For over two years, the family of missing postal worker, Kierra Coles, 26, have been racked with worry over the disappearance of the missing mother—especially Karen Phillips, Kierra’s own mother. To further exacerbate the uncertainty, Kierra was about three months pregnant when she went missing in a case that has been described by Chicago police as “a high-risk missing person investigation with potential foul play suspected.” The most crucial clue in the case was a surveillance video that was believed to be the last confirmed sighting of Kierra Coles just before she vanished, but new information has come to light that could change the entire context of this case.
The surveillance video that was believed to be the last confirmed sighting of Kierra Coles was dated October 3, 2018 at 11:45 AM. At the time, many believed it to be Kierra, walking down the street wearing her postal worker’s uniform. Following her disappearance, Kierra’s keys and lunch were found on the front seat of her car, which was parked in front of the building where she lived. More than two years later, new information about the case has finally been made public. The neighbor handed over the surveillance video to investigators and Karen Phillips, Kierra’s mother, who was immediately concerned that something was not right about the video. “It’s a mother thing. You just know your child. That’s not her walk. She was a little bit smaller and a little bit shorter.” Phillips informed investigators about her feelings regarding the video, telling them that the woman in the video was not her daughter. Investigators took her concerns seriously, but in order to preserve the investigation, Phillips was asked not to tell anyone that she suspected the woman in the video was not her daughter.
In another twist, Phillips told NBC 5 that there are two more videos depicting her daughter from the night of October 2nd. One video from another neighbor shows Kierra leaving her apartment building with her boyfriend, Josh Simmons, who also works at the post office. They got into separate cars and drove off. That video was also turned over to the police. Another video from ATM surveillance camera showed Kierra withdrawing $400 from her account and giving it to Josh.
Chicago Police have refused to confirm any of the details regarding the additional surveillance videos, or Phillips’ assertion that the woman in the original video isn’t her daughter, Kierra Coles. They only confirmed to NBC 5 that they had a concrete timeline of Kierra’s movements on October 2nd before she went missing. The official statement from CPD states “The Coles case remains a high-risk missing person investigation with potential foul play suspected. At this point, anyone with knowledge of her of her last known whereabouts is asked to contact the Chicago Police Department, as we are seeking any and all information in an attempt to locate her and we won’t stop until we do.”
Right after his daughter, Kierra Coles, Joseph Coles began living out of his car, keeping vigil in front of the building where she leaved, waiting for her to come home. But in the two years since her disappearance, Coles says that investigators have recently hit a brick wall in the search for Kierra, a then-26 year-old postal worker who was pregnant.
Kierra Coles was last seen leaving her apartment on the morning of October 2, 2018. She lived alone in the apartment on 81st street, and had just moved to the area less than four months ago, according to her mother, Karen Phillips. Kierra was in regular contact with her family, especially her mother. When she didn’t hear from Kierra all day on October 3rd, her mother felt something was wrong, but did not react immediately. After two days of radio silence, Karen Phillips called the Chicago police to conduct a welfare check on her daughter. “I went over to her house to call the police for them to do a well-being check because I had seen her car. So I said, okay she’s probably just in there, maybe she’s asleep or – I don’t know, I just didn’t feel right,” Phillips told the Pittsburg Courier.
The key piece of evidence so far in the case is surveillance footage recovered from a neighbor’s camera, which captured a person believed to be Kierra leaving the building, dressed for work in her postal carrier’s uniform. This has puzzled investigators a great deal, as Kierra called in sick to her job that morning, but still left the apartment dressed for work. The CCTV footage captured Kierra walking up and down the street in front of her building, past her car, before walking out of frame for the last time. Law enforcement and family members have been hoping to find similar CCTV footage that would illuminate more of Kierra’s movements, but no such leads have emerged. When the car was found, her cell phone and purse were inside, along with her lunch bag.
Although they now suspect foul play in the young woman’s disappearance, in the first few weeks of the search, police were not ready to deem Kierra’s disappearance suspicious. Because of Kierra’s age, there are not as many resources in place to locate her—not to mention that adults in the United States, for all intents and purposes, do have the right to go missing if they wish. However, Kierra’s family does not think that she vanished over her own accord, especially given that she was pregnant with her first child.
According to the National Institutes of Health, intimate partner violence affects roughly 300,000 pregnant women every year in the United States. Even more staggering, it knows no sociological boundaries. It affects pregnant women of all ages, colors, education, and religions. Heightened emotions and changes in body chemistry can already be triggers for depression, anxiety, and maladaptive behaviors such as smoking, drugs, and alcohol during pregnancy. It can also trigger intimate partner violence, or what’s more commonly known as domestic violence. The National Institutes of Health also report that homicide is the second-leading cause of injury-related death for pregnant women, superseded only by car accidents. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that between 1990 and 2004, more than 1300 pregnant women were murdered in the United States, most commonly by gunshot, stabbing, or strangling. More than two-thirds of these women were killed in their first trimester.
Kierra’s family has noted that they have received few updates from police since she was reported missing, but that USPS had been regularly in touch. Karen told 107.5 WGCI, “The postal inspector, he has been calling and checking in saying, ‘We are doing all we can. There’s things that we can’t tell you right now, but we’re doing all we can.’ I’m just guessing they just want to have facts together, they don’t want to give me bits and pieces.” The USPS has offered a $25,000 reward for anyone providing information that leads to Kierra’s safe return, and has been assisting in the investigation since it opened. As Kierra’s case continues to garner national attention, non-profits such as Black and Missing have placed Kierra’s name, picture, and case information on their website in hopes of spreading her story throughout the country.
Anyone with information on Coles’ whereabouts should call Area South detectives at (312) 747-8274.