Homicide Detective Lt. Will Svilar has studied every minute of the day 26-year-old Kierra Coles was last seen.
He agreed to speak to NBC 5 Investigates for the first time about Coles' activities before she disappeared as well as new details that have emerged in the case.
“She’s living a great life. She’s going to have a baby. She’s gainfully employed,” said Svilar. “She is an upstanding citizen who was living a nice life who all of a sudden disappears.”
U.S. Postal worker Coles last spoke with her mother on the afternoon of Oct. 2, 2018 while shopping for baby supplies.
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“She was just so excited," said her mother Karen Philips. “She didn’t even know what to get.”
There were no signs that anything was wrong, Philips added.
A recently released police video timeline shows Coles carrying her groceries into her apartment building on the 8100 block of South Vernon. That evening, Svilar said surveillance video shows Coles left in her car with a man, police are now referring to as a person of interest.
Coles was seen driving the car. They went to a 24-hour Walgreens at 8600 S Cottage Grove and security cameras inside the store showed Coles withdrawing hundreds of dollars from an ATM machine.
Coles' mom said this was very unusual, especially because it was 10:43 p.m.
“I didn’t understand why she would be taking $400 out because she’s really cautious with spending, “ Philips said.
That would be the last time Coles was ever seen alive.
Chicago police say the evidence shows a man drove her car back to the neighborhood alone and parked down the street before 11:45 p.m. that same night and got out on the passenger side of the car.
“I can only speculate,” said Svilar on why the driver exited the passenger side of the car. “It’s not like you’re opening a car (door) in traffic. My speculation is he’s staging the seat.”
Perhaps the man was sliding the driver’s seat forward by hand to make it look like Coles had been driving. Police said the video then shows the man walking to another car parked nearby and driving away in his own vehicle.
Coles' case is still officially listed as a missing persons case. Svilar has worked hundreds of homicide cases since 1998.
Svilar reviewed the timeline of the video that night and said he believes whatever happened to Coles was over in less than an hour.
“I think the last time we see Kierra; she is unfortunately not alive much longer after that,” said Svilar.
However, Svilar emphasized that Coles could be alive, “there’s always a chance that she did go somewhere else.”
As for the person of interest, police said he returned to Coles' apartment alone the next morning and left with some items in hand.
“This person we’re referring to is not a stranger, “ Svilar said. “The person has accessed all the time. Is it unusual? No, but in the totality of what happened the night before, yeah that’s a big deal.”
Chicago police have not named the person of interest, but Philips said he is Josh Simmons, Coles' boyfriend and the presumed father of her unborn child. NBC 5 Investigates found no criminal history in his past.
Coles' mom reported her daughter missing the night after the ATM withdrawal and said she was there with Simmons as police searched Coles' apartment.
She also said that Simmons told her he hadn’t seen Coles.
“He said he hadn’t seen her, but he’d been talking to her, which I found out that was a lie,” said Philips.
“He gave us some conflicting accounts," Svilar said when Simmons was interviewed by police. “Wasn’t consistent on some of the statements and then didn’t want to talk to us.”
Simmons soon moved out of state with the mother of some of his children. He did not respond to our written requests for comment mailed to his last known address.
Philips wants Simmons to come forward.
“I want to say, 'I know you know something. You know what happened. You don’t know the pain that I feel not knowing what’s going on with my child. I wish you would come forward and tell us what really happened to her,'” Philips said.
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Coles is asked to contact Chicago police at (833) 408-0069 or (312) 746-7330 or online at CPDtip.com