TACOMA - Fearing the worst for a missing toddler, police began going door to door today, and searching through databases, looking for known predators and sex offenders who prey on tiny children.
The 2-year-old girl, Teekah Lewis, was still missing this morning despite an all-day search yesterday involving hundreds of volunteers, police, tracking dogs and a psychic.
Though they combed the brush surrounding the bowling alley where the child was last seen Saturday night, the searchers found no clues, and police said they were refocusing their search today from a rescue operation to a criminal investigation.
"We'll be looking at anyone who has a history of preying on children," said Lt. Jim Howatson of the Tacoma Police Department. "We'll be going door to door looking for somebody who saw something and we'll be talking to the bowling-alley employees. There's a lot to do this morning."
Ed Baker, a public-information officer for the department, said police also were checking with businesses in the area that have surveillance cameras, hoping one of them may have inadvertently recorded the abductor and child on film.
Teekah was reported missing at 10:30 p.m. from New Frontier Lanes at 4702 S. Center St.
Her mother, Theresa English, 27, said she had turned her head away for just a moment and then discovered her daughter was gone.
"We don't know the circumstances," said Howatson. "She could have gotten into a car to get warm and been driven away
unintentionally, or she could have been taken, but it appears she did not walk away on her own. We are expanding our investigation beyond the search area."
Baker said it was league night at the bowling alley and police are also hoping that bowlers may have brought video cameras to record the competition. Police want to speak with anyone who was at the bowling alley Saturday night, and are asking patrons to call officers at 253-591-5649.
English described her daughter as shy and clingy. "She wouldn't go outside on her own. She's a momma's girl. She sleeps with me and her blankie, and if I'm not there, she's crying, and if she doesn't have her blankie, she's crying."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in the case, a standard procedure when young children disappear, Howatson said.
This morning, a 22-member task force of FBI agents, Tacoma police detectives and detectives from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department met with the girl's mother and grandmother.
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children also joined the search yesterday.
"It's extremely rare to find absolutely no clues after a search this exhaustive," Howatson said. "We've searched with helicopters and infrared, with bloodhounds and German shepherds . . . and we think, if she was here, they would have found her."
Grant L. Smith of Explorer Search and Rescue said "the police don't seem to think the family is involved in anything suspicious and that's usually the first thing they look for."
Teekah's biological father, estranged from English, is in prison at McNeil Island, police said.
Police set up temporary headquarters for the search-and-rescue effort in a metal building at a landfill and recycling center behind the bowling alley. Teekah's family gathered there yesterday afternoon and again this morning, waiting for any news.
English said Teekah is half African American and half Native American, 3 feet tall and 35 pounds, with brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a green sweat shirt with a "Tweety Bird" design, white sweat pants and Nike "Air Jordan"-brand shoes. Her black hair was in ponytails. On Saturday night, Teekah was at the bowling alley with her mother, her mother's boyfriend, her 10-month-old sister and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins.
English said Teekah was playing near some arcade games when she looked away for a moment while one of her brothers bowled his turn. When she turned back around, her little girl was gone.
The family began searching the building, the parking lot and the steep, weed-covered hills surrounding the lot. They notified the police officer on duty at the bowling alley and an announcement was made over the facility's loudspeaker. People inside began to help and the officer and a couple of Teekah's uncles went out to the parking lot to monitor leaving cars.
"We looked in the back seats and in the trunks," said the girl's uncle, Ernest Czapiewski.
Czapiewski and his girlfriend, Tamura Keeton, said they frequent the bowling alley.
Howatson said there are no suspects at this time.
Christine Clarridge's phone message number is 206-464-8983. Her e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org ------------------------------- If you have information
Anyone with information on Teekah Lewis' disappearance is urged to call a 24-hour police tip line: 253-591-5649.