May 7, 2017, was supposed to be a day of great promise and celebration for Akia Eggleston, 21, and her loved ones. Family and friends gathered at Akia’s baby shower at Mondawin Mall in Baltimore anxiously awaiting Akia’s arrival. The expectant mother was eight months pregnant with a baby boy due in June, and an active mother to her daughter, who was two at the time. The shower culminated a bright spot near the end of a difficult breech pregnancy and according to her family, Akia was more than excited for a second go-round at motherhood.
But the cake was never cut and the presents went untouched. Akia never showed up.
Almost 16 months later her family lives in real-life purgatory, with no leads on who or what caused her to vanish. MadameNoire spoke to Akia’s parents, Shawn and Angelique Wilkinson, who have done everything humanly possible to connect the dots.
Eggleston’s case has been under the jurisdiction of the Baltimore Police Department who, according to the Wilkinson’s, has led the investigation with little transparency. MadameNoire reached out to the BPD for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication.
Despite their pain, Shawn and Angelique shared their thoughts on Akia, including the type of mother and daughter she was, coping with the uknown and how the Black and Missing organization has played an integral part in their healing process.
Out Of Thin Air
“She never showed up for the baby shower and that’s when everyone knew something happened, something was wrong,” Angelique said.
“A lot of her friends packed up her shower and went to her home and that’s when we found out that she was not there at the house,” she continued. At Akia’s apartment, the family discovered several items were missing, including two pieces of furniture. Her debit card was also found on the ground near her home.
“One thing we know for sure is that she would have never left her daughter behind,” Angelique said.
Angelique, who calls herself Akia’s “bonus mother” after wedding Shawn four years ago, has been one of Akia’s most vocal advocates. “I’m just picking up the torch and running with it,” she said. “They’ve already been through enough by the loss of their biological mother,” Angelique said. The family was a dealt a difficult blow in 2012 when Latina Wilkinson, the biological mother of Akia and her two siblings, died from breast cancer.
But for Shawn, his daughter was not weighed down with her grief–she was a bright light who enjoyed dance and the arts.
“She was energetic, lively, she liked to sing, dance and act. As a young adult, she was very charismatic,” he said. “She was all about children, she loved kids and we know that she just didn’t walk away, we know that.”
A Difficult Pregnancy
At the time of her disappearance Akia was eight months pregnant and breech. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “breech births occur in approximately 1 out of 25 full-term births.” Due to the severity of her pregnancy, she was scheduled for a caesarian in June and was placed on bed rest. Akia’s disappearance causes great discomfort to her family because she was nearly immobile near the end of her pregnancy.
“She was in a really bad situation, she was in a lot of pain, she could barely get around,” Angelique said.
“Obviously we would rather see her come alive, but we also understand that the state of her medical condition–there’s a larger chance that she’s not alive,” Shawn said.
Akia was last spotted on May 3 at a local bank where surveillance footage shows her making a withdrawal. Her grandmother, Ann Wilson, was the last person to talk to Akia over the phone that day. The last time Shawn and Angelique heard her voice was on April 28. The case quickly transitioned from a missing person’s case to a homicide investigation in June 2017. In November 2017, local officials partnered with the FBI who offered a $25,000 reward for any information pertaining to the case.
The Baltimore Police Department and the Wilkinson’s have had a difficult time finding a sense of unison with one another. According to both Shawn and Angelique, the relationship has become increasingly strained as the Wilkinson’s feel they are the only ones in pursuit of leads in regards to their daughter.
“My husband and I, we pretty much have to harass them almost to follow up with us and to give us information about her,” Angelique said. “We don’t want her to be another statistic with a serial number on a box. She’s our daughter. She’s loved. We want answers.”
The Wilkinson’s said the Baltimore NAACP chapter and the mayor’s office were crucial in helping to coordinate with authorities.
Shawn told a recent account where the couple contacted the BPD for a whole month between June and July 2018, and finally got a meeting with authorities in late July. The meeting including BPD’s Major Christopher Jones, lead detective Terrence Patrick McLarney, Seargeant Jeffrey Becherer and the head of FBI in Baltimore.
