Sheriff’s office planning first full-scale search for man

Jacob Hilkin was last seen at a homeless camp. Several attempts to find him proved fruitless.

Jacob Hilkin

Jacob Hilkin

EVERETT — Two months have passed since Jacob Hilkin last kissed his mom goodnight and told her he loved her.

Marni Pierce has moved her son’s things out of the house he rented in Mukilteo, and taken them to the home he grew up in south of Everett. She wants her son’s old room to be ready for him when he’s found.

On Sunday, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will hold its first full-scale search for Hilkin, 24, in 700 acres of woods near the Quil Ceda Creek Casino.

The large volunteer search parties each weekend have dwindled to Pierce and a few close friends. They have retraced Hilkin’s steps many times. He came over to her house Jan. 22. He’d lost his job, and wanted to use the internet to find work. They talked into the night.

“He was in good spirits, and 100 percent himself,” Pierce said.

Around midnight he caught a ride with two friends to the casino on the Tulalip Reservation. He left behind his car, his Xbox, his music gear and $90 cash. According to what Pierce has gathered, one of his friends lost a lot of money gambling, and didn’t want to leave. The three friends stayed. Hilkin’s phone died around 4 a.m. A fight in the parking lot led security to kick out Hilkin and another friend. Hilkin told the friend he would catch a bus home.

A woman later reported Hilkin walked into a homeless camp by the casino. She told searchers Hilkin tried to buy heroin. He was alone minutes later when he ran into a Tulalip police officer who was checking camps, according to the sheriff’s office. He showed his ID, and told the officer he’d catch a bus to his mom’s house. Hilkin walked south on 27th Avenue NE toward a bus stop. There’s no evidence he boarded a bus. He hasn’t been seen or heard from since 10:20 a.m. Jan. 23, and no physical trace of him — phone, wallet, ID, his Prada eyeglasses or dark Vans shoes — has been found.

Social media and bank accounts have sat dormant. His parents still call his phone each day, and about a month ago, the message changed. Now instead of saying the phone isn’t connected, the message says the voice mail box hasn’t been set up. Pierce checked with AT&T: That suggests the phone is powered up. But police told her they can’t ping the phone to get its location, because they don’t have evidence that he’s the victim of a crime.

Other seeming breakthroughs have met dead ends, too. This week a podcast, The Vanished, featured an interview with Pierce. She listed a series of possible sightings. Later, deputies told her they’d ruled them all out.

The weight of not knowing has been crushing.

“It’s not something that can really be put into words adequately,” Pierce said. “It’s all you can think about.”

Hilkin, a graduate of Glacier Peak High School, walked his mother down the aisle at her wedding four years ago. Around then, she recalled writing him a note: “I don’t tell you enough how much I love you, and you’re, like, the best kid ever, and I’ll always be here for you.” He tacked it up on his bedroom door, and it’s still there, Pierce said. At age 24, he still called her “Mama.”

He fell into heroin addiction in his 20s. A year ago he went through rehab. He moved to a house with friends and found a job. He started showing up late to work. A week before he went missing, he was fired. When his mother cleaned out his room, she saw signs of a relapse. She doesn’t think he was using again for long. He hadn’t lost weight, like before. He seemed clear-eyed and lucid. It created new questions. If he went on a bender, why leave his cash and Xbox? Why not return for those things? Detectives haven’t found answers.

“They’re looking for tips, and anything from the community,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Courtney O’Keefe said. “Anything — when people talked to him, heard from him, interacted with him, possible sightings, because at this point, we’re not sure.”

Tips can be directed to the sheriff’s office at 425-388-3845. Hilkin is 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Pierce’s pleas for help have been shared 90,000 times on social media. Updates are posted to a Facebook page, “Find Jacob Hilkin.”

“Somebody knows something,” Pierce said. “That’s the thing I’ve said over and over, and all of our family says.”

People have asked how she has stayed strong.

“Nobody told me I have a choice,” she said.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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