Akia Eggleston's family: "The arrest is a start, but the fight for justice is far from over."
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.
DEVELOPING: Arrest made in Akia Eggleston case, pregnant woman who vanished in Baltimore in 2017
Almost five years after 22-year-old Akia Eggleston vanished, her suspected killer is now in custody.
Akia was eight months pregnant when she disappeared in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 3, 2017.
U.S. Marshals arrested Michael Andre Robertson the alleged father of Akia's unborn son. He's facing two counts of first-degree murder for the death of Akia and her baby.
Robertson was arrested in Muskegon, Michigan yesterday. His bond is set at $200,000, according to the Muskegon County Sheriff's website.
Akia's family reported her missing when she didn't show up to her baby shower on May 7.
At a news conference today, Baltimore City State's Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, said investigators focused on Robertson from the start. He was questioned by police several times before moving with the mother of two of his children to Michigan in October 2017.
Even though Akia and her son have not been found, investigators said they relied on interviews, financial records, phone records, and social media messages to build a solid timeline of the case.
Robertson is awaiting proceedings to determine whether he'll be extradited to Maryland to face charges. It's not clear if any other arrests are pending in connection with this case.
"We know Janteyl is still out there," says sister of missing Delaware teen on 12 year anniversary of her disappearance
Funny, feisty, and full of love for her family is how Janel Kirby-Brinson describes her little sister, Janteyl Johnson.
"Janteyl is a beautiful soul. She is the type of person that, if you meet her, you will remember her," Janel, 35, told me during an interview at her North Philadelphia home.
Janteyl, affectionally known as Puff because of her puffy cheeks when she was a baby, was a typical teenager who enjoyed singing, dancing, and playing pranks on her siblings. She also ran track with her brother, loved to do hair, and was a big fan of Betty Boop.
“If you know Janteyl, you know she does not go anywhere without her Betty Boop pocketbook," Janel said.
Soft-spoken and shy, Janel, a mother of four, finds it hard to talk about Janteyl's disappearance 12 years ago, and says it's like pouring salt on an open wound.
“It hurts. I know for me, it plays a lot with my anxiety. It can really put me in a bad state of mind.”
Janel was 23 and had two kids, a girl and a boy, when Janteyl, then 15 and five months pregnant, vanished from her apartment in Newark, Delaware, on the afternoon of Feb. 3, 2010.
"Puff and my son were very close. He adored her! When she went missing, my son and daughter would sleep with her picture on their pillows."
Both, now teenagers, still ask about their aunt Puff.
“My son asked me one time, 'Is she dead? Where is she?' I told him, 'Don't ever say that because she’s not. We don't know yet. We’re still looking,'" Janel explained, fighting back the tears.
The sisters had a special bond. Janteyl confided in Janel and asked if she would take her to the doctor to
take a pregnancy test. When they got the positive results, the sisters broke the news, first to their mother and then to the rest of the family.
"Of course, there was disappointment because she got pregnant young. That would be disappointing for any family if their child got pregnant young," Janel said. "But when she went missing, there was no argument in the family. Everyone came to accept it [the pregnancy]. What can you do at this point? There was no getting rid of it; therefore, it was, okay, let's move forward.”
The family turned their attention to the alleged father of Janteyl's unborn child and were stunned to learn that he was a 27-year-old man who reportedly lied to Janteyl about his age when he met her.
“She told me that he said he was much younger, closer to her age, and I asked her, 'Does he know about the baby?' She said, 'Yes,' " Janel recalls.
Janteyl reportedly met the alleged father of her child in the Wilmington, Delaware, neighborhood where she and her family lived before moving to Newark in 2010. According to Janel, the 27-year-old panicked when Janteyl told him she was pregnant.
"She said he wanted her to get an abortion. He wanted her to get rid of the baby because if it came out [about his age], it's automatic lockup for him," Janel said.
Feb. 3, 2010
The last incoming call to Janteyl's phone was at 1:38 p.m. the day she disappeared, New Castle County police confirm. Janel believes the call was from the baby's father, but the police have not publicly confirmed that information or revealed his identity. According to investigators, citing Janteyl's phone records, not long after that last incoming call, Janteyl stopped answering her phone. Hours later, her phone, according to Janel, pinged near the home of one of the man's relatives. The pregnant teenager was never seen or heard from again.
"I believe he called her and said he wanted to talk to her about the baby, and it was his way of getting her in the car, and his way of going on with his plan…whatever his plan was. But I do not think his plan was for her to return,” Janel said.
Who else was Janteyl communicating with?
Janteyl's case is complicated. Unbeknownst to her family, in addition to the alleged father of her child, Janteyl was also communicating by phone with two other much older men the day she vanished, New Castle County police confirm. But because no one at the apartment complex saw her talking to or arguing with anyone or getting in a car, there is no concrete evidence that makes clear what happened to Janteyl when she walked out of the apartment. According to New Castle County police, of the three men Janteyl was in contact with that day, only one has met with investigators. The other two, including the alleged father of her child, have not been cooperative with the investigation then or now.
“I can't call him a man because a man would not do those things," Janel said. "It gives you a sense of anger because how dare you take my sister's joy, life, future, and freedom while you still get to live your life?” Janel said.
She also has strong words for the other men who were contacting Janteyl.
"Why were you even talking to a 15-year-old child? You need to explain that! What could you possibly have in common with her? She was a child!"
Janteyl's family has not given up hope. They believe that Janteyl is still out there, and that it's a matter of time before she's found.
"I know she's still with us. I know she is. If you know something about my sister please come forward, " Janel said.
Investigators have not publicly identified any of the men Janteyl was talking to and have not named any suspects in her disappearance. Who are those men, and where are they now? I've tracked down two of them.
More to come...
If you have any information regarding Janteyl Johnson's case, please contact Det. Roberto Herrera of the New Castle County Police at: 302- 395-2784 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333
Claudia Rivero Investigative Reporter/Producer