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Davenport lost a daughter: Remembering the search for Breasia Terrell

Davenport lost a daughter: Remembering the search for Breasia Terrell

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Questions.

People all across the Quad-Cities have been haunted by unanswered questions — from the moment the Davenport Police and the public learned of Breasia Terrell's disappearance to the somber press briefing where Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski choked back emotions and confirmed the lost girl's body was found in a pond outside DeWitt.

In the absence of answers, speculation, rumor and innuendo grew almost as fast as the hope of finding Breasia safe dwindled. As investigators from the Davenport police and Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation piece together narrative in the attempt to determine how and why Breasia ended up in a little pond in rural Clinton County, before they name an alleged perpetrator, the story of the last nine months can be assembled.

Days of worry and searching

Breasia Terrell disappeared late Thursday, July 9 or in the early morning hours of July 10. Within hours Davenport Police officers and investigators assembled search teams at Credit Island. The search included the lagoon area. Volunteers in groups of all sizes scoured the woods and high grass after the police left Credit Island. One woman said a physic told her to search near the lagoon. Another said she came to search the high grasses because she wanted to show Breasia's mother, Aishia Lankford, that the community supported her during the dark days of not knowing what happened to her daughter.

Four days after Breasia was reported missing the Davenport Police named Henry Dinkins a person of interest in Breasia's disappearance. The father of Breasia's brother, Dinkins was originally taken into custody on unrelated sex offender charges. Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski asked the public about Dinkins' whereabouts in the Quad-Cities from 10 p.m. Thursday, July 9 to noon Friday, July 10.

Two days after the news about Dinkins, on July 16, the six-day-old search moved to Clinton County. Davenport Police Maj. Jeff Bladel held a news briefing from the Clinton County Law Center that morning and said the move was made after investigators developed credible information suggesting Breasia was in the mostly rural county.

Searchers from an array of law enforcement agencies were joined by dozens of volunteers. Groups could seen searching the ditches along U.S. Route 61. Others walked through rows of corn and combed tall grass.

The search was close to the place Breasia was found. After the little girl was located in or near the pond outside DeWitt, Sikorski said he couldn't comment if the area was searched.

Lankford speaks, focus sharpens on Dinkins

On Aug. 8 Lankford attended the Moore Divahs Dare 2/B Me Fashion Show at the Golden Leaf Banquet and Convention Center, Davenport, where a tribute to her missing daughter was part of the event.

Lankford said she wrote four letters to Henry Dinkins while he was held in Scott County Jail on a felony sex-offender registration violation.

Lankford once again confirmed her narrative — Breasia went to spend the night with Dinkins and her brother and the little girl disappeared.

“They keep giving (Dinkins) chance after chance to talk,” Lankford said, adding she was slated to meet with the FBI, whose agents were working the case along with Davenport police.

She said Davenport investigators told her “they want to make sure they’re charging him with the proper things.” Once charges are in place, “They can’t go back and do it over.”

Five days later Lankford's words proved prophetic as Scott County prosecutors added two more sex offender registration violations against Henry Earl Dinkins. In court documents prosecutors said they planned to seek enhanced sentencing under the habitual offender code.

Dinkins was now charged with three counts of sex offender registration violations. He entered a plea of not guilty and demanded a speedy trial. He has not been charged with Breasia’s disappearance.

He was charged with the first count sex offender registration violation not long after his arrest June 10. The charge alleges Dinkins failed to notify the Scott County Sheriff's Office within five business days of a change in residence or failing to disclose multiple residences.

The first of the two new charges alleges Dinkins failed to notify the Scott County Sheriff’s Office of his use of a Chevrolet Camaro.

The third count charges Dinkins with failing to notify the sheriff’s office of his use of a 2007 Chevrolet Impala.

Each of the charges is a Class D felony that carries a prison sentence of five years.

Along with the charges, Davenport Police sought the public's information about three vehicles Dinkins is associated with — a 2007 Maroon Chevy Impala, 2012 Black Chevy Camaro and a 1980s Kings Highway motorhome — from late July 9 to noon July 10. All are now impounded and in the possession of investigators.

Prosecutors pointed to Dinkins' felony convictions in Scott County Court on Aug. 23, 1990, Jan. 1, 1995, May 28, 2004, Sept. 22, 2011, and Oct. 17, 2019, as support for the decision to seek habitual offender sentencing.

Dinkins is a registered sex offender because in 1990, when he was 18, he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The offense took place when he was 17.

Investigators made it clear they believed Dinkins was one of the last people to see Breasia.

On Aug. 29, Dinkins was moved to the Clinton facility on Friday because of overcrowding in the Scott County facility, a correctional officer said, a statement at odds with the fact the jail population was reduced due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Davenport Police say human remains found near DeWitt earlier this month are those of Breasia Terrell. The then 10-year-old went missing from Davenport late July 9 or early July 10, launching a massive search effort that spanned several counties.

The struggle to remember Breasia

The morning of Saturday, Nov. 13 was cold and a light rain fell. That didn't stop members of Breasia's family from gathering in the parking lot of Jersey Meadows Apartments in the 2700 block of East 53rd Street in Davenport.

A group of about 25 walked up and down East 53rd to remind people that a little girl was still lost.

"It's been hard — harder than most people could imagine. Being without Breasia is just as hard now as it was when this happened," Lankford said. "People ask me questions. People want answers. And a lot of people have their own ideas."

On Dec. 13 — Breasia's 11th birthday — the FBI asked the public for any information on the girl's disappearance. The FBI field office in Omaha, Nebraska, posted a plea on its Twitter page.

"Today is her 11th birthday," the agency tweeted. The FBI says an award of more than $10,000 is being offered for information on the girl's whereabouts.

Another long period of silence followed.

It was early March when Breasia was featured on a one-hour special on Investigation Discovery titled "In Pursuit: The Missing."

Callahan Walsh headlined the special, which started streaming on Discovery+ on Sunday, March 7, and premiered on Investigation Discovery on Monday, March 8.

The end of the search

One of the fishermen who found Breasia on the evening of Monday, March 22 said the experience "was still pretty sad" and he didn't know "how to talk about the whole thing right now."

Others struggled, too.

"What do you say to a mother whose daughter was missing for what seemed like forever and then is found in some isolated place like this?" asked a woman who said she wanted to leave flowers for Breasia near the pond and "wanted time to just think about life."

The end of the search only answered the question of where Breasia was while she was missing.

Sikorski promised more answers.

"The people investigating Breasia's disappearance have worked tirelessly — and that effort will not stop," Sikorski said. "This is just the beginning. We will have answers to the questions people have.

"We just need time."

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