When his home phone rang the afternoon of Feb. 2, Shawn Wilkinson wasn't sure what to do.
"We get this call out of the blue, so I almost didn't answer it because we never use the landline," Wilkinson said.
On the other end of the line was Kurt Bjorklund, Assistant State's Attorney for Baltimore City.
"He asked me, 'Are you sitting down? There's been an arrest. Michael Robertson is in custody in Muskegon, Michigan.'"
Although he'd been waiting for that call for nearly five years, Wilkinson felt a rollercoaster of emotions.
"It was a combination of tears of joy and tears of sadness," he said.
Joy because it's the beginning of a long journey toward justice for his stepdaughter, Akia Eggleston, who was eight months pregnant when she vanished on May 3, 2017, four days before her baby shower. Sadness because Akia, then 22, and her son are still missing and presumed dead.
"Today is a win. We won this round, but there are many more rounds to go."
Who's Michael Robertson?
At a Feb. 3 news conference, Baltimore City State's Attorney, Marylin Mosby, said investigators focused on Michael Andre Robertson, the alleged father of Akia's unborn son, from the start. He, too, was supposed to be at her baby shower on May 7 but never showed up.
Robertson, now 41, is no stranger to Akia's family and friends. Wilkinson has known him since they were kids. Robertson is also the cousin of Ciara Diaz, Akia's close friend and the first person I interviewed when I started covering the case.
In 2017, Diaz told me she knew the pair were dating but that Akia wanted to keep it private. Robertson already had a girlfriend, and they had two kids, the youngest born in August 2016. Diaz described Akia as generous and kind, even allowing the couple to stay at her home in the Cherry Hill section of South Baltimore. But she said the tension between the two women escalated.
"She sent Akia messages threatening her. I saw them. Akia sent them to me," Diaz said.
Late last year, I interviewed Akia's aunt, Sanobia Wilson who said her niece confided in her about the relationship with Robertson. Although she was disappointed, Wilson said she stood by Akia and hoped Robertson would do the right thing for the baby.
Robertson was not some random person Akia met online or at a club. They had known each other for years. His mother used to babysit Akia when she was a child.
Akia's last days
According to the charging documents, using interviews, financial records, telephone records, and social media communications, investigators believe "the only person with the motive, means, and opportunity to murder Akia was the purported father of her unborn son, Michael Robertson."
Investigators allege Robertson duped Akia into believing he wanted them to live together and convinced her to withdraw cash and purchase money orders to cover the deposit for an apartment he had found. It was all a lie.
May 1, 2017
On May 1, Eggleston sent a message to a friend via Facebook telling her she was putting down a deposit on a new place.
May 2, 2017
On May 2, Robertson sent Akia pictures of the interior of an apartment/townhouse via Facebook. That afternoon Akia purchased two money orders totaling $450 using money she withdrew from her savings account. According to the charging documents, Akia messaged Robertson on Facebook, writing, "I called u I got the money order."
That evening, Robertson and his girlfriend, identified as Hali Pomeroy, then 22, had a volatile argument after Akia posted a picture of her sonogram on social media.
May 3, 2017
Akia is seen on surveillance video at 12:52 p.m. depositing the money orders at a BB&T bank in downtown Baltimore. At 5:22 p.m. she sent her friend an invite to her baby shower via Facebook. According to investigators, "that was the last outgoing communication sent by Akia to anyone." She was never seen or heard from again.
Robertson was questioned multiple times before moving to Muskegon, Michigan, with Pomeroy and their children in October 2017. He allegedly told police he last saw Akia two days before she disappeared, but according to cell phone records, Robertson and Akia communicated by phone and text messages on May 3. According to investigators, cell phone data also places Robertson near Akia's apartment the evening of May 3.
What happened to Akia?
Charging documents reveal that on Oct. 17, 2017, multiple searches were done from a Google account linked to Robertson, including "where does Baltimore city trash go when picked up," "Baltimore City dumpster pickup," and "Baltimore City landfill," indicating what may have happened to Akia's remains. The searches took place a few days after a local news station aired a piece about Akia's disappearance.
Investigators determined trash from the dumpsters, located approximately 30 feet from Akia's front door, was picked up several times a week and transported to a landfill in Northern Virginia. Engineers told investigators safety regulations due to hazardous gases prevent the landfill from digging more than four feet down.
Maryland court records show an arrest warrant was issued for Robertson on January 31, and U.S. Marshals took him into custody in Muskegon, Michigan, on Feb. 2. He's been extradited back to Maryland to face two counts of first-degree murder, and if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
"Please pray for us"
Akia's family members spoke at the Feb. 3 news conference. A heartbroken Sanobia Wilson said she always suspected Robertson had done something to Akia. She also believes he didn't act alone. (As of this writing, Robertson is the only suspect.)
In October, Wilson told me she had recently received a tip about Robertson, and although Wilson didn't go into detail, she did give the information to the FBI and the Baltimore Police. It's not clear if that tip is what finally led to Robertson's arrest.
During our interview, Wilson also expressed anger and frustration at what she says was a lack of urgency given to her niece's case when they first reported her missing to Baltimore Police.
"We were not taken seriously," Wilson said. "Her case was just thrown to the side like she was a runaway."
One thing that stands out in the charging documents is that Akia was reported missing on May 7, 2017, but Baltimore Police didn't go to her house until May 9. It's not clear why they waited two days, given that Akia was pregnant, didn't show up to her baby shower, and didn't contact anyone in her family. Wilson says they were left to search for Akia, on their own, without any help from the police.
Wilson plans to fight for legislation to change the way police handle cases involving missing pregnant women. She would like to see something similar to an Amber Alert.
"I even reached out to some member of Congress who has not gotten back to me to try to set up an alert in her name an 'Akia Alert' for every pregnant missing woman who has a baby that they would deliver and has gone missing," Wilson said.
Shawn Wilkinson, Akia's stepfather, called me early Feb. 3 to tell me about the arrest. He still finds it hard to accept that Akia and her baby are presumed dead.
"I'm angry and devastated because losing a loved one is bad enough, but not knowing where Akia is, is unbearable," he said.
It's also overwhelming for Akia's younger siblings. Their mom passed away from cancer several years ago, and now their sister and nephew are gone.
After the news conference, Qureyin Wilkinson, told me the hardest part for him was when investigators described what they believe happened to his sister.
"To hear that he dumped my sister in the trash, and that she's in a landfill is so hard. How can anyone do that?"
Family members thanked everyone who over the years helped keep Akia's story in the public eye.
"Without everyone's help, we may not be here. Had we not kept her name out there she would've remained a cold case, another statistic," Wilkinson said. "The arrest is a start. It's a new chapter, but we got a long road ahead."
Below is the full affidavit. Source: Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.
Claudia Rivero Reporter and Producer