Search Continues Over 20 Years After Alexis Patterson Disappeared From Milwaukee School
Alexis Patterson was only seven years old when she went missing after walking to school in May 2002. She has not been seen since.
Alexis Patterson has been missing for just over 21 years. She was only seven years old when she was last seen on her way to school at Hi-Mount Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 3, 2002. Her stepfather, LaRon Bourgeois, said he watched her cross the street to her school on the day she disappeared, but she never made it to any of her classes, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Students reported seeing her crying on the playground before and after school, but she did not attend class. After that, nobody ever saw or heard from her.
At the time of her disappearance, Alexis lived with Ayanna and LaRon Bourgeois, her mother and stepfather, in Milwaukee. Their residence was only a block from the school where Alexis was a first-grade student, according to The Charley Project.
When Alexis didn’t come home from school that day, her mother and stepfather realized something was wrong and reported her missing. Until then, they thought she had been in class all day. Her stepfather initially thought Alexis didn’t go to classes because of an argument with her mother.
ABC News reported that Bourgeois said, "I feel that maybe she walked off. She was mad because we didn't let her take her cupcakes to school for her snack day because her homework wasn't done properly and that was her punishment. Maybe she walked off and somebody may have picked her up."
If Alexis did walk off, that was very unusual for the child. She had no history as a runaway. In fact, she had perfect attendance before she went missing.
Bourgeois was questioned extensively. He had a criminal background and failed a polygraph, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He and Ayanna Patterson divorced in 2005, and he died in 2021 of an apparent drug overdose.
At the time of Alexis’s disappearance, authorities conducted an extensive search for her, and the community also became involved. Divers searched the lagoon at Washington Park while the park itself was searched. No evidence was found during any of the extensive searches of the surrounding areas.
On May 14, 2002, investigators revealed that Alexis disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Her case was reclassified as a criminal investigation, but it sadly became a cold case.
Ayanna Patterson has never given up hope that she’ll one day find her daughter again. Born on April 4, 1995, Alexis would now be 28 years old. In 2016, there was hope that a woman living in Ohio might be the missing girl, but a DNA test proved that wrong, reported FOX6 News Milwaukee. That hasn’t stopped Alexis’ mother from persevering with her hope.
"I'm not giving up, ever. Just, I'm not giving up,” Ayanna told the network in 2022. "Alexis, Mama coming for you, and you know it.”
Investigative reporter Gina Barton has brought fresh attention to the case by choosing to cover it for the 2023 season of her podcast, Unsolved. She wanted to find out what happened, and she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where she used to work for two decades, that she is working on a project “about disparities in missing children's investigations when it comes to children of color. And I thought that maybe we could learn some lessons about that topic from Alexis’ case.”
The Milwaukee Police Department says that anybody with information on the case should contact them at 414-935-7360. If you want to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 414-224-TIPS.