Heeringa’s family: ‘We search to find her alive’

Jessica Heeringa's family talks with 24 Hour News 8 Ken Kolker not long before the one-year anniversary of her disappearance. (March 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Frustrated with the lack of progress in finding her daughter, Jessica Heeringa’s mom has searched on her own.

“I live and breathe,” Shelly Heeringa said. “I wake up, I’m thinking about my daughter. I’m thinking about what she’s going through, if she is alive. I will never believe she’s not until I’m shown that. I will never believe that.”

So, she and her boyfriend drive wherever the tips lead them — tips called in to the family, or even following visions provided by psychics.

“I’ve been to Hillsdale. I’ve been to Lapeer. I’ve been up to Leroy. I’ve been all over the Muskegon area, up to the Blue Lake (Fine Arts Camp) area,” Shelly Heeringa said. “We don’t search to find a body, never do that, and I will never do that. We search to find her alive.”

Jessica Heeringa, 25, was working alone at the Norton Shores Exxon gas station around 11 p.m. on April 26 when she disappeared.

Inside woodtv.com: Timeline chronicling Jessica Heeringa’s disappearance

She left behind her purse, money, cigarettes, car — and a few drops of blood outside. At home, she left behind her son, Zevyn, who lives with his dad and turned four without his mom.

“It’s still fresh in his mind,” Zevyn’s father, Dakotah Quail-Dyer, said. “It’s something we talk about every day. I just tell him the same stuff: we’re looking for her and that she loves him, no matter where she is, she loves him.”

The only leads: surveillance photos of a silver minivan and a sketch of the man behind the wheel.

Jessica Heeringa and a police sketch of the suspect in her abduction. (FILE)
Jessica Heeringa and a police sketch of the suspect in her abduction. (FILE)

As Target 8 revealed earlier, police have identified a dozen persons of interest — most, if not all of them, known to Jessica. Among them: the brother of the woman whose description led to the sketch.

Police said they’re no longer focusing on the 40-year-old brother — described by his family as Jessica Heeringa’s former boyfriend — though they haven’t totally cleared anybody.

Norton Shores Police Chief Daniel Shaw said they also are no longer focusing on the gas station owner, or Quail-Dyer — both identified early on as persons of interest.

But Quail-Dyer said he still hears the whispers.

“I am very frustrated in life,” Quail-Dyer said. “I’m tired of everything. I just want it to be over, you know. I live in seclusion, so I just don’t feel very safe, I don’t like being out in public.”

He said he and his son have moved from the home they shared with Jessica Heeringa.

“People (were) showing up at my house that I don’t know, so I left,” Quail-Dyer said.

For Jessica Heeringa’s mom and grandmother, frustration has led them to hire their own private investigator, and they’ve asked Norton Shores police to turn over the case to Michigan State Police.

“In a case like this, I don’t think it should be a matter of jurisdiction,” said Jessica Heeringa’s grandmother, Diane Homrich.

But Shaw, the Norton Shores police chief, said his department has worked closely with the state agency, and won’t give up. A detective still works on the case every day, he said.

“It wouldn’t change anything,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t matter what police department’s name is at the top of that investigative report, we still are left without certain information that we need to solve the case.”

That leaves Jessica Heeringa’s family members searching for their own answers.

“We’ve promised each other that we’ll never give up hope and we’ll never stop searching, it doesn’t matter if it’s 10 years,” Homrich said.

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