May 3, 2002 (Friday)
4921 West Garfield Street
Milwaukee, WI 53208
Nickname: Lexi or Pie
Alternative Name: Unknown
Missing from: Hi-Mount School, 4921 West Garfield Street, Milwaukee, WI
Date Missing: May 3, 2002 (Friday)
Taken By: Unknown
Alexis Patterson was the much loved daughter of Ayanna Patterson and Kenya Campbell; known affectionately as ‘Lexi’ or ‘Pie.’ Lexi was full of light and personality, with an infectious smile and a happy personality. Like so many other little girls her age, Lexi had a passion for pink and loved roller skating when she could. She even had that bossy nature so many 5-9 year old girls have, and was excited to finally be a big sister with the birth six months earlier of her little sister Dysoni.
Lexi lived with her mother, step-father (LaRon Bourgeois) and Dysoni in Milwaukee, WI near the intersection of North 49th and Garfield St. This was less than a block away from Lexi’s school (Hi-Mount Boulevard) and within easy walking distance. Lexi was an good student with perfect attendance as she neared the end of first grade.
In the Days Before
The latter 1990s and early 2000 saw a shift in the American mindset as small town atmospheres gave way to increasing mistrust of strangers and awareness of the dangers they could bring. But for some of the younger children, this instinctive fear fails to manifest, no matter how many warnings or cautions a parent gives. Out-going, helpful, and cheerfully friendly, these children have never met a ‘stranger’ in their life.
Perhaps this is how it was for little Lexi, all too trusting in a world full of predators. Two weeks before she disappeared, parents at Hi-Mount received emailed warnings of a man attempting to kidnap a young boy. Then Lexi was seen only a week later speaking with an unknown women behind her school. Concerned, Ayanna tried warning her about the dangers of speaking with strangers, but a short two days later Lexi was seen again speaking with the strange woman. Again, Ayanna warned her to be more careful, hoping the message would stick. But just a few days later, Lexi was gone.
On Thursday night, Lexi and her mother went shopping together before returning home where they had a passing argument over Lexi’s failure to complete her homework on time. She was meant to provide cupcakes at school the following day for the class snack, but her mother told her that would not be happening as her punishment for not doing her work.
Lexi was naturally upset, but her parents expected things to blow over eventually as most arguments like this do.
At 8:00am, Lexi and her step-father walked the short distance to her school. LaRon reportedly watched her walk across the cross-walk as a crossing-guard escorted her the rest of the way and she disappeared into the school crowds.
Lexi apparently was still distressed about the cupcake incident as she skipped her classes that day despite previously having a perfect record. Furthermore, some classmates claimed to have seen her crying in the school playground before and after school.
Unfortunately, the school did not inform the family, and no one knew anything was amiss until Lexi failed to come home after school. Her mother became concerned and contacted police that afternoon around 3:00pm (15:00). Alexis has not been seen since.
Originally, family and the police suspected Lexi might have simply been unhappy about the argument and was avoiding going home for fear of getting into trouble. Consequently, the case was initially treated as a runaway scenario; however, police were quick to set up thorough searches of the surrounding areas. The school and neighborhoods were searched along with the nearby lagoon and parks, but nothing turned up. Unfortunately, Wisconsin did not have the Amber Alert system until 2003, a year after Alexis vanished (Link). May 6, the search intensified as police brought in greater search forces and incorporated a helicopter.
Unlike many other missing children’s cases however, and on May 13, the police had declared Lexi’s disappearance suspicious and launched a criminal investigation. Why they were comparatively quick to shift to a criminal perspective and where their sources of information were coming from has not been revealed. Unfortunately, by September Police Chief Arthur Jones said that despite tips still arriving, nothing new had been revealed in a while.
