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Missing and Murdered in the Midwest Podcast: Episode No. 19 looks into case of currently missing Davenport girl Breasia Terrell

It's been more than six months since the then-10 year old was last seen in Davenport. Our host takes us back to the very beginning to where the case stands today.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Editor's Note: The video attached to this story was published Dec. 28, 2020. 

For those who don’t live here in the Quad Cities, this is still a very active case so information is still very limited.

What we know, what has been told, has gaps. And that’s just the way it goes because police have to keep tight lipped on certain key aspects in this case.

Here's a timeline of the months since Breasia Terrell, a then-10-year-old Davenport, Iowa girl, went missing:

July 2020

On the 9th of that month she stayed the night at the home of Henry Dinkins. Dinkins is not family by blood to Breasia but Dinkins is the father of Breasia’s half-brother. They were spending time with one another when they say Friday morning, July 10, she was gone. 

The apartment complex, Dinkins was at for this overnight stay, is by a Portillo’s Davenport. It’s in a busier section of town where there are a lot of strip malls, a Walmart and Target, etc. A lot of cars, homes and businesses are set up around the area so it’s not hard to see something out of the ordinary...

Breasia was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, shorts and flip flops. She’s 4 ½ feet tall, with brown eyes and black hair.

The first big search was conducted the night of July 10 at Credit Island, a small recreational area that resides on the Mississippi River. A tip from a family member not only sent police down to the area, but scores of family, friends and even strangers to help search for the young girl.

Her mother, Aishia Lankford, said at the time her daughter knew her phone number, is a responsible girl and wouldn’t run off. Lankford's necessary desperation to try and find her daughter was palpable the first day News 8 interviewed her.

“I had to go home last night without a baby and I'll be damned if I go home again without one," she said. “She's like my shadow. She's not going to leave my side. There's no way. I am out here. And I have not gotten one report on my baby. Nothing. We`ve been out here for hours."

Forty-eight hours after the initial missing persons report, improvised searches for Breasia moved to South Concord Street, still near the Mississippi River, digging through muddy river banks, junk and roads trying to find just a sign of the young girl.

At that time, the search party said they turned over some evidence to Davenport police detectives but what that evidence was is still unknown.

By July 13, a $3,500 reward was being offered for information that led to an arrest or a tip to find her. As the days dragged on, there was not a sound as to where she could be.

The next day though, the Davenport Police Department (DPD) said they were naming a person of interest: Henry Dinkins. He was arrested the day after Breasia’s disappearance but not for anything related to her disappearance. 

Dinkins faced charges for failing to register his address as a convicted sex offender. In 1990, 17-year-old Dinkins was convicted of sexual abuse involving a victim under 13-years-old.

His home had been searched, the cars he drove were photographed and he was handcuffed and placed in the Scott County Jail.

The day of this announcement, Lankford said she spoke face-to-face with Dinkins but he told her he didn't know where Breasia was.

"Supposedly he woke up, and Bre was nowhere to be found," Lankford said.

Their relationship, whatever you want to call it, becomes rocky.

If Dinkins was arrested within that quick of a time frame... who would he have talked to? If there was no one else at the home, if there was no one close to him at the time, who could he have told the details of the case to?

As the two week mark approached, search parties were brought back to Credit Island. A tip of some items found in the area had strangers and the family looking even more closely, going over that area with practically a fine tooth comb trying to spot anything that could have marked where Breasia had been.  

It was around this time that an Amber Alert was activated for the missing girl, but why so late in the game? It came blaring out through phones overnight on that Wednesday, but DPD said the alert was issued after new information came out.

Essentially it was that Dinkins had ties to the Clinton and Camanche areas -- and investigators said at the time they had reason to believe Breasia could be up there somewhere.

   

If you look at a map, though, and compare the area where Dinkins lived, to that area, it’s about a 45 minute drive. So the question has to be posed; how could Dinkins get up there so quickly between the overnight hours before Breasia was reported missing? Or when could he have moved her?

And if he went from Credit Island to Camanche, that turns the trip into nearly an hour... how could no one notice he was gone that long? And longer if you include the drive back to his home.

And what if it was just the drive from his apartment to Credit Island? That’s 20 minutes as well, if there’s no traffic. And what if he lingers, that’s more time taken away from being home. 

But volunteers once again answered the call to try and find the young girl. In the hot summer sun, during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic... where hope had already dissipated for a lot of us, people were searching.

