Denise Alves remembers feeding her 7-month-old baby brother a bottle, then carrying the sleeping baby upstairs and lying him in his crib. The next thing she remembers is her mother waking her around 5 a.m. on July 15, 1986, frantic because baby Christopher was missing.
Christopher slept in a crib at the foot of their parents’ bed. Denise, 15 at the time, was in the next room. No one heard anyone break into the house and take him – but in the morning, he was gone.
“There was a massive search conducted right away,” says James Isham, Homicide Detective for the Colorado Springs Police Department.
A dive team searched a nearby lake and police dogs canvased the neighborhood. “The police department threw all the resources they could at it,” Isham says. “It’s not like a 2-year-old woke up and walked out of the house. It was an infant. Obviously, it had to be carried by someone from the residence.”
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Denise’s mother, Bernice Abeyta, devoted her life to searching for her missing son. She traveled the country chasing down leads, sometimes buying wigs and tailing suspected kidnappers in disguise. “We became amateur detectives,” Denise says.
She remembers Bernice scouring obituaries, trying to find someone whose baby had died and might have been desperate enough to steal hers.
“It’s every mom’s worst nightmare,” says Denise, now a 48-year-old stay-at-home mother to four children. “Looking for Christopher became her job.”
Bernice searched up until her death on February 12, 2017. Now Denise continues her mother’s quest to find her baby brother. The police haven’t given up hope. And neither has she.
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“You don’t just stop looking for someone,” Denise says.
Just last year, three men were DNA tested who thought they might be Christopher. They weren’t, but new leads continue to come in daily from around the world. His case file is more than 5,000 pages long – a new report was added last week, Isham says. Police have received a tip from every state in the country – and just last week, a tip was received that a man in Brazil might be Christopher.
“The family has always held out hope that he was out there and he was going to turn up someday,” says Isham. “It still could happen. But it’s a tough one.”