Police and journalists adopted a rather pessimistic perspective early in the case and by August were stating that Lexi might never be found. However, it is not clear why they leapt to (and repeated) this conclusion as opposed to possible sex trafficking given that some persons of interest were potentially involved in prostitution. This can be compared to the disappearance of Tabitha Tuders where police continue to state that no possibilities can be ruled out. Lexi’s mother continues to insist she believes Lexi is alive and as long as no evidence is reveal to prove otherwise, we at The Suitcase Detective continue to hope for her safe return.
On January 3, 2003 a John Doe Investigation was launched to determine whether a crime had formally taken place.
A team of volunteers known as Operation L.A.P. (locate Alexis Patterson) was brought together and continued searching for some time. The name was later changed to Location Assistance Professionals as it expanded its offerings beyond the Patterson case.
Comic book artist Alonzo Washington, a father of seven himself, believes that missing Caucasian children unfairly receive greater media coverage than missing Black children. In 2006, he planned to add Alexis to the list of several missing black children incorporated into his comics as an attempt to spread exposure to their faces and stories. Her photo and profile were to be placed in centerfolds and on trading cards sold within the comics. (There are several stories from 2002 – 2006 (Link, Link) stating that this would happen, but we can’t find evidence that they were actually produced; if someone can confirm it is appreciated).
1) Investigations revealed a suspicious red truck was seen loitering around the school in the week preceding without ever dropping off or picking up a child. The truck was not seen again after Lexi vanished, and police have never formally linked it to the case.
2) Later in the year, police required copies from the press of their recordings of video coverage for reasons unknown.
3) Police have found it difficult to establish a time frame for Alexis’ disappearance. Since she failed to attend classes (unusual for her), many believe she vanished before school started. Some police officers were quoted saying she never made it to the school at all and LaRon was involved in the disappearance, but police did have witnesses who reported seeing her (the crossing guard and classmates). There were even some reports that classmates saw her in the playground after school as well, which would mean she vanished much later.
4) Lexi’s birth father (Kenya) was not likely to have been related to the case. During the early months of 2002, he faced various criminal charges related to battery and driving infractions that landed him in prison. He remained there until May 6, 2002, giving him a relatively solid alibi. He proved cooperative with police and assisted with the investigation voluntarily.
5) Lexi’s step-father was questioned due to his criminal background as well. In 1994, he was the getaway driver of a bank robbery that ended in the death of a cop. LaRon testified and was able to avoid conviction. This seems a bit of a long time difference (approx. 8 years) for it to have been related to Lexi’s disappearance.
LaRon did fail a polygraph test, but it is not clear why or how. In April 2003, LaRon and Ayanna had a volatile break-up during which time Ayanna accused him of being abusive and involved in illegal activities related to drugs and prostitution.
LeRon has never formally been charged or named a suspect in Alexis’ disappearance.
6) In August 2002, an unknown caller phones a local TV station to report that Alexis’ body was thrown into the Milwaukee River close to Estabrook Park; however police conducted an underwater search and found nothing.
7) July 2016 ⟶ Joshua and ‘L’ are a divorced couple living in Bryan, Ohio who are involved in a unhappy custody battle over their child. Joshua and his new fiancé inform police and news media they had seen pictures of Alexis and now believe L may have been Alexis Patterson, fully grown.
- L was reported to have no memories or documentation (photos, souvenirs) of her life before the age of 10 when she was in California
- L shared three of the same distinguishing characteristics as Alexis including the scar, birthmark, and bump on her pinky.
- L looked similar to Alexis’ age-progressed photos according a Senator who saw the side-by-side comparisons.
While the similarities were noticeable, there were also signs that did not match:
- The woman herself denied being Alexis and became very distressed over the situation (particularly as media and web-sleuths began looking into her private life).
- A DNA test of L and Alexis did not reveal a match according to police.
- L offered vital documents (Birth Certificate, Passport, Green Card, Divorce Documents) which claimed she was born in Belize and confirmed her identity.
- L married Joshua in 2009, which would mean she was only 14 at the time of her marriage.
