COLORADO CITY, Texas (AP) - The memorial that stands across the street from the house where 13-year-old Hailey Dunn lived before her still-unexplained disappearance is a stark reminder of how much time has passed.
A year ago this week.
New Christmas decorations hang next to faded and matted Valentine's Day teddy bears, Easter Bunnies and Fourth of July ribbons.
The toys had been bright, colorful and new when they were tied to the railings of a bridge near Dunn, a collection of homes and a post office 10 miles north of Colorado City. That's when the hundreds of volunteers who were searching for Hailey assumed she would be coming home - or would be found - soon.
The bridge just outside Dunn had been chosen for the memorial because it was near where Shawn Adkins - the only person of interest named in the teenager's disappearance and the live-in boyfriend of Hailey's mother a year ago - was living. Stephanie Boyd, a friend of Hailey's father, Clint Dunn, said searchers wanted Adkins to have something to think about every time he drove across the bridge.
But Boyd said defacing of the memorial began and transportation authorities deemed it a traffic hazard, so it had to be moved. Colorado City officials allowed the use of the empty lot across from Dunn's home on Chestnut Street, and today the memorial stands just yards away from the place Hailey Dunn last was seen.
The stuffed animals and other items were left before revelations of drug abuse and domestic violence came to light. Before hundreds of pages of printouts about serial killers and mass murderers were discovered. Before child pornography was found.
The items were left months before Hailey's parents moved away - Clint Dunn reportedly to Houston, Billie Dunn reportedly to Travis County, with Adkins.
Almost a year has passed, and there are no answers. But law enforcement officials believe the case will be resolved - some say within a year.
Detective Kelsey Alexander, the Colorado City policewoman who took the call the day Hailey was reported missing, has been the lead investigator on the case since the start.
"Nobody hides forever, eventually everything comes to light. One day we'll have definite answers, and every day we're getting closer," she said.
Hailey Dunn was reported missing by her mother at 2 p.m. Dec. 28, 2010 - a Tuesday. The day before, she was supposed to have walked to her father's house, just a few blocks away, and then go to a friend's house to spend the night. She never arrived at either location.
Even though it was late December, she was reportedly wearing sweatpants, a T-shirt and flip flops. Her MP3 player and her favorite jacket - something friends said she would never leave the house without - later were found at her home.
No witnesses saw her walking anywhere between the two houses.
The last time law enforcement officials can confirm she was alive was the early morning of Dec. 27. Police have not revealed their source but are sure of that fact.
What happened to Hailey Dunn between that Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon - from the last time police know she was alive to the time she was reported missing?
Billie Dunn told police that Adkins had left the Dunn home for work in Snyder around 5:30 a.m. Dec. 27. Sometime before leaving for her job in Snyder at 6:20 a.m., Billie Dunn said she checked on Hailey, who was asleep in her room with the TV on. According to court documents, Delbert David Dunn, Hailey's older brother, was spending the night at a friend's house, and after Billie Dunn left for work, Hailey was alone in the house.
The same court documents state that Adkins arrived at work at Weaver Services Inc. at 6 a.m. Adkins told police he was fired that morning after an altercation with a supervisor. Adkins' employer, however, said he arrived at work, got a drink from a machine in a break room, and left.
There was no altercation, and Adkins was not fired, the document states.
Adkins left the premises by 6:10 a.m., the documents state. He told police he traveled straight to his mother's residence in Big Spring, about 50 miles away.
Cellphone records obtained by police could tell a different story.
Adkins' phone "pinged" a Verizon cell tower - Tower 724 - in Colorado City from 6:35 a.m. to 6:56 a.m. According to court documents, Verizon cellular tower records indicate Tower 724 would be used by someone at Dunn's home in the 1800 block of Chestnut Street.
Adkins' phone did not "ping" Tower 730 - which the cellphone company said someone at Adkins' mother's home in Big Spring would use - until 9:38 a.m.
Billie Dunn said Hailey had told Adkins about 3 p.m. that she was going to her father's house, and she then would spend the night with a friend. Billie Dunn told police that around 6:20 p.m., she and Adkins drove to Snyder to make two withdrawals from an ATM. Billie Dunn later told police that the money was to buy illegal narcotics for herself and Adkins from someone in Scurry County.
They returned to the Dunn home in Colorado City to watch movies, she said. Then, she said, they went to bed about 9 p.m.
She learned around noon the next day that Hailey never had arrived at Clint Dunn's house. After contacting Hailey's friend, Billie Dunn said Hailey had not shown up there, either.
Billie Dunn reported her daughter missing to police at 2 p.m.