That whole first weekend, a week after Breasia had been reported missing, that’s what our community did. 

They searched high and low. They set up a center for water and food for volunteers and police looking for her. One guy brought in a K-9 search dog. The Quad Cities Missing Person Network and the FBI came out. I mean you name it, people were out there looking. 

Monday, July 20, 2020, after this big search effort, DPD announced there was no longer a need to search in Clinton County, and said people could search on their own. Police Chief Paul Sikorski called the investigation at the time very aggressive and that officers were following up on tips that were mainly focused on the immediate Quad City area.

Two days later, DPD held ANOTHER press conference, this time alongside the FBI. 

They stated at the time, they got permission from Washington, D.C. to bring its Special Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Unit into the Quad Cities -- which specializes in finding missing kids. Agents were also doing interviews, searches, collecting evidence, deploying surveillance teams and even looking at cell phone data to try to piece together what happened July 10.

"Our number one goal is to find the person responsible for the disappearance of Breasia and bring that person to justice," Special Agent in Charge Kristi Johnson said. "We are also obviously working hard to make sure the family is supported and do everything we can to bring this case to a successful conclusion."

They also began to offer a $10,000 reward, on top of the $3,500 reward being offered. What was confusing during the press conference was what Chief Paul Sikorski had to say about the investigation and the family’s cooperation.

"Um. We're definitely focusing on family and definitely interviewing family members, I think the cooperation level, that's something that may come out later on," Sirkorski said.

But for Breasia’s family, all they had been doing is cooperating, at least at face.

August 2020

It seemed like by the beginning of August Breasia's family were the only ones really pushing for everyone to remember this sweet girl's face. Some family members began making t-shirts and face masks with Breasia’s face on them.  

Shay Tate Moore, Breasia’s cousin and a fashion designer who owns her own small business in town, decided to use her own skills to get the word out. 

Other family members held a fashion show, creating a dress in the girls honor, featuring sparkles and sequins and even pictures of Breasia. 

Lankford, her son Detorious and Breasia’s cousin Amber hit the streets in what they called the “bree-mobile," posting fliers around the Quad Cities even just passing them to strangers directly.

When News 8 ran these stories about the family’s efforts, we really only had one line to run, that it had been so many weeks since DPD last updated the case and that they described it very aggressively. 

When the one month mark came and went, Lankford's tolerance and patience for the man suspected in this case… someone she knows closely… had grown thin. 

And so the day that Dinkins was supposed to be in court, August 13, she was ready. But at the last second, it felt like the lawyers for Dinkins filed paperwork for him so that he didn’t have to show up in person. Which, mind you, not a-typical. That stuff happens all the time in the courts. But Breasia's mom just wants answers. She said at that point she had written four letters to him only to hear nothing back. 

Lankford told News 8 at the time, "He refuses to see me. He actually updated his visiting list to where if you're not on his visiting list then you can't come see him. I want to be able to face him. I mean truthfully me coming down to this court date isn't enough for me. A visit isn't enough for me."

September 2020

As we neared two months since Breasia went missing, there was a development in a 25-year-old cold case here in the Quad Cities. 

An update to Trudy Appleby’s case will be another episode for another time and if you haven’t heard that episode go back and listen, but Dennis Appleby.. that father has been through so much and he has been wearing the shoes that Aishia Lankford has just stepped into -- for decades now.

"I mean I feel so sorry for Breasia's mom. Cause her hardest days are ahead of her yet," Dennis said. "In things like this you don't know what the next hour brings."

When the latest development was happening to Trudy’s case in Moline, there was silence as to what was the latest in Breasia’s case just across the river in Davenport.

For Dennis, he didn’t want to take away hope of finding Breasia alive, something that he lost a long time ago.

"You can't ask her to believe anything else," Dennis said. "Until the day you have enough evidence about things to know that that's just probably not the case. And in her instance I hope that's not the case."

For some Black leaders in the community, they were grateful that the news was continuing to keep an eye on what was happening with Breasia's case. That she wasn’t just a mention here or there. That we were putting her face out there as much as possible. Because while minority children are taken more often, it's white children who get the publicity.

But as the weeks have gone on, it's the sad fact of the news business that bigger stories come to the forefront and while it's an important story, it falls off what's happening in the moment. In mid-August, COVID-19 cases rose, civil unrest struck the country, and of course a derecho devastated our region.

The big wind storm swept away the small posters Breasia's family had posted. Some are still up, big billboards donated by businesses, or hanging in the windows of locally owned businesses.

