $15,000 reward for her return, there is still no answer about what happened to Hailey.

"It's real hard," said Denise Coates, a mother of three from nearby Howard County who has helped search for Hailey. "It's in your backyard, and she's the same age as your kids. I'm very concerned about her well-being."

Hailey was reported missing Dec. 28 by her mother, Billie Dunn, whose boyfriend, Shawn Adkins, said he last saw Hailey a day earlier when she told him she was going to her father's nearby home and would stay overnight with a friend. She did neither.

Since then, candlelight vigils have been held and fliers with Hailey's photo have been taped across Colorado City, a town of 4,500 people about 240 miles west of Dallas. A Facebook site set up to help in the search has more than 13,000 fans from across the country, and more than 100 billboards with her picture and information appear along interstates in West Texas and other places.

Police affidavits released this week offer a few details, but suggest the teen's mother and her live-in boyfriend lied and gave contradictory statements to investigators. Both have strongly denied involvement in Hailey's disappearance and claimed they were misquoted by police.

Dunn, who said she asked Adkins to move out Jan. 5, said she's frustrated.

"People still need to be worried about my daughter not being at home, still," Dunn told The Associated Press. "It's so hard to keep your faith. I'm really scared. Anything could have happened."

Officials have said Adkins is among several people of interest, but they declined to offer details about any others. Adkins told AP on Friday that he had nothing to do with the girl's disappearance and said he prays daily for her safe return.

"My life over the past couple of weeks has been flipped upside down and I struggle so hard just to make it through the day," he said.

Friends and family told investigators it was out of character for Hailey to leave for an extended time without checking in with her mother. If she had planned to stay overnight at a friend's house, Hailey left without her toothbrush, hairbrush and contact lens solution. Cash, a new iPod, and a jacket that friends said she would not leave home without were still in her room.

In the affidavits, police said they obtained information that Dunn and Adkins hosted a New Year's party just days after Hailey went missing. Adkins told investigators the couple just had a few friends over for drinks, and Dunn told the AP she "completely" denies there was a party.

Dunn also has downplayed investigators' claims that she and Adkins seemed fascinated with sadistic sex and brutal crimes. The affidavits said investigators who searched the couple's home found printouts of at least 16 different articles related to sex crimes and serial killings, some involving adolescents. Dunn said her interest in true crime cases was just "a hobby."

She also denied lying to police. She said she left an interview after taking a polygraph because she was tired; she'd been questioned for hours when investigators told her they believed she had been untruthful.

During Adkins' polygraph, he indicated Hailey could be in Scurry County, just north of Mitchell County and where Adkins has relatives. But when pressed for a location, "Adkins refused . . . and walked out of the Police Department," according to an affidavit. Adkins said he left on the advice of his attorney.

Police, in the affidavit, said Adkins' telephone records "dispute" his claim that he visited his mother on the morning of Dec. 27, the day he told authorities he last saw Hailey.

Witnesses said Adkins left work at 6:10 a.m., and Adkins told investigators and, on Friday, confirmed to the AP that he went straight to his mother's house in Big Spring, about 40 miles west of Colorado City. But records show calls from Adkins' cell phone were placed from Colorado City between 6:35 a.m. and 6:56 a.m., when Hailey would have been home alone, according to an affidavit.

Adkins said the affidavits are inaccurate. In one, police said Adkins at first was "very positive" about Hailey but later indicated she was promiscuous and used drugs — but Adkins said Friday he told police only that Hailey's mother mentioned to him that she'd discussed birth control with her daughter.

Adkins' relatives also came to his defense. His uncle, Matt Taggart, described his nephew as passive and gentle, saying he had "never even seen him get angry."

"We are a family unit and we will remain a family unit until Shawn's name is cleared," added his grandmother, Renee Norwood, who claimed authorities were wrongly looking at her grandson. "I'm just fed up. Where is Hailey?"

Officials shied away from commenting on whether time had diminished their chances of finding her unharmed.

"We don't want anyone to give up," said Pete Kampfer, the town's city manager. "I'm more optimistic than a lot of folks. There's not a give up on this type of thing."

Others were less optimistic.

Mary Upshaw, whose home is kitty-corner to where Hailey lives with her mother and older brother, David, said she often spoke with Hailey when the girl walked past her house on her way to school. Upshaw consciously used the past tense, saying Hailey "was a sweet, little" girl.

"That's the way I feel about it," Upshaw, 64, said. "That she's not with us anymore. I hope I am (wrong), but I don't think so."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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