Mention of police brutality toward Black people, no gruesome details: 12:50-13:20
Cast of Characters:
Akia Eggleston – Missing mother of one with another on the way
Baby A – Akia’s baby she was expecting at the time of her disappearance
Sean Wilkinson – Akia’s father
Natalie and Derrica Wilson – The founders of the Black and Missing Foundation
ShyShy Pate – A young, Black girl still missing from Unadilla, GA
Episode Notes (and Spoilers) After This Point
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Election Update: You’re Safe Here
(PS: The election has already passed at the time of this episode going live, and we’re still on pins and needles waiting for the results. Still, the message below rings true and always will.)
Hi, everybody! My name is Bethany and this is Milk and Murder, a once-a-weekly podcast about lesser known true crimes. I say once a week, but it’s been a kind of wild month with illnesses here so it’s been a little less than once a week. I’m getting back in the groove of and I’m so excited for the last several episodes of the year.
Are y’all ready for this election? Woo boy. This stuff is BANANAS, right? The PRESIDENT had CORONAVIRUS? A fly was the star of a debate? Thankfully, as of the release of this episode, it will be less than a week away from being over.
I know a lot of my friends and listeners are feeling tired and afraid right now. I just want to say that if you feel this way- you’re not alone, your feelings are valid. It might feel like we’re back in the 1930’s, and I know there’s nothing I can say to fix it. Here’s what I will say, however: it may feel like the true crime community does not always have your back. But I can assure you that if you’re in one of the marginalized groups who are most affected by everything that’s happening right now, I want you to know that I am always on your side. Any community that is a part of Milk and Murder will be a safe, inclusive place for you.
You are at the forefront of our hearts and minds as we walk into the voting booths this fall and I wanted you to know that you’re not alone and we love you.
Now, on to the episode.
Akia, Baby A, and Their Complicated Pregnancy
I have an incredibly big soft spot in my heart for pregnant people. I’ve always known that I wanted to be a parent, but when I became pregnant with my son, I’ll admit that the whole thing sort of knocked me on my butt. I know that for some, pregnancy is a breeze and a delight. But for me? Pregnancy was HARD, y’all! Getting pregnant sometimes. Staying pregnant. Being pregnant. Every single time, without fail, I spent a lot of those months genuinely thinking- THIS IS IT FOR ME! I’m NOT going to MAKE IT
Spoiler alert: I made it, and my baby days are done, so the pregnancies aren’t going to be the thing that does me in. But for some people, pregnancy is even more challenging and risky, and that was so true for Akia Eggleston. At 22, she was going through an incredibly difficult pregnancy and with one toddler already, she endured the challenge of ALSO being on bedrest.
At a petite 4’11, 100 lbs, Akia soldiered through this challenging pregnancy. Her baby was breech and though that doesn’t necessarily make just anyone considered “high risk,” she definitely did have complications that made hers that way. She also had a difficult time walking and rest was the name of the game for her. Her c-section was planned for the next month, June 2017. The Father of the Baby also wasn’t involved or in the picture so determined Akia navigated this rocky path alone.
Nevertheless, she was delighted to welcome this second baby and she was happily planning her baby shower. She could not have been more excited for this event and her friends and family were delighted to shower her and her baby with all of the love, and to celebrate their arrival onto the earth.
Her purple, grey, and blue Chevron-striped invitations read:
“Join Us to Celebrate the Gender Reveal of Baby A. – May 7th, 2017, at 12-4 pm. Showering Akia with Diapers, Wipes, and Gift Cards. RSVP by April 25th.”
It’s funny, as I wrote this episode, I had that very distinct smell of Pampers diapers on my arm from snuggling my daughter earlier and it made me think of the smells that come with preparing for a new baby. The soft scent of the diapers, the Dreft that wafts into your nose as you hang the baby’s clothes carefully on each hanger. It’s such a strange point in time when you’re suspended in between the Here, the Now, and What’s to Come. You’re organizing all of these tiny baby things and you know that your life is about to change in ways that you can’t imagine.
This is where Akia was at in her life, and whoo Lordt, she was doing it all with a toddler, and she was doing it all pretty much all by herself while her family supported her from afar. Akia lived in an apartment with a roommate, though there isn’t much information that I’ve been able to definitively narrow down on who this person was- whether it was a long time friend, whether it was Akia’s apartment and she was renting out a room.
