“Isn’t that heartbreaking?” asked the boy’s great-grandmother, Diane Homrich.
It’s been nearly two months since Jessica Heeringa, 25, was abducted from a Norton Shores gas station and convenience store where she worked. She remains missing.
“They talked to a counselor and decided they needed to tell him something,” Homrich said of Zevyn. “They told him his mommy is lost. That is something he can understand.”
Massive police efforts have gone into the investigation and search for Heeringa, including a multi-agency task force. Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw said that task force has since been downsized, but he still has four full-time officers working exclusively on the case.
“It’s a high-priority case for us,” he said.
Shaw said the department receives 10-15 Silent Observer tips each day, but only a handful of those receive priority treatment. Many of the calls are about rumors, he said, and some are about people they’ve already investigated for the case.
The Silent Observer reward is at more than $16,000, the chief said.
Police are still looking for a silver Chrysler Town and Country van that was seen in the area on the night of April 26 when Heeringa was abducted. A drawing of the man believed to be driving the van has been widely circulated, but the suspect has yet to be identified, Shaw said.
“We have lots of names, but we still don’t know who he is,” the chief said.
Shaw said he is convinced that somebody knows Heeringa's whereabouts, but he or she is not talking.
Shaw also believes Heeringa is still in the area, and the missing woman's grandmother still hopes she will be found alive.
“I still think she’s in the area someplace," Diane Homrich said. "Maybe that’s what keeps me going back out there (to the command center in the strip mall next to the gas station)."
The command center was set up in the parking lot at The Pointes shopping center for several weeks after Heeringa disappeared. It’s now manned only on Fridays.
Homrich said she and her husband, Roman, are planning to man the command center for a few more Fridays.
“After that, I’m not sure,” she said. “Every week, there’s less and less people. ... The rest of the family had to go back to work."
People have been stopping by the center to pick up fliers for distribution, make donations and show support.
“The community out there has been so supportive and nice,” Homrich said. “That’s what keeps me coming back. They stop by and give me hugs and say a prayer.”
Heeringa’s sister, Angel Allred, frets about the lack of anything new in the case.
“I feel pretty helpless,” she said during a fundraiser for the Heeringa family on Wednesday night at Buffalo Wild Wings near The Lakes Mall. “I don’t know what to do or where to turn.”
Allred said she wonders every day what her sister is going through.
“I’m hoping she’s staying strong,” she said.
Anyone with information on the case is urged to call Silent Observer at 231-72-CRIME or the Norton Shores Police Department at 231-733-2691.
Donations to the reward fund may be made at the Norton Shores Police Department or the Community Foundation of Muskegon County. Funds to help the family may be donated at PNC banks.