If you can never get enough true crime... Congratulations, you’ve found your people.
Mon, 13 Mar 2023 07:00
When 23-year-old Phoenix Coldon walks out the front door of her family home, her parents never could have guessed that she wouldn’t come back. The search for her only turned up more questions, and over 10 years later, many of those questions still remain.
Hi, crime junkies. I'm your host Ashley Flowers, and I'm Brett. And the story I have for you today is about a young woman who literally seems to vanish off the face of the earth. And despite all the efforts by her family to bring her home, there seems to be a lack of an official investigation. But the further they look into her disappearance, the more questions they have. This is the story of Phoenix, Coulden. Goldia Coulden knows something bad has happened to her daughter. It is 130 in the morning, and her daughter, Phoenix, is always home by now. But she's not pulling into the driveway. She's not walking through the front door, and the house is silent. Now, one thing you need to know about Goldia is that she is not one to just stand around and wait for something to happen. So as soon as she gets that feeling in her gut, that something's wrong, she trusts it. She walks into the bedroom that she shares with her husband Lawrence and wakes him up. But Lawrence doesn't share her panic, at least, not on the outside. He tries to calm Goldia down, saying Phoenix is going to be home soon. She's fine. Everything's going to be okay. But even though Goldia trusts her husband more than anyone, she can't believe a word he's saying. She knows in her heart that something is wrong. Now, Phoenix is a responsible 23-year-old who knows that while she's living under her parents' roof, in attending college, she is not supposed to stay out past 1 1 30 AM. And she never has until now. So Goldia stays up, watching the clock slowly turn from 1 30 to 2 30 to 3 30, and Phoenix still isn't home. And by the next day, both Goldia and Lawrence are beside themselves with worry, and Goldia decides to call the police. But before she can, Lawrence tells her to just wait. Wait for what? Their kid didn't come home last night. Well, it's not that he doesn't want her to call, or that he's not worried, because by this point, he for sure is. Basically, Goldia explains in an episode of Real Talk with Tamera that he was just under the impression that they had to wait between 24 and 48 hours before you could report someone missing. But actually, that doesn't happen here, because Goldia is like, I don't care if you have to wait, I'm calling and I'm reporting our daughter missing. An officer from St. Louis County shows up at their house in the northern part of St. Louis later that day and asks them all the standard questions, name, physical description, age, all of it. But before the coldens can even get around to telling the officer what had happened, you know, the important information, he stops them as soon as they tell him her birthday. Oh, he doesn't think she's missing because she's an adult. That's exactly what he says, just like so many other cases we've covered. But Goldia does not budge. She says, you don't know my daughter, you don't know our family, and this isn't right. So the officer is like, okay, you know what? Let me go run her license plate, make sure that her vehicle, which is this 1998 Chevy Blazer, hasn't shown up anywhere. So he steps out, leaving Goldia and Lawrence waiting with baited breath, thinking back on the day before, and the last time that they had seen their daughter wondering if there were any red flags. But the day before had been entirely normal. It was December 18, 2011, a Sunday, so Goldia and Phoenix had gone to church in the morning. Jill Cedarsson reported for oxygen that they had stopped by the store after that and headed home at around 2pm. The last time either of them had seen her had been around 3pm. Lawrence was in the living room and Phoenix had walked past him out the front door and sat in her SUV, which actually isn't entirely unusual. Usually she would go sit out there to like talk on the phone to get like a bit of privacy. I don't really get that. Mm-hmm. But after a few minutes, Lawrence saw her pull out of the driveway. Again, not really any cause for concern. He just assumed that she was going to go to the store or something. But then she just never came back. When the officer comes back in, he informs the Colton's that he ran her license plate but didn't get a hit. Now I'm not sure if they're able to file an official missing persons report, but even if they are, it becomes pretty clear that the police aren't going to offer any help. The officer is convinced that she just left on her own and she's eventually just going to show back up. And she hadn't left with like a bag of stuff or anything. At least nothing that Lawrence saw, right? Right. The only thing missing is her purse, which makes sense because again, she drove away like she was going somewhere. Right. But all of her clothes are still there. All of her personal belongings, everything is at the house. And as far as her parents know, like she has a great life. She's in college. She has a good group of friends. So not only does leaving on her own not make sense for her personality, but there's also no physical evidence to back that up. But even though the police aren't much help, the Colton's aren't just going to sit around and wait for Phoenix to come home. They make and distribute their own fliers. They call local hospitals, just in case she was in an accident. Golly, it even calls every local news station. She can think of begging them to cover Phoenix's case just to get her face out there because she knows how important it is for the public to be looking out for her. But she is essentially ignored. Call after call gets the same response and no one wants to cover Phoenix's story. That is except for one woman. A local reporter named Andrea Thomas who works for Fox 2. She hears about the Colton struggle to get any coverage for Phoenix and she pushes to report on the story herself at her news station. She's appalled not only by the police's