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Above the entryway in Shawn Wilkinson’s home, a sign with thick block letters reads, “FAITH FAMILY FRIENDS,” the three support systems that have helped him cope with the disappearance of his stepdaughter, Akia Eggleston.
Eggleston, who was eight months into a difficult and painful pregnancy at the time she went missing, vanished on May 3, 2017, approximately four days before her baby shower and gender reveal party, where she was planning to announce she would be giving birth to a boy.
Although Baltimore, Maryland investigators have interviewed 100 people in the past two years, no arrests have been made, and the case has gone cold.
Her disappearance is now being investigated as a homicide, but Wilkinson said his faith allows him to believe that Eggleston is alive.
“[It] keeps me going, keeps me pushing,” he told “Searching For,” an original series on Oxygen.com. “I stand in faith and trust in God that she’s alive.”
Not long after arriving at Wilkinson’s home in Gaithersburg, Maryland, he distributes pins bearing Eggleston’s face, a modeling shot that has appeared in numerous broadcasts and missing posters. She is smiling, brown eyes wide, joy radiating from the photograph.
"She was very small in stature, but very big in charisma,” Wilkinson said of his 4-foot-11 stepdaughter, who also had a young daughter.
Wilkinson remembers Eggleston as a “ball of energy” who had “many different ambitions,” including modeling, photography, singing, and dancing.
“That was her gift from God to dance,” said Wilkinson, who was married to Eggleston’s mother for 10 years before they divorced. Together, they raised Eggleston in Baltimore, and he came to love her as his “own daughter.”
Wilkinson said Eggleston had a “very strong relationship” with her mother, and that “family was the core of all that she did.” But while Wilkinson and Eggleston remained close following the divorce, she became distant from some family members following her mother’s 2012 death from breast cancer.
“She had to bear all the weight on her shoulders,” said Wilkinson, adding that Eggleston became more “independent” and guarded about her personal life.
Still, Eggleston was not one to shy away from social media — the 22-year-old was known for documenting every aspect of her life on Facebook, from favorite recipes to updates on her high-risk pregnancy, said Wilkinson.
Eggleston also wrote about her mother, and prior to her disappearance, she talked about how much she missed her.
“I really wish my mother was here,” she posted on April 28, 2017.
Social media was Eggleston’s “outlet,” said her aunt Sanobia Wilson, which was why it was alarming that all her accounts went silent on May 3. When Eggleston failed to arrive at her baby shower days later, friends and family grew concerned.
"There is no way in God’s green Earth that she would not have shown up for her own baby shower,” Wilkinson said. He recalled Eggleston’s voice was “bubbly” when discussing the celebration, and that she had put down a $900 deposit for the event space.
Even though the baby was breech presentation and Eggleston was ordered bed rest, she was “excited beyond her pain” and “ready to be a mom again,” said Wilkinson.
Eggleston’s loved ones soon realized that no one had seen or spoken to her since her social media drop-off, and after packing up the baby shower, they went searching for her at her Cherry Hill apartment, said Wilson. There, they found no sign of Eggleston, but some of her furniture and belongings had been moved out of the home, according to Wilson.
Her dresser was gone, and her closet was completely empty, said Wilson. Her bank card was also found outside the apartment months later, Baltimore Police Department Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown confirmed to Oxygen.com.
Eggleston would not have been able to move the heavy items by herself because she “wasn’t very mobile,” and it was sometimes “too hard and painful [for her] to walk,” Wilson said.
Wilson and Eggleston’s grandmother, Ann Wilson, maintain Eggleston made no mention of moving out of her apartment, but close friend Cici Diaz told “Searching For” that Eggleston had plans to get a new place with the assumed father of her unborn child.
Baltimore Police Department Lt. Terry McLarney said “some furniture” had been removed from Eggleston’s home, but no one has come forward with information regarding the missing items.
Law enforcement is currently investigating a dozen people in connection with Eggleston’s disappearance, and they have not narrowed in on a single suspect, Lt. McLarney told “Searching For.”
While Eggleston’s loved ones have tried to keep her name in the media through vigils and a birthday balloon release, there has been little movement in the case. To them, the hardest part of Eggleston’s disappearance is not knowing what happened to her and her baby boy.
“As a family, this wound is not healing. It’s getting worse,” Wilkinson said. “They say that time heals all things, but time can’t heal what you don’t know.”
If you have any information in connection to Akia Eggleston’s case, please contact the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office at 410-265-8080 or the Baltimore City Police Department at 410-396-2499. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information regarding the whereabouts of Eggleston.
Eggleston was last seen wearing a green T-shirt and black jogging pants while withdrawing money from a bank in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore. She is 4 feet, 11 inches tall, approximately 100 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
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An original series that dives into disappearances across the U.S., "Searching For" hopes to raise awareness about the victims' cases and seeks help from their communities through local town hall screenings. Join the discussion and connect with other viewers.