By Jim Hagerty
LOVES PARK — Although Loves Park Police detectives are following up on leads in the missing person’s case of 25-year-old Emily Anderson, theories continue to crop up on social media.
Among hundreds of Facebook threads about Emily’s whereabouts, ones that seem to shift the investigation outside of Rockford are ample.
Sadly, they haven’t panned out.
Anderson, an epileptic without her mediation, was seen reportedly seen in Freeport in late June. Police there have been alerted, but the sighting wasn’t deemed credible, nor was the report that an unknown person was seen driving her silver 2002 Pontiac Grand Am.
Another false report is that Emily was at Slots of Fortune in Roscoe early Monday morning, June 19. Witnesses later said Anderson had not been there. The witness who claimed he spotted her at Walmart that day had his days mixed up.
Police were able to conclude that Emily’s last stop was at Steak ‘n’ Shake on Hwy. 173 in Machesney Park. She reportedly sent text messages to an unknown person after that. According to one Facebook thread, she texted a friend at around 5 a.m., June 19, saying she had been dropped off at home. A comment in another thread indicated Emily texted a friend that she drove herself home. The veracity of those texts has not been verified.
Close friends urged others to be on the lookout for Emily at Milwaukee’s Summerfest last weekend. They say because she is a fan of live music, Emily may have attended the festival; others feared Anderson was taken there by force. The popular event ended July 9, 20 days after Anderson disappeared. Still no sign of her.
When a 14-year-old Chicago girl was rescued from human traffickers in Houston, it created some discussion about Anderson, although Emily does not fit the profile of a typical victim. Statics show that most victims in the $32 billion industry are between 12 and 14, and manipulated into the trade. A lot of girls are promised legitimate work in shops and restaurants and befriended by their abductors. They are often runaways, eased into prostitution by people they know before becoming sex slaves.
Then there are the rarities: girls snatched off the streets when they least expect it and taken far from home to work for pimps and handlers. That’s what Emily’s ex-boyfriend Mike Thall fears the most.
“That has been something I have considered since day one,” Thall said. “Knowing she didn’t show up to her job with no call and no show after two days is something incredibly out of the ordinary with her. Illinois is No. 8 in the country for human trafficking, and Rockford is No.2 in the state. This sort of thing can happen to anyone and it makes me fearful for my friend’s safety and all those around me. It makes me question my reality knowing that she’s gone like this without a trace.”
Thall said he and friends have scoured the Rockford area looking for clues. It has been three weeks, and now that Emily is officially out of her epilepsy medication, time is not on anyone’s side.
“We’ve searched local parks, state parks, forest preserves and drove through neighborhoods,” Thall said. “I still continue to keep my eyes open anywhere I go.”
And although their relationship recently fell on difficult times, and they haven’t spoken in weeks, Thall said he expects to remain Emily’s friend. For now, he just wants to know she is safe.
“I would give anything and everything for her to come home safely. Literally anything,” he said.
Until then, the days have now turned into weeks, prompting more questions, including the one whether Emily may have harmed herself. Thall said he knows her well enough to dismiss that notion.
“She wouldn’t dedicate herself to an extent where it could risk her own well-being,” he said. “She’s so much better than that.”
After finishing her bartending shift a Shooter’s North, Emily was seen across the street at Neighbors Bar & Grill talking to friends. She then purchased food at Steak ‘n’ Shake. There is reportedly no surveillance cameras at the restaurant, so where Emily went from there remains a mystery.
Anderson is 5-foot-5 and approximately 140 pounds. She has black hair, green eyes, piercings on her ears and nose, and tattoos on her chest and arms. She was last seen wearing black pants and a white shirt.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Loves Park Police Department at 815-654-5015 during normal business hours. After hours tips can be shared by calling the Loves Park Police non-emergency number at 815-282-2600. R.