Family members knew something wasn’t right when Dawnita Wilkerson abruptly stopped returning their calls because they were used to hearing from her constantly. When Dawnita left her brother’s home in Evansville, Indiana on Sunday, June 21, 2020, her twin daughters, who are 15 years old, last saw her. Dawnita promised her daughters that she would return soon, but she never did. The 44-year-old was reported missing to the Evansville Police Department when her mother and any of her children didn’t hear from her by the following morning.
Kiahnna Wilkerson, one of Dawnita’s daughters, mentioned that talking on the phone with friends and family was one of her favorite things to do. Dawnita was a loving mother of six children. She’s just very easygoing. She was fine as long as she was having fun with friends. Her family members were positive that she would never have chosen to stop communicating with them, and it was totally out of character for her to go longer than a few hours without speaking to anyone. They thought she had suffered a terrible accident.
“Every day she calls her mom at 5:00 am…suddenly everyone stopped hearing from her and we knew something had to be wrong,” Dawnita’s aunt Julia Womack observed. Additionally, Dawnita hadn’t logged into her Facebook account, which she frequently checked throughout the day. All of her cell phone’s calls went straight to voicemail on Monday morning, suggesting that the device had either been turned off or the battery had run out.
According to her family, Dawnita had made up her mind to return to school and was set to begin classes the day after she vanished. They didn’t think she would have voluntarily missed her first day because she had been looking forward to going. In addition, family members mentioned that Dawnita had assisted in caring for her mother, who had been dealing with some health issues. Without providing her mother with her contact details, she would not have left the house.
Investigators released a request for public assistance in finding Dawnita a few days after her disappearance was reported. They mentioned that it was possible she was in the Carbondale, Illinois, area, but they did not elaborate on their reasons for thinking so. Reporters subsequently discovered that Dawnita’s cell phone records, which showed the phone had traveled to Carbondale prior to being turned off, had been obtained by detectives.
Reporters were informed by Dawnita’s aunt, Nora Martin, that although the family was struggling to deal with Dawnita’s disappearance, they were cooperating to try and bring her home. You feel angry and hopeful at different times. We’ve spent a lot more time together because we go out every day and hang flyers in an effort to spread the word, but it’s difficult when you don’t know what to do.
Although the family couldn’t discuss the case with the media too much, Nora said that they had been in contact with Indiana and Illinois law enforcement a month after Dawnita was last seen. “This criminal case is still pending. Indeed, they have suspects. It’s possible that she crossed state lines, and in that case, warrants for phone records, social media accounts, and other items may be obtained or already have.
Friends and family gathered at Evansville’s Garvin Park on August 15, 2020, for a fundraising event called “Show Up For Dawnita.” The event, which included music, food, raffles, and kid-friendly activities, served two purposes: it raised awareness that Dawnita was still missing and raised money to support the search. Given that pink was Dawnita’s favorite color, family members urged attendees to wear it to the gathering.
At the fundraiser, hundreds of people turned out to support Dawnita’s family. Reporters were informed by Nora that they were attempting to maintain hope and hoped Dawnita would be found safely. We continue to think positively and in the present tense. We’re going to search for her nonstop and use every resource at our disposal. They planned to rent two billboards in Evansville and print more posters with the money they raised. “We want to see her face everywhere.”
Julia said that her friends and family sincerely missed her niece, who had a heart of gold. We merely desire her return. We want you to know that even if you were the one who took her, you are already forgiven. I have to be a loving and forgiving Christian. All we want is her back, nothing more. Reporters were informed by her that she believed Dawnita to be alive. “She’s still out there, I know that. I simply know it. I have a gut feeling about it. She had vowed to track her down. “We won’t spare a single stone.”
In an attempt to raise additional funds to assist with living expenses, family members created a GoFundMe page. They mentioned in the description that Dawnita’s loved ones were all actively involved in her search and in attempting to keep her family together. We are unable to care for her twins in any way. For the purpose of conducting business on behalf of Dawnita’s minor children, the family is not assisted by any laws or regulations. Without custody, we are unable to provide certain things or sign for them. The twins required financial assistance while their mother was being sought after.
“Find Dawnita Day” was declared by the Vanderburgh County Board of Commissioners for September 15, 2020. They believed that by making the declaration public, more people would be aware of missing people in general and their families would feel less alone. Dawnita was one of twelve persons reported missing from the area at the time.
The Evansville Police Department made fresh information regarding Dawnita’s disappearance public in February 2021. After learning that Dawnita had checked into a motel on Evansville’s East Side, they changed their earlier statement that she had last been seen leaving her brother’s house. Surveillance footage they had obtained showed her leaving the hotel at 8:16 p.m. on June 21, 2020, a few hours after she had left her brother’s house.
Dawnita was observed boarding a silver 2004 Chevrolet Suburban with tinted windows and a sunroof. After leaving the hotel parking lot, the vehicle proceeded westward, passing through southern Indiana and southern Illinois. Although the owner of the Suburban had been identified, detectives refused to reveal his identity to the public, claiming he was not assisting them with their investigation.
Since it was obvious that Dawnita’s car had crossed state lines, the FBI was supporting the Evansville Police Department in their investigation. Finding the Suburban was of particular interest to them because it had not yet been found.