“We’re going to wait another month and then we will have to blast them again,” Shawn said.
Several persons of interest have been questioned, including the driver of the vehicle on May 3 and the father’s of Akia’s two children. The Wilkinson’s have a strained relationship with both men. In the painful midst of Akia’s disappearance, they’ve faced a visitation battle over their now four-year-old grandaughter who is currently living with a friend on her father’s side. The father of Akia’s son has not had contact since her disappearance and according to the family has never shown up to a vigil or commemoration in her honor.
Coupled with the strained familial ties, initially investigators hesitated to categorize her disappearance as foul play because of her age. According to the family, police initially said that because she was an adult, she might have left on her own free will. But the Wilkinson’s fought to debunk that rumor; due to the family’s closeness and her medical state at the time she disappeared.
“I don’t think that they’re taking this as serious as I would like them to be,” Shawn said. “And unfortunately a year and 16 months later, I’m pretty sure if there was evidence, it’s no longer there. My wife and I are just waiting for a body to show up.”
Black & Missing
“We’re wondering why she doesn’t get the same footage as other females who have disappeared. When one of them goes missing the world just stops,” Angelique said.
The “them” Angelique refers to are stories like Natalee Holloway whose disappearance case was covered extensively by local and national media. Cases pertaining to Black bodies are rarely given the same amount of media coverage, and families of color like the Wilkinson’s are often left out of the narrative. Their stories, rarely covered with the same vigor, oftentimes focus on factors that portray victims in a negative light instead of detailing their humanity. There’s also a strong sense of distrust between communities of color and law enforcement which makes obtaining access to information and leads, very difficult.
But the one bright light in all of this for Akia’s family has been the Black and Missing Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit which arms families with tools and resources. For the Wilkinson’s, Black and Missing has been a lifesaver.
Natalie Wilson, the organization’s CEO and co-founder spoke to MadameNoire about the relationship with the Wilkinson family and the disparities in reporting missing persons of color. Wilson along with her sister-in-law Derrica Wilson, founded the organization in 2008 for that specific reason.
“We are the ears to these families. We let them vent, we let them cry, we let them scream because that’s their outlet, Wilson said. “They become our families. We are closely involved with these families because we know their stories.”
“What we tell family members all the time is that you know your loved one more than anyone else–don’t let law enforcement brush this case off. You need to be the missing advocate for your loved ones. It’s the unknown that is so detrimental,” Wilson said.
“Since we started the organization there have been 2.1 million persons of color who were reported missing, and those are the ones who are reported ,” she said. “We’re so sure there are so many more who go unreported. We all have a responsibility in our community–that is law enforcement, that is the media, to bring awareness to, and to help find our missing.”
On September 6, the family will celebrate Akia’s 23rd birthday, but the date will also remind the family of their loss.
“I prepared myself for the worse a year ago,” Shawn said. “At this point, everyone in the family just wants closure. I still have nights where I don’t sleep, worried about what could be.”
“She is our every thought,” said Angelique. “What happened to her? Where is she? It’s almost consumed our lives. She is missing. You see it on Lifetime, Dateline,and you never think it’s going to be someone in your family.”
Both Shawn and Angelique remain committed to each other and their familial obligations as parents to their two younger children. The two also balance their search for Akia with full time jobs. Angelique works as a program health analyst and Shawn, a former United States Marine, works in IT.
For now the family leans on their faith in God and on one another to cover the hole in their hearts left by Akia’s absence.
“When she gets tired she leans on me, when I get tired she picks up the torch,” Shawn said about his wife Angelique. “Remembering that we still have two other children that we’re looking after, that we still have to take time for ourselves. I also have to give this to my lord and savior because he can do all things.”
From Akia’s FBI missing person’s page: “If you have any information concerning this case, please contact the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office at (410) 265-8080, the Baltimore City Police Department at (410) 396-2499, your local FBI office, or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.”