By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
EVERETT — For Sarah Collins, a recent search for her daughter’s body was a day filled with dread and gratitude.
The Everett woman feared what might be found in the heavily-wooded Seattle greenbelt.
At the same time, she felt profoundly thankful that so many people would volunteer to search for someone they had never met. Her daughter Kelsey Collins disappeared in 2009.
“I will tell you that Sunday was emotionally traumatic, but I was also overwhelmed by the turnout,” she said in an email.
Acting on a tip, Seattle police and King County Search and Rescue volunteers on Nov. 18 scoured an area near the Jefferson Park Golf Course in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Nothing was found.
They were looking for Kelsey, an impressionable, troubled teen with learning disabilities that caused her to struggle in school. She had been lured into the world of sex trafficking but had been trying to make a fresh start.
The former Mariner High School student turned 18 shortly before she left their south Everett condominium to catch a bus the day before Mother’s Day in 2009. She was off to visit her boyfriend. She didn’t take anything with her and never came home. Her boyfriend said she never arrived.
Authorities believe her past could have played a role in her disappearance.
Her testimony before a grand jury led to a sex trafficking indictment against a man who allegedly drove her from Seattle to Portland, Ore. She told her mother she was going to Olympia for the weekend to hang out with a friend, but instead was selling her body.
When Kelsey Collins vanished, a federal case against the man, Donnico T. Johnson, fell apart before it got to trial.
Even so, Johnson was later convicted of sex trafficking charges involving a 15-year-old girl. He is serving nearly 15 years in federal prison.
Seattle detectives have not released much information about the case because it is under investigation.
“This was specific information that we were following up on that pointed to that specific area,” Seattle Detective Mark Jamieson said.
About 40 police and search and rescue volunteers spent between seven and eight hours on the search. Roughly 10 dogs were used.
Sarah Collins, a genetics researcher, said she doesn’t know much about what led to the search.
“I just know it was a tip,” she said. “I don’t know where it came from.”
She’s grateful people are continuing to try to solve her daughter’s disappearance.
“Except for a few of the police, they’ve never met Kelsey and my family, and they volunteered their time and energy to try to bring some closure to us,” she said. “I can’t say thank you enough.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.