|Cold case investigation to focus on disappearance
|Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012 9:06 pm
By CHRIS MENEES
Marlena Childress has been gone for 25 years, but she’s not forgotten.
A cold case investigation focusing on Marlena’s disappearance is forthcoming, according to a Union City police investigator.
There are many resources available today which weren’t available when a 4-year-old Marlena disappeared from her home on North Division Street in Union City a quarter-century ago.
The little girl’s disappearance remains a mystery and the case has taken many unusual twists and turns in the years since her disappearance.
The initial report of her disappearance on April 16, 1987, launched a massive search involving local, state and federal agencies and hundreds of volunteers from the community. Flyers with the missing girl’s photo were distributed throughout the area and a huge yellow ribbon adorned a tree in the front yard of her home as the community hoped and prayed for her safe return.
The case took a tragic twist, though, on June 8, 1987, when Marlena’s then 22-year-old mother, Pam Bailey, confessed to having accidentally killed her daughter. She told police she dumped the child’s body in the Obion River, but a body was never found and Ms. Bailey recanted her confession a short time later, claiming it was made under duress.
Marlena’s mother was initially charged with second-degree murder, a charge which was later reduced to manslaughter and then eventually dismissed entirely.
Yet another bizarre twist came a decade ago when Ms. Bailey was charged with assaulting her young son in Kentucky. On the 20th anniversary of Marlena’s disappearance in April 2007, Ms. Bailey was serving out the remaining days of a second-degree assault sentence at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in connection with the April 22, 2002, stabbing of her then 12-year-old son, Casey, at a cemetery in Graves County, Ky.
25 years later
Today, Union City police believe Ms. Bailey, now 47, is in the Marshall County area of Kentucky following her release from prison, but they haven’t been able to make contact with her in recent years.
Union City Police Department investigator Lt. Andy Gibson said he met with Marlena’s father, Kevin Childress of Martin, about a month ago. He said police now have comparison DNA which has been submitted to a national database.
Gibson, a veteran police officer and investigator who was on the police force at the time of Marlena’s disappearance 25 years ago, has been doing a lot of the work and has stayed in contact with the family in this area. Immediate family members have provided DNA samples.
He said the Union City Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, local district attorney’s office investigator, Obion County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are putting together a cold case squad and are in the process of assembling a database of all information about Marlena’s case in order to review everything.
“We have been in contact with the family and they have agreed to do the cold case investigation,” he said. “It’s forthcoming, probably sometime this summer.”
Gibson explained each agency has maintained its own case file regarding Marlena’s disappearance and all the information will be put together in one database rather than keeping four or five separate ones.
“Each agency had a case, so we will put it all together,” he said.
Gibson said there are many more resources available today than there were 25 years ago, such as DNA profiles and other advances in science and technology. He said STR and mtDNA profiles — which are related to mitochondrial analysis — have been developed in Marlena’s case and they have been submitted for human identification and entered in CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), a computer software program that operates local, state and national databases of DNA profiles.
Gibson said profiles were developed for a sample submitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, an accredited forensics laboratory which specializes in forensic DNA analysis.
Marlena’s information has also been updated in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) and National Crime Information Center (NCIC) missing persons records.
In the years since her disappearance, Marlena — whose 29th birthday was Feb. 17 — has remained on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missing kids.com) and the TBI (www.tbi.state.tn.us) missing children listings for many years.
Her disappearance was also featured many years ago on the NBC program “Unsolved Mysteries.”
Gibson said police and other area law enforcement agencies welcome any and all information about the Marlena Childress case. Anyone who has information may contact Gibson at the police department at 885-1515; Crime Stoppers at 885-TIPS (885-8477); or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
“She’s not forgotten,” he added.
Published in The Messenger 4.12.12