Search never ends after a child goes missing

Father, sister still watch for Kimberley Kersey

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

More than 25 years has passed since 18-year-old Kimberley Kersey vanished on her way home from school.

And even though her father, Ed, knows it isn't likely he'll ever see Kimberley alive again, he isn't willing to let go of that remaining sliver of hope.

"The longer it goes, the harder it is to hope she's alive," Ed said. "Ninety-eight percent of me knows she's gone. We never give up complete hope."

This March was the 25th anniversary of Kimberley's disappearance, yet the case remains one of Clark County's most haunting mysteries.

Kimberley was last seen standing at her locker in Mountain View High School after class on March 11, 1987. She walked out of the high school doors and began the nearly 2-mile trek home.

If she followed her normal route that day, Kimberley headed north, crossing Mill Plain Boulevard just east of Evergreen Airport.

She would have walked south on Hearthwood Boulevard for a few blocks and then cut west and continued north on a shortcut through the woods. The trail emerged on Northeast 18th Street at what later became a C-Tran park-and-ride lot, across from the Landover Apartments where Kimberley lived.

As far as anyone knows, Kimberley never made it out of those woods.

The next afternoon, Kimberley's mother, Kay, found her daughter's school book and notebook in the woods. The discovery launched a two-day search of the woods.

No other trace of Kimberley was, or ever has been, found.

Ed thought -- and, perhaps in some ways, hoped -- the construction in the area throughout the years would reveal something about his daughter's disappearance. It never did.

Ed believes someone grabbed his petite daughter as she walked through the woods. She was a small girl, standing 5 feet, 2 inches and weighing only 100 pounds. It wouldn't take much to overpower Kimberley, he said.

"I still hope that they find out who did it, somehow, someway," Ed said. "I don't give up that hope even though I know what a long shot it is."

Kimberley's case has recently been brought back into the light at the Clark County Sheriff's Office. This year, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Kids contacted the office asking for more information.

The center is updating its files, adding new DNA samples to ensure it has a full DNA profile, should remains ever be found. Ed visited the sheriff's office Friday to provide a cheek swab. The center is also planning to use photos of Kimberley's younger sister, Kristen, to create images of a 43-year-old Kimberley.

Kristen was only 13 years old when her sister went missing. Now 38, Kristen hopes to get answers in her lifetime. Their mother died in 1996 without ever knowing what happened to Kimberley.

"It really ruined her," Kristen said. "That, it killed her. Her soul was gone. She lost her soul."

A few years after their mother's death, Kristen added a small plaque on her mother's grave marker. The plaque reads, "Kimberley Kay Kersey. Birth: December 15, 1968. Lost: March 11, 1987."

Kristen visits the cemetery every other week, bringing flowers and lunch, and spends an hour with her mother and sister's memorial.

Few days pass without Kristen and Ed thinking of Kimberley. News of missing children or discoveries of human remains still shake the family.

"It strikes home every time you hear about it," Ed said.

The Jaycee Dugard case jolted Kristen.

The 11-year-old was abducted in 1991 from the street in front of her South Lake Tahoe, Calif., home. Eighteen years later, in 2009, Dugard was discovered alive.

The news made Kristen think of her sister.

"Even 25 years later, you still look over your shoulder," Kristen said.

"You keep that hope," she added.

While Ed will never let go of his hope, the 71-year-old does wonder if he'll ever know the truth about what happened to Kimberley. Knowing, however, won't change what happened.

"It's never over," Ed said. "Even if they catch the guy, it's not over because Kimberley is gone."

"You move on, but you don't forget."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.