Missing Girl's Mother Is Grateful For Police Help

Two weeks after her 2-year-old daughter's disappearance from a Tacoma bowling alley, Theresa English said yesterday that she is grateful that more than 20 law-enforcement officers still are assigned to the search.

"The community, the police, the FBI, the profilers have all been trying to find out what's happened and we appreciate it," English said. "They've been working hard on it."

Officials from the Tacoma Police Department, FBI and Pierce County Sheriff's Department are working on the case; the tip hotline is still open (more than 500 calls have been received); Teekah Lewis' disappearance was featured for a second time on the TV program "America's Most Wanted;" and her picture is posted on the Internet site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The efforts don't stop there: Community volunteers still are distributing photos of the toddler; candlelight vigils have been held; and people still are offering the family condolences and support, English said.

"As long as the child is missing the case will be open, but they do shut down the hotline if the tips stop coming, they run out of leads and the case starts to grow cold," said sheriff's Lt. Thomas Miner.

Cases often are cold within a month, Miner said.

Teekah last was seen by her family Jan. 23 at the New Frontier Entertainment Center. Her relatives said they last saw her playing at a video game about 6 feet from an exit door around 10:30 p.m. English said that she took her eyes off Teekah for just a moment to watch her brother bowl and that when she turned back, Teekah was gone.

More than 200 searchers and 10 tracking dogs spent that night and the next morning combing through hills around the bowling alley.

By midafternooon the day after her disappearance, police believed Teekah was abducted. And after polygraph tests later cleared some family members of any involvement in the case, police believed she was abducted by a stranger.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, stranger abductions are rare. Most involve noncustodial family members.

Of the more than 354,000 children reported abducted or missing annually, only an estimated 4,000 are committed by someone outside the family, such a neighbor, baby sitter or coach. Of those 4,000, only 200 to 300 are committed by strangers.

English thinks her daughter is still alive. "We're always hoping and praying, and until we know otherwise we hold onto those last vestiges of hope."

"I believe my daughter is still alive and that she's out there somewhere and that the person who has her doesn't want to give her back," English said. "I'll never give up hope."

Christine Clarridge's phone message number is 206-464-8983. Her e-mail address is cclarridge@seattletimes.com