The news that Dawnita’s last known location had finally been made public brought relief to her family. “We’ve known about this information since July, so I’m confused as to why it’s being put out right now,” her daughter Kiahnna commented. I am appreciative that it is.
Dawnita had been having issues with two different men in the days preceding her disappearance, according to multiple family members. She had received menacing texts from both men, and she was so worried about them that she had given her family members their names in case something happened to her. The men’s texts, according to her aunt Nora, included phrases like “I’ll ki*ll you and they’ll never find your body.”
An ex-boyfriend was one of the men who had threatened Dawnita. Dawnita had told her close friend how scared she was and had shared screenshots of some of their conversations. “She expressed fear for her life.”
According to court documents, this man beat Dawnita and was arrested four times in 2018 and 2019. He had also served time in jail on at least one of those occasions. “She was assaulted over a number of hours at her boyfriend’s residence…[he] would not allow her to leave and threatened that if she left he would send people to k*ill her children,” Dawnita claimed in a police report.
After missing a scheduled hearing, Dawnita’s initial attempt to obtain an order of protection against her boyfriend was dismissed. A few weeks before she disappeared, she changed her phone number, but he was able to obtain it and kept harassing her. She warned her relatives that this man and one of his relatives would be held responsible if something were to happen to her. One of these two men was the owner of a Chevrolet Suburban, her relatives told reporters.
Although family members acknowledged that it had been difficult to hold back information about the two men from the media, police had asked them to keep it confidential while they carried out their investigation. They were disclosing the information in the hopes that someone would come forward with information to aid in Dawnita’s location, as the man had declined to cooperate with the detectives.
To draw attention to the fact that Dawnita, a mother of six, is still missing, her loved ones marched on the first anniversary of her disappearance. The twins, who were now sixteen years old, were looked after by her two eldest daughters. They were all in deep grief and were asking God for guidance. “In the beginning, I didn’t really have time to grieve or cope,” Kiahnna acknowledged. She was too preoccupied with seeing to it that her siblings had all they required.
The first grandchild of Dawnita was born while she was away, and her family could only hope that she would return soon to welcome the new member. Even though they knew there was little chance of success, they persisted in their search. “We’re still trying to look for her,” Kiahnna said.We still want to find her, no matter what happens.
What worried Dawnita’s friends the most was the uncertainty surrounding her future. Ruth Waller, her closest friend, acknowledged that “the ignorance gets to you.”Has she survived? Was she killed? Is she in pain? You’ll lose your mind over that alone. In order to provide Dawnita’s loved ones with some closure, she expressed her hope that the people who were withholding information would come forward.
Dawnita’s family announced that they were offering a $3,500 reward for information leading to her whereabouts in the hopes of attracting some new tips. Regretfully, despite their suspicions that multiple people were aware of Dawnita’s exact circumstances, nobody came forward to talk to the investigators.
On September 15, 2021, Dawnita’s family members came together to commemorate “Find Dawnita Day” by lighting lanterns and candles in memory of the missing woman. “The days get easier but that doesn’t mean we’re not hurting and missing her,” her aunt Nora observed. Having her return would simply change our lives, as her disappearance had altered ours.
Faye Cardin, Dawnita’s aunt, acknowledged that the family thought Dawnita had passed away on the second anniversary of her disappearance. “Unfortunately, we don’t have as many answers as we would have liked by now.”
A few more details about the case appeared in local newspapers as the months passed. Reporters found out that her ex-boyfriend’s nephew was the owner of the Suburban Dawnita that she was seen getting into. When questioned by detectives regarding Dawnita’s disappearance, he reportedly picked her up at the hotel but declined to assist them.
Officer Taylor Merriss of the Evansville Police Department stated that the team was still dedicated to cracking the case. “There is someone who knows something, and it would be very beneficial if that person or people came forward to help the friends and family who have been impacted by this investigation get answers.”
A number of Dawnita’s family members expressed dissatisfaction in November 2022 over not receiving any responses from the detectives assigned to investigate her case. They discovered that their calls were not returned, despite the fact that in the past they had always gotten a call back from investigators. It would be simpler if they declared, “We’re calling this a cold case and putting it to the side,” as Nora pointed out. Then, at least, we wouldn’t have any expectations.
Friends and family of Dawnita persisted in doing all within their power to maintain Dawnita’s reputation. They wanted to be able to give Dawnita a proper burial and ensure that the person or people responsible for her presumed m*urder were brought to justice, even though they had little hope of ever seeing her alive again. They have promised to keep fighting until they receive clarification.
In June 2020, Dawnita Leauta Wilkerson, then 44 years old, vanished from Evansville, Indiana. Although they haven’t disclosed his identity to the public and he hasn’t cooperated with the investigation, detectives are aware of the person Dawnita was last seen with. Although Dawnita’s family feels she was murd*ered, they are still determined to locate her body and hold those accountable. Dawnita weighed 145 pounds and stood 5 feet 3 inches tall with black hair when she vanished. She also had brown eyes. Her last sighting included her donning a red St. Louis T-shirt, black socks with white polka dots, white sandals, and blue denim shorts. The silver 2004 Chevrolet Suburban in which she was last seen is also missing. Please call the Evansville Police Department at 812-436-7979 or the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office at 317-595-4000 if you have any information regarding Dawnita or the whereabouts of the Suburban. In this instance, there is a reward being given.