Police released another statement saying they were following up with hundreds of tips they received and that the case was a priority, but like I said in the beginning, they can’t say much more than that. Because the worst thing that could happen now -- is the case gets thrown out by sloppy work or a slip of a tongue that shouldn’t be said.

But if you ever have suffered a terrible loss, or grieved, then you know what it feels like when the world seems to go on and you feel trapped in cement. 

Time stands still in the weirdest way. I can’t speak to kidnapping, but I can speak to grief and I feel like that’s how it could be… waiting in the void for answers or a way to step forward and you don’t know how or can’t.

October 2020

Dinkins was transported out of the Scott County Jail to Clinton County Jail, nearly an hour away. The justification behind the move is largely currently unknown.

The day he was moved, Lankford and Helen Mosely, the mother of Dinkins, got into a fight outside the courthouse. It's unclear what led to that altercation, but Lankford was charged with disorderly conduct, pleaded guilty to the simple misdemeanor and faced a fine.

Around that time, Helen spoke for the first time about what’s been going on with her son. WQAD tried to reach out to her, but received no response. Helen did however, speak with the Quad City Times.

All Dinkins is charged with in Scott County is failing to register his address. Prosecutors have added two other charges related to that incident but Dinkins still does not face any criminal charges for Breasia’s disappearance; he's just a person of interest. But both Helen and Dinkin's sister, Neda, believe he had nothing to do with her disappearance.

They told the Times that they’ve been cooperating with police from “the minute” Henry was taken into custody. They say the mere inquiry that he’s the suspect in this case has turned their lives upside down, “I just feel like we are being held responsible for something we had nothing to do with.”

Helen says that people have stopped talking to them and have made horrible allegations against them and they believe he did something horrible. But Helen said she believes that God will be revealed through all of this.  

Statistics aren’t kind to situations like these.

Every minute counts when it comes to a child missing. Ninety-four percent of recovered children are found within 72 hours and 47 percent are found within three hours. It helps that social media can help get the word out quickly, cell phones have amber alerts that blare out and highway signs light up with information.

No matter what the circumstances are, federal law requires that children are entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, also known as NCIC. Last year alone, there were 421,394 reports for missing children (if a child runs away multiple times a year, each time is entered separately).

In 2019, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children assisted law enforcement and families with more than 29,000 cases of missing children. Ninety-one percent were endangered runaways, 4 percent were family abductions, 4 percent were critically missing young adults, ages 18 to 20. Less than 1 percent were non-family abductions and 1 percent were lost, injured or otherwise missing children.

Family Abduction cases have the longest average time missing, with an average time of 326 days, versus cases of runaways which average the shortest time missing at 61 days. Of the nearly 26,300 runaways reported to NCMEC last year, 1 in 6 were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

These statistics show how far we’ve come to try and stop this issue. Compared to when Trudy Appleby or when Adam Walsh went missing in the mid 1990’s, how information is spread to help cases is dramatically different.

At the toss of a coin though, we can see that it's still a problem.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety reported roughly 50 children in Davenport between the ages of 11 and 17 missing at the time of this article. This is only Davenport, and some of these can be runaways while others could already be home and it’s not reported to police of their return. 

If you go to the IDPS website, the most common classification is juvenile and that's considered a child as a runaway. But there’s at least three that stood out to me, one from 2016, one from 2014 even one from 2011. The names are not familiar, and they are listed as juvenile runaways.

December 2020

The last update investigators released was around Breasia’s birthday, and the 5-month mark of her disappearance. In a simple statement, no press conference, information on the case was released: four members of DPD are working on the investigation on top of two FBI agents based in Omaha. Additionally, 170 tips were looked into, hundreds of interviews were conducted and 60 search warrants were executed.

January 2021

The Amber Alert for Breasia has now been canceled. It’s not a cold case, it's just now being referred as a missing person’s case since the case is not as active as it once was.

However, the state could reactivate the Amber Alert again if new information comes out. 

While statistics can give us an idea of how the case is going, the number of search warrants and interviews for example, it doesn’t give us a true idea of what's going on behind the scenes and how this could all come to an end.

My hope is someone says something that can solve the case. My hope is that Breasia is found safe and alive. I hope the family doesn’t have to suffer more than they have to. My ultimate hope is that I can erase this paragraph, not have to record it, and say instead of hope it’s reality...

But those are just my hopes and 2020 has shown us what having hope can really do to a person...