It did not take long for scores of volunteers to begin searching Colorado City and the surrounding area for the missing teenager. As days and weeks passed with no sign of the girl, the story spread across the nation.
Reporters and satellite trucks from national media outlets such as "The Nancy Grace Show" descended on the town. Local law enforcement officials fielded calls from as far away as New York and Australia.
National organizations such as Klaaskids and the Laura Recovery Center for Missing Children arrived with trained searchers. Billboards in the area showed a large photo of the teenager wearing her cheerleading uniform and "MISSING" in huge letters.
Hundreds of square miles were searched on foot, on horseback and off-road vehicles. Planes and helicopters searched from the air. Officials with cadaver dogs searched landfills as far away as Lubbock and Abilene. Whether to search nearby Lake Colorado City was debated.
But without success and as a cold February turned into a warm spring, then hot summer, the daily searches became weekly, then held monthly.
Finally, searches were held whenever a group could get together.
A release of balloons in late August coincided with Hailey's birthday.
The number of searchers has dwindled, as have vigils and other events. Now just a handful of people away from law enforcement remain committed to finding out what happened to a popular teenager.
A year after the 13-year-old's mysterious disappearance, people in town can be divided into three groups as to their relationship to the case, said Mitchell County Sheriff Patrick Toombs.
"There are those who have moved on, there are those who are still totally fixated on the case, and then there's those somewhere in the middle," he said.
Boyd, one of the first people to organize searches for Hailey, still is fixated. Searching for Hailey is her full-time job. She lives with her parents and works as much as she can on following up on leads.
"I keep searching because I want her found. I don't want a bad name for Colorado City. I have to keep searching and assuming she's alive," she said.
But she said it was a "kick in the gut" when Billie Dunn and Clint Dunn both appeared to give up hope and moved from Colorado City.
"What mother in her right mind is going to up and move 500 miles away from the home your daughter knows? That goes for Clint, too," she said. "It really sucks that Clint left, because he told me in the beginning he would never give up."
Even though she said she feels alone in her search, and feels that most of the town has lost hope and interest, she's not quitting.
"Until there is some physical evidence, I'm not giving up. I'm not giving up until Hailey is brought back here, one way or another."
Mark Merrell, principal of Colorado Middle School, said moving on does not mean forgetting.
"This is not something you'll ever forget. We'll by no means forget Hailey, but there are hundreds of other kids at the school that need our attention. You've got to move on somehow," he said.
Hailey's eighth-grade classmates moved on to high school this fall, but Merrell said she still had a lot of friends at the middle school.
There's a photograph of Hailey taped to the dry-erase board in Andra Maxwell's eighth-grade history classroom.
"I'm not planning on taking it down any time soon," Maxwell said.
She said students will still walk up to it, and say a quiet prayer for their friend.
Tammy Johnson, another of Hailey's teachers, said the lack of closure is the hardest part.
Emily Strain, the school's counselor, said she still gets visits from students who are having a hard time coping. Not knowing exactly what happened to Hailey makes it hard to move on, she said.
"I can't believe there are still no answers," said Joni Lacefield, Hailey's former math teacher. "It feels like something from a TV movie. I just can't believe it happened here."
People around town have their theories about what happened to Hailey - ones they're willing to share and others they keep close to the vest.
Was she kidnapped? Did she run away? Was she sold into slavery to pay off a drug-related debt?
Alexander, the Colorado City detective, said the case had generated all sorts of stories and rumors - "white noise," she called it, that had to be sorted through to get at the truth.
"This is still an open, active missing person case. We are following up on all leads and tips, and we're backtracking and reviewing things that have already been done," she said.
The investigation into the child pornography seized on several electronic devices owned by Adkins also is ongoing, but in another jurisdiction.
Images depicting bestiality and other deviant sexual acts may be disgusting, she said, but as long as they're not being done in public, they're not illegal. No child pornography was seized in Colorado City, she said.
Although Boyd believes there's only a 50/50 chance that the truth about what happened to Hailey will come out, law enforcement officials are confident the case will be resolved.
Sheriff Toombs said he believes the case will be resolved within a year.
Colorado City Police Chief Roy "Tinker" Owens, who joined the department in July and has been working to get up to speed on the case, is similarly confident.
"Eventually something is going to break. We firmly believe that at some point in the future, we will have some closure," he said.
He also believes police haven't been given all the help they can from Hailey's family.
"It's my opinion that, whether or not she was involved in Hailey's disappearance, Billie knows something, and she's not saying," he said.
Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, http://www.reporternews.com