Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
NewsOne has partnered with the Black and Missing Foundation to focus on the crisis of missing African Americans.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For the remainder of the month, Find our Missing will explore the unfortunate link between domestic violence and missing persons.
Shaquita Yolanda Bell (pictured), 23, was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Michael Dickerson in 1996. Dickerson had been charged with beating Bell in the past, with Bell even claiming that he held a loaded gun to her head.
“He said he would kill me because he’s going to get locked up anyway,” Bell, a bakery clerk with three children, the youngest of whom was Dickerson’s child, wrote in her datebook, according to the Washington Post.
And she had, had enough.
“I finally left him before he killed me,” she wrote before moving to Alexandria, Va., from Laurel, Md., to stay with her grandmother.
That’s why family members were shocked when she was seen leaving her grandmother’s house with Dickerson in June of 1996.
It was the last time relatives would see her alive.
Dickerson was eventually charged with her murder, and while he initially denied killing Bell, he took a plea deal, agreeing to reveal where he had buried her body.
According to court documents reviewed by the Post, a man, who allegedly helped hide Bell’s body, said “that he [Dickerson] shot her in a rage, she fell, and he then stood over her firing until the gun stopped.”
Bell’s family has still not been able to find where her body was allegedly buried.
Bell’s case is an example of how domestic violence and missing persons cases are related, said Derrica Wilson, president and co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation.
“Many missing persons of color cases that we have been directly involved in were a result of domestic violence. Often times when women and children are involved in a violent relationship, the abuser will file a “missing” person report. It is actually an attempt to find the victim who may have left to seek a safe place,” said Wilson.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 33 percent of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. In 70 to 80 percent of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the man abused the woman before the incident.