Karen Philips, the mother of missing U.S. postal employee Kierra Coles, said she prays every night for a good night's sleep because she knows when she wakes up, her nightmare begins again.
“It feels like a replay. Every day, the same feeling,” said Philips. “Day after day.”
Philips’ daughter Kierra was three months pregnant when she suddenly disappeared in October 2018.
After two years of no answers, Philips told NBC 5 Investigates she was ready to reveal what Chicago detectives told her not to disclose at the time of her daughter’s disappearance.
“I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to mess up the case, “ said Philips
Early in the investigation, a chilling video of a postal worker thought to be Kierra Coles surfaced. The Oct. 3 video captured at 11:45 a.m. from a neighbor’s surveillance camera showed what many believed at the time to be Kierra dressed in her postal uniform walking past her parked car in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood.
“A woman calls down to me and says her husband has video,” said NBC Chicago’s Regina Waldroup, who at the time was in the neighborhood knocking on doors and looking for leads. “He’s saying, 'There she is walking down the street. You see her and she’s in her postal uniform and that’s her. That’s her!'"
Waldroup said that everyone covering the story thought this was going to be the big break in the case.
“I’m thinking she’s walked into somebody’s car, so with all the video that they took off the blocks, that we would be able to see exactly what car she got into,” Waldroup said.
A still frame of the video went on Kierra's missing posters, and the video aired nationwide.
A Break in the Case?
At the time, Karen Philips was at home watching the video again and again on her cell phone. She went to bed that night thinking something about the video was off.
“It’s a mother thing. You just know your child,” said Philips. “That’s not her walk. She was a little bit smaller and a little bit shorter.”
The next day, Philips said she went down to the Chicago police station to talk with detectives about her concerns that it wasn’t her daughter on the video after all. Philips said that Chicago detectives told her that wasn’t her daughter on the video.
“He says don’t tell anybody that’s not your daughter,” said Philips, noting that the video was of another woman who lived down the street and worked at the post office.
Philips admitted she remained quiet for years, not saying a word about the video, saying, “Now, I have nothing to lose. I mean, it’s been two years, and you [investigators] have came up with nothing.”
Postal inspectors who are the lead agency in the Coles case would not confirm that the video is of another postal employee but did tell NBC 5 Investigates that they have a timeline of Kierra’s whereabouts the night of Oct. 2 before she went missing.
Two More Videos Emerge the Night Kierra Disappeared
Philips told NBC 5 Investigates that another Chatham neighbor showed her a video of Kierra and her boyfriend, Josh Simmons, a fellow postal employee, leaving her apartment in separate cars the Tuesday night Kierra disappeared. The video was turned over to police.
Philips also disclosed that after leaving Kierra’s apartment, Chicago police detectives told her that the couple then went to an ATM nearby where video captured Kierra taking out $400 from her banking account and handing it over to her boyfriend.
Chicago Police declined our request for an interview and would not confirm or deny the information. Our Freedom of Information request for police records on the Coles investigation was denied. Police have not named any suspects or persons of interest, including Josh Simmons. NBC 5 Investigates found no criminal history in his past.
The Father of Kierra’s Baby
Philips said that Simmons was the father of Kierra’s baby. They had dated for about six years, but he also had other children with another woman who Philips said Kierra did not get along with.
"She had a fight with the other baby’s mother, and she was banned from coming to the house," said Philips.
However, Philips said she thought Simmons was a decent man who was good for her daughter.
“He just had manners, never raised his voice. I always gave him the benefit of the doubt," said Philips. But two years later, she said, "that makes me question a lot."
Philips especially questioned Simmons' behavior at the time of the search, saying that Simmons didn’t help pass out fliers, stopped talking to her and moved to another state with the other woman. NBC 5 Investigates found Simmons at an address in Louisiana, but he did not respond to letters that were set there. Again, police have not named Simmons or anyone else as a suspect in the case.
“I can’t understand. You dated my daughter for six years, “ said Philips. “I took you to be a decent guy, you work and go to church, and now my daughter is pregnant and missing and you do nothing.”
Philips said if she could say anything to Simmons it would be to ask him, “why don’t you come back and talk to police.”
Chicago Police released a statement saying: “The Coles case remains a high-risk missing person investigation with potential foul play suspected. At this point, anyone with knowledge of her last 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.”
The U.S. Chicago Division of Postal Inspectors also issued a statement, writing: “Postal Inspectors have tracked down and vetted nearly 400 leads across the country. We cannot begin to imagine the level of pain grief, and frustration felt by Ms. Coles’ family, friends, and community.” The Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward of $25,000 for information leading to Ms. Coles’ whereabouts and are asking people to call the hotline at 877-876-2455 and refer to case number 2693502. All callers with remain confidential. WWW.twittercom/USPIS_chi.