Their apartment was situated on Cherrycrest Street in the Cherry Hill neighborhood. Incidentally, Akia had a cherry tattoo on her left shoulder blade and I wonder if she thought of it as she wrote her return address on her baby shower invitations.
As if Akia didn’t already have enough on her plate already, she also told friends and family that she was planning to move by out by May 10th and in to a new place, and again, there isn’t a lot of information about what prompted this move, whether it involved her mystery roommate, or whether she was just doing it because there wasn’t enough space for her and her soon-to-be family of three.
There’s this self-defense concept that says it’s crucial to be the most aware in transitional spaces, as these are the places where we are most likely to be in danger. I believe I first heard about this on Ed Denzel’s podcast Unfound (which I’ll link in the show notes) and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since.
A transitional space is, in literal terms, the space in between your point A and your point B. If point A is your car, and point B is the grocery store- it’s important to be very aware and vigilant between these two spaces. Point A is your apartment, Point B is the apartment’s shared laundry room- the hallway is the transitional space.
If I say exactly how I found them described on Google, I’ll feel like Rex from Rex Kwon Do on Napoleon Dynamite- but, long story short, they are open places where someone has a tactical advantage. They are places where you’re busy, you’re caught up in what you’re doing, you’re autopiloting. If you’re leaving the grocery store, you’re thinking about how you’re going to roast that chicken you bought or the route to your next errand, the post office.
Maybe you missed a call while you were in checkout and now you’re skimming your missed calls and texts while you drive your cart with your elbows.
The point is that you’re in between two spaces, out in the open, and you’re not paying attention and this makes it a prime location for an attack if there were to be one. Ever since I learned about this, I’ve been incredibly mindful about transitional spaces.
But I think there’s a broader definition here that can be applied to life transitions or emotional transitions, and I find that when people go missing, I’m always looking for what transitional space they were in. Akia was in several- she was between Cherrycrest and her new apartment, she was between one baby and two, she was between pregnancy and her postpartum recovery. And all of the time she spent in a transitional space, she spent planning a big family event: this baby shower that she never showed up to.
The Missed Baby Shower
On the Big Day, Sunday, May 7th, Akia’s friends were planning on picking her up to take her to get her hair done, and she had a dress picked out just for the occasion. As it goes with many missing person cases, and especially those of Black men and women, there aren’t always a lot of reported details to fill in the blanks. What we do know is that Akia never arrived at her baby shower and her friends know that this is NOT like her. Even if she wasn’t feeling well, she had placed a $900 deposit on her baby shower location
I have to think that they were likely worried leading up to the event as well, if her friends knew she missed her hair appointment with them, but miscommunications happen, especially in those “places of transition” when you’re planning an event. How many times have you miscommunicated on a moving day, for example?
Her friends and family quickly started comparing notes and realized that the last person she had even spoken with was her beloved grandma, 4 days before, on May 3rd. They started to mobilize quickly, and headed over to Akia’s apartment, where they found a few really strange things.
For one, some of Akia’s furniture was no longer there, though rumors persist about what exactly was missing. Some reports say her bed was there but a dresser was gone, some say there was a dresser missing and so was a crib, some say that all of her clothes were gone but the bed remained.
I think the most accurate report likely comes from Akia’s stepfather, Shawn Wilkinson, who has been the person spearheading this search from the very beginning. More on him in a minute.
He says that the police are the ones who explored the apartment in depth but have not revealed what, specifically, was missing and that he thinks that police might be holding this information close to their chest in case they need it to speak with a suspect.
The other strange thing that was reportedly found at Akia’s apartment was a sizable hole in the wall.
So here’s this very largely pregnant person, on bedrest, who is already a pretty petite person. She isn’t going to be the one putting a hole in this wall and she’s definitely not going to be moving her furniture out of the apartment. None of her friends and family who were a part of her baby shower helped her move, so how did all of this take place?
A call to the police was the next step and they were diligent and helpful and communicative and realized what a dire situation this was right away and got RIGHT to work…
Is what I WISH I could say.
But that’s absolutely not what happened. The police did look at the apartment but despite the circumstances, they shrugged their shoulders and said, “Meh, not much we can do here. She’s an adult, she can leave if she wants to.”
