Searching For Jaquilla Scales In A New Age
Thirteen years ago, law enforcement, family, and hundreds of volunteers in Wichita conducted an extensive search for an African-American 4-year old by the name of Jaquilla Scales. The preschooler went missing from her home on September 5, 2001.
Jaquilla was last seen just after midnight, asleep with her great-grandmother and little brother at their residence on North Volutsia. Jaquilla’s mother, Eureka Scales, was at a friend’s house at the time of her daughter's disappearance. Eureka remembers rushing home and asking her grandmother what happened.
“She said she doesn’t know," says Eureka. “She thinks somebody came into the backyard, into her back door, and took her out the bed. That’s when I lost it, like, 'Are you for real, you sure? She ain’t nowhere in this house hiding?' She said she looked everywhere and she couldn’t find her. I couldn’t figure out why it happened or who would want to do this to her or to me."
Today, Eureka is still bewildered by her daughter’s disappearance.
"It’s weird because ain’t no evidence," she says. "It’s no fingerprints. It’s nothing. She just vanished and I don’t understand. I don’t know why somebody would want to even take her."
Eureka says she would like to see the FBI and Wichita Police step up their investigation of the missing child.
"The last time I heard from the police officer, it was a detective in 2012," she says. "He came out for a DNA test and I asked him why they needed a DNA test and I asked 'did y'all find her?' And he didn’t want to give me any hope.”
Robert Lowery with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says biometric information is collected on all children who’ve been missing a long time to help with identification.
"Fingerprints, any scars, marks, tattoos, dental work, dental coding is extremely helpful," says Lowery. "Keep in mind, for a worst-case scenario but also that we have a 4-year-old child here. If she’s been with somebody for an extended period of time, she may not even remember who she is--so all this can help us in the event we find Jaquilla.”
Currently in the United States, Lowery says about 97 to 98 percent of the children who are reported missing are found fairly quickly and returned home to their parents.
“Obviously there are some tragedies involved in those numbers but our families are given answers and sometimes those answers can help,” he says.
Lowery says tools such as AMBER Alert helps to inform the public about the most serious child-abduction cases. The system was first activated in Kansas in 2003, two years after Jaquilla came up missing.
"So there’s so many things now that could have helped," he says. "AMBER Alert is one of them. 24-hour news broadcasts are a big help in engaging the public as the eyes and ears of law enforcement in the help of the search for Jaquilla. Social media, now, we can use tools like Facebook and touch nearly a half a billion users with information about the missing child in a photograph and all of this has been extremely helpful and I think really led to the fact that we are finding more children today than any other time in our history."
Eureka Scales says she will never give up looking for her.
"I’m missing her teenage years," she says. "The whole family is missing her. She don’t even know that she has a baby brother--her other brother is definitely missing her. We just want her to come home safely."
Lowery says there’s someone out there who knows what happened to 4-year-old Jaquilla and that person needs to come forward to share information with law enforcement.
Eureka says she has not been able to offer any sort of reward for information about her daughter whose 17th birthday was in March.
Age Progression Artistry
"Every three years, here at the national center, a team of forensic artists do what we call 'age progression artistry' with our children’s pictures," says Lowery. "We based the likenesses on mom, the father and siblings. We try to meld those family traits and those features into what our artists believe the child would look like today.
"That age progression photograph (of Jaquilla Scales), from July of 2013, is very current and that can be helpful when we’re trying to engage the public and we are looking for this child as a composite. It’s not going to be a perfect likeness of the child but what we believe the child would look like today."