L did voluntarily participate in the DNA test and was cooperative with police, but Joshua also bypassed her wishes and gave the Patterson family his son’s DNA without the mother’s permission in case she had refused to donate.
Afterwards, Ayanna and Joshua did not automatically accept the DNA results published by police, arguing that the chain of custody for Alexis’ DNA might not be assured or that the DNA had corroded over time. Ayanna hired her own private investigator, though it is not clear what he/she uncovered if anything.
May 3 is “Alexis Patterson: Forget Me Not” Day in Milwaukee
- Date of Birth: April 4, 1995
- Age at Disappearance: 7
- Ethnicity: African American
- Nationality: American
- Gender at Birth: Female
- Hair: Black, Long
- Eye Color: Brown
- Height: 3’8″ (111.8 cm)
- Weight: 42 lbs (19.1 kg)
Distinguishing Marks or Factors
- Scar under her right eye
- Bump on her left pinky finger
- Mole above left eye
- Pierced Ears
- Purple Shirt
- Light Blue Jeans
- White & Blue High-Top Nike Tennis Shoes
- Pink ‘Barbie’ Backpack
- Red Hooded Jacked with Horizontal Grey Stripes on the Sleeves
- Hair was in Two French Braids Combined into a single Ponytail. No beading or adornments
If You or Anyone You Know Has Information About The Disappearances, Please Contact the Milwaukee Police Department at +1 (414) 933-4444 or NAMUS at Allen.Neal@unthsc.edu
- Stories of the Unsolved (2020) ‘The Disappearance of Alexis Patterson’, January 11. Link
- Shelbourne, T. (2019) ‘Seventeen years later: Alexis Patterson’s mother holds out hope that her daughter is still alive’, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5 May. Link
- Sims, S. (2016) ‘Sen. Lena Taylor: ‘I personally think she is Alexis’, TMJ4, 4 June. Link
- Zell, C. (2019) ‘Jayme Closs’ happy ending rekindles memories about Alexis Patterson’, WTMJ, January 11. Link
- CBS58 (2019) ‘”Come home baby:” Alexis Patterson’s mother hopeful for daughters return after 17 years’, 6 May. Link
- Missing Minors. ‘Alexis’. Link
- Joel Eskovitz (2002) ‘Comic book creator helping family find missing Milwaukee girl’, 2 August. Link
- Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter (2002) ‘Milwaukee police chief says missing 7-year-old girl probably not alive’, 11 September.
- The Oshkosh Northwestern (2003) ‘Alexis Patterson still missing after one year’, 5 May.
- Green Bay Press Gazette (2003) ‘Police chief says experience tells him Alexis isn’t alive’, 11 September.
- Wright, K. (2005) ‘Where’s the coverage for missing Black children’ The Miami Herald, 30 June.
- Zervakis, P. (2017) ‘Milwaukee girl Alexis Patterson went missing 15 years ago’, TMJ4, 3 May. Link
- Staudinger, S. (2016) ‘UPDATED: Milwaukee Police Track New Lead In Disappearance of Alexis Patterson’, CBS58, 8 July. Link
- McBride, J. (2016) ‘Alexis Patterson: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know’, Heavy.com, 14 July. Link
- WISN (2016) ‘DNA shows Ohio woman is not missing Milwaukee girl’, 14 July. Link
- Chamraz, S. (2016) ‘Ohio woman who gave DNA sample insists she is not Alexis Patterson’, TMJ4, 9 July. Link
- Chamraz, S. (2016) ‘Police: Woman produced documents showing she is not Alexis Patterson’, TMJ4, 11 July. Link
- u/matildadillydoo (2016), ‘New breakthrough in 2002 disappearance of Alexis Patterson (7)— could she be alive?’ Reddit. Link
- Websleuths (2004) ‘WI – Alexis Patterson, 7, Milwaukee, 3 May 2002’. Link