Which, alright. Okay. She’s just an adult and she can do what she wants to.
But I’m not going to mince words here- the police actually kill Black people who are literallY just living their lives as adults in their own homes. So I don’t know, this blase attitude toward a missing person who has absolutely NO reason to run off and is at a heightened risk due to her complicated medical situation is problematic at best.
Like are you concerned about intruding on the lives of adults who “can leave if they want to” or are you not?
Maybe you think I’m being too hard on the cops here, but honestly, it gets worse. While they do involve the FBI (which is, in my unprofessional a good idea,) they basically stop investigation at this point. The conversations with the family stop, and a conversation wall is raised. The FBI assures the family that although they will no longer be looking for Akia, they will put her name on a list so that if she gives birth, they’ll be alerted.
About the Birth
I will admit, I have some questions about this “list.” I’ve personally given birth under a variety of scenarios, two of which the hospital had no prior information about me. In the first instance, I was having a homebirth with my first son and we decided to transport to the hospital with our midwife. I walked into the hospital, told them my name, and had my baby 20 minutes later. We were new to the state so I didn’t have insurance and they never asked for my ID. I really could have told them I was anybody.
Then I had a baby at home.
THEN I had my third baby at the hospital and again after my midwife decided I should go to the hospital- I walked in and had a baby without having established care with a doctor at the hospital, I was induced at the advice of my midwife. Like, hi, sorry for these wild stories. I have a point here.
Again, I showed up at the hospital and showed no ID at any point.
This isn’t really isolated to my births either. What I didn’t mention before, when I said that I have a soft spot for pregnant people, is that I’ve been a labor doula for the last 10 years.
So I’ve been to close to 100 births, and really, I know there’s some kind of SYSTEM, but how hard would it really be to just go have a baby without sharing your real name?
And even if you did, surely there’s not, like, an FBI registry where they are like beep boop beep “Oh hey, Akia checked in 3 states away” ???? How does that work? I guess if you know, slide into my DMs on Instagram and tell me because I want to know.
The Pivot to a Homicide Investigation
A few months go by before the police decide to look for Akia and they do a press conference stating that, at this time, they are ‘pivoting’ the investigation into a homicide. When asked what changed in the case to necessitate this shift, they told the press that she would have had her baby now and that it seemed out of character for to have not contacted someone at this point.
Neglecting the point, of course, it was out of character for to not show up to her own baby shower.
But wait, there’s more!
Shortly after the police initiated the homicide investigation, Wilkinson went to the police to get an update on her case and they didn’t know who he was referring to. Wilkinson started to try and gain media attention for the case on his own but he struggled to get much from any national news sources. The reality is that Akia, if alive, could have been ANYWHERE at this point and national news could help immensely.
But as I mentioned back in my first episode about missing ShyShy Pate from Unadilla, Georgia, missing Black people don’t get near as much coverage as missing white women- a phenomenon (PS I knew I would struggle getting that word out) known as Missing White Woman Syndrome. In fact, Black and Missing people only represent 1 in 5 missing persons stories despite going missing at a faster rate than white people.
This is why organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation exist- because if it weren’t for the entire non-profit pushing for more equal coverage of missing Black folks, many of them would be ignored forever. It’s horrific and BTW we need to do better.
The Black and Missing Foundation did get involved in Akia’s case, and they were able to get some more national news coverage for Akia, including an appearance on The View. There, Shawn Wilkinson explained the situation with Akia- pointing out an upsetting and often neglected part of this case: that it’s not just AKIA that was missing, but it was also her unborn baby- the one whose existence brought about the baby shower and reveal in the first place.
A baby boy. Baby A. Where is Baby A? We’re not just looking for one missing person, we’re looking for two. He expresses his frustration with the police and their lack of attention to the case. The founders of the Black and Missing Foundation, Natalie Wilson and Derrica Wilson, are by his side and explain that it’s just harder for them to get this kind of coverage due to a fatal flaw in perception of the public and the police. Natalie explains that when Black children go missing, they are more often labeled as a runaway and cannot have an AMBER alert issued for them or people assume that they are involved in some kind of criminal activity.
They hit the nail on the head when say that the public is desensitized because they believe that the Black communities are impoverished and this kind of behavior- by that they mean, just dropping off the grid- is NORMAL for people in impoverished communities.
Guess what? It isn’t normal.
Derrica tells the story of some time they spend in Baltimore looking for Akia and handing out flyers for her case. Some police officers responding to a call nearby speak with them afterward- and they have no idea who Akia even is. This is the second mention in this case about the police not knowing who Akia is.
The producers of The View reached out to the Baltimore Police Department for comment, and while BPD would not speak with them, they did issue a written statement saying that they’ve dedicated “literally-” their words, not mine- thousands of hours to this case, that they’ve spoken to over 100 people, that they’ve personally met with Akia’s father Shawn Wilkinson 4 times, and they’ve spoken with him on the phone on 6 other locations.
Okay, but no one seems to know who PREGNANT AND MISSING AKIA EGGLESTON IS? That seems wack but OKAY.
I’m just throwing this out there, but maybe if everyone perceives that you’re not being communicative enough, it could be that you’re not being as communicative as you think you are. But I’d wager a guess that they aren’t being communicative at all, like Akia’s family is saying.
At this point, Akia’s family knows nothing about the ongoing investigation because the police have shared no information. The only things they know about the last day she was seen are that she spoke to her grandmother that day and that she went to that bank I mentioned earlier, and that there is footage of her visit there.
On camera, she waddles slowly into the bank where she withdrew $572, turns around, and walks out. She was driven there by an unnamed friend who is now deceased.
Though the reason for withdrawing this money is not clear, some speculate that she was using it as a deposit on a new place since she DID tell friends and family that planned to be moved out by May 10th. Rumors floated around that it might be with a boyfriend (but her best friend confirmed that this was not true.)
Akia is still missing today, and is Baby A. There’s no WAY she could have moved her furniture on her own. The police haven’t issued many statements except to say that, “dumpsters might be significant in this case.”
Okay, thanks BPD.
Akia’s family has not stopped looking for. Her birthday was this past September and Wikinson posted in the Facebook group in place for searches of her, “Simply…Happy Birthday.” They gather together occasionally to remember her, to pray, to hug one another. Like on her birthday a few years ago when they huddled under a park pavilion on a cold and rainy day.
And there was the vigil they held in front of Akia’s apartment building on the one year anniversary of her disappearance, where many, many people got together and shared their love for Akia, wishing she were there. Her family accepted all of the warmth and good thoughts for her that day.
However, when they started cleaning up after the event, they found something sinister in the bushes. A bank card. AKIA’s bank card. Unscathed, unweathered, looking new and untouched as if it had been placed right in the bushes that. It wasn’t sitting in the bushes for the entire year since her disappearance. It must have been placed there.
Likely by somebody she knew, somebody at that vigil. It was a dark and sad reminder that somebody knows what happened to Akia and that she doesn’t need that bank card anymore.
Akia Eggleston was a very pregnant Black woman who was 4’11, 100 lbs, and was last seen on camera at a bank at Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland. She was wearing a green shirt, a black jacket with grey sleeves, black and white yoga pants, and black sneakers. She was last for SURE on May 3rd, 2017 and was reported missing on May 7th, 2017 when she didn’t arrive at her much anticipated baby shower. If you think you may have seen something or know anything about this case, if there’s even a little tug in your heart that your mind is trying to silence, please get in touch with the Black and Missing Foundation – you can submit a tip (even anonymously) at www.blackandmissinginc.com/cdad/tip.cfm and I’ll have a link in the show notes.
Akia and Baby A, if you’re out there, you are loved, your family is still looking for you, and so are we.
If you want to support the podcast, will you come connect with me on Instagram? You can find me at instagram.com/itwasthehusband
You can also check out my patreon page at patreon.com/itwasthehusband – on a very practical level, Patreon helps cover the expenses of this podcast helps me not have to type one-handed while feeding a baby. There’s also lots of fun stuff in it for you, ranging from Milk and Murder merch to an extra exclusive episode once a month to some amazing Google hangouts with other myself and other listeners.
If you feel moved by Akia’s story, I encourage you to check out the Black and Missing Foundation at www.blackandmissinginc.com – they are a non-profit organization and a great place to give to this year.
Until next time, please know how much your vote matters in the upcoming US election, and please tell your friends how much you love them. See you next week!
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Issues Mentioned in This Episode:
The Black and Missing Foundation – www.blackandmissinginc.com