Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Two women are still missing from Park Forest. Two adult women.
Jerrica Laws, 24, disappeared August 16, 2015, and was reported missing by her family on August 18, 2015.
Brenda Jackson, then 30, now 31, disappeared January 3, 2016, and was reported missing by her family on January 5, 2016.
Park Forest Police are still searching. And you may be able to help.
eNews Park Forest sat down with Deputy Chief Chris Mannino and Detective Paul Morache, lead investigator on both of these cases.
“Both cases are still open,” said Chief Mannino. “Both are being actively investigated.”
Mannino says the department has no reason to believe the cases are connected. The Deputy Chief shared that, according to the most recent statistics from the FBI, 2013, over 627,000 people were reported missing in the United States.
That’s 627,000 in one year alone.
“So, it’s not surprising that you may have multiple missing people from a close geographical area,” Mannino said. Speaking of Park Forest, “In 2015, we had over a hundred people reported missing. We had nearly that many reported as runaways. So, in order to say something was connected, we would need some evidence to show that that would have happened. And, really, both circumstances [Laws and Jackson] are unique. We have no reason to think they’re related at this time.”
“We never give up,” Mannino offered. “especially in a Village like Park Forest, a smaller population, a smaller police force. We’ll never stop looking. We’ll never give up. I’m trying to solve these cases. But we also have to keep an open mind on what the possibilities may be, ranging from voluntarily leaving to something that’s suspect and more sinister.
“We have to keep our minds open to all possibilities.”
Are there any leads that police can speak of?
“We’re still following up on information and leads that we have,” Detective Morache said. “But, again, that’s an ongoing investigation.”
“Because of that, we actually cannot provide details,” Chief Mannino added. “But when we say it is actively being pursued, it is actively being pursued.”
What do police ask of the public at this point?
“We ask for their continued assistance in keeping an eye out for Jerrica and Brenda,” Chief Mannino offered. “And if they know any information, no matter how small or insignificant they may think it is, still reach out and notify us, because every small little piece may add to the bigger picture.
Chief Mannino offered some more stats, adding that from 1990-2013, the numbers of missing people ranged from 600,000 to 1 million people annually in the United States.
“The vast majority of those are located,” he added. “The vast majority have left on their own. It’s only the few cases where something bad has happened. Statistically, you would tend to think it leans more toward a voluntary leaving. However, the longer someone’s gone, not discovered, the more you have to look at other possibilities.
“But, again, we have to keep our minds completely open on this.”
What have the police done so far?
“We’ve had helicopter aerial searches for both [of the missing women.] And, for one of those, Miss Jackson, Detective Morache actually went up with the helicopter team to help view and direct,” Mannino said.
“We’ve had numerous canine searches. We’ve had numerous foot searches by both volunteers and the ILEAS (Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System) mobile field force.
“We’ve searched abandoned buildings in the area. We’ve searched open fields, any type of areas. We even went so far as to have a private citizen donate some time with his drone to do drone flights over different areas.”
So far, police have found nothing in the immediate area to speak of.
No vehicles went missing either. One of the women did not have a vehicle, the other had a shared vehicle. There were no calls made to places of employment by either woman.
Detective Morache said the investigations are still active, “There are still a lot of things to follow up on, and we’re doing so.” Morache brought two sizable and worn folders to the room where we interviewed, each with the name of one of the missing women on the outside. “There’s things that are still in the works that I’m waiting to come back from other agencies that are assisting because it’s not just us that help. We have other resources that we can reach out to, and we have. We’re waiting to hear back from some of those.”
Additionally, a billboard company may be pitching in soon as well, “We’re still looking. A billboard company is going to donate some billboard time with pictures up there.” This will help in getting word out even more to the public, Det. Morache said.
Chief Mannino empathized with the family members, “I think this would be an extremely stressful situation for any family. And they’ve certainly expressed that. We have tried to remain in close contact with them both for their assistance and to offer them support. And we’ll continue to remain in contact as the investigation continues.”
Both families have offered a reward. Ms. Jackson’s family is offering $3,000. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money toward a $5,000 reward for Jerrica Laws.
Finally, police are keenly aware that these disappearances are well outside the norm in Park Forest and surrounding areas.
“They definitely are unique given that they’re adults,” Chief Mannino said, “and that so much time has gone by without any contact. So, we are treating these differently than a case where maybe someone’s had a pattern of leaving or where we have reason to suspect that they left on their own.
“In these cases, they do stand out, which is why they’ve gotten so much attention from us.”
Anyone with information, again, as police said, “no matter how small or insignificant they may think it is,” is asked to call the Investigations Division at 708-748-1309.
From the PFPD: “[In January], Detective Paul Morache took to the skies with the Chicago Police Department/ Cook County Helicopter Task Force in another effort to investigate the whereabouts of Brenda Jackson, a 31 year old Park Forest resident reported missing by family on January 5th. This footage was taken over Sauk Trail Lake and the Cook County Forest Preserve near the Eastgate Subdivision. The Park Forest Police Department continues to investigate the report of possible sightings of Ms. Jackson in Chicago, but is not limiting searches to those tips.”