Theresa Czapieski couldn’t hold back her tears when police in Tacoma, Washington, showed her what her daughter looks like today. She hasn’t stopped looking for Teekah Lewis, then 2 years old, since 1999.
“I’m not going to give up until my daughter is found,” Czapieski told CNN.
Tacoma police released a photo of Teekah’s age last week in the hopes of solving one of the oldest missing child cases in the area.
Teekah was last seen in the video game area at the New Frontier Lanes bowling alley on the night of January 23, 1999. Czapieski said Teekah was “mom’s girl”. The child stayed by her side until it was Czapieski’s turn to eat. She then asked her brother and later boyfriend to keep an eye on the toddler. When Czapieski returned to check on his daughter, she was gone.
“They said they didn’t see anything, so whoever caught her, will get her within seconds.” Czapieski told CNN.
Police say no one remembers seeing the child leave the building. Czapieski said that that night, the bowling alley was packed with people and there were probably hundreds of people there.
She said Czapieski had previously gone to the bowling alley with some of her children and thought it was a safe place to take Teekah out with other family members.
Tacoma police detective Julie Dier said Teekah’s disappearance was “a great mystery.”
“At this point, we don’t have any evidence. We don’t have a body. And while that still happens, there’s always the possibility that she’s still out there somewhere,” Dier told CNN Monday. “It’s a great mystery.”
When the child disappeared in 1999, Dier said it took a lot of work to find the girl, mowing the lawn in a wetland and using sniffer dogs. Police say investigators have received numerous tips since Teekah’s disappearance, but none have led to a suspect.
Now, they are asking the public for information about a sepia or purple Pontiac in the late 1980s or early 1990s that a witness said had a fishtail curl while speeding from a parking lot. of the bowling alley, just before the announcement of Teekah’s disappearance was made inside the building.
Dier said investigators are hoping the release of the photo of Teekah’s age and request for information on Teekah’s disappearance will lead to someone who may have seen something to contact the police. .
Police said it was still possible that Teekah was alive and didn’t know he was a kidnap victim.
Composite image showing what Teekah looks like now created by Forensic Anthropology and Computer Improvement Services (FACES) Laboratory at Louisiana State University, which provides forensic anthropology services to law enforcement and investigator offices.
Larry Livaudais, an imaging specialist at the lab, told CNN it took him about three weeks to create an image of age progression. He consulted about forty photos of Teekah’s mother, father and siblings, along with photos of Teekah herself, to get a viable picture of what she would look like in 2022.
“It is truly an artistic creation, but it is based on scientific knowledge of the patterns of facial development and the morphological changes that take place in the face,” said Livaudais, adding that he accumulated incorporate cognitive triggers into images designed to promote recognition and memory. in those who know may know Teekah.
Czapieski said she hopes her daughter, who will be in her 20s, has so far lived a good life. She likes to imagine that Teekah played sports in high school, graduated and went on to college, the mother said.
“If she’s out there and she sees this, know that you have five sisters who want to see you. You have a mother and (one) countless aunts and uncles waiting for you to come home. We’ve known it for almost 24 years and I’m sure you don’t know this but we want to know you. We wanted to take you home, because I never gave up on you,” said Czapieski. “I will not stop looking for you until you are found.”
The Tacoma Police Department is asking anyone with information about the case to contact the Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. Police are also offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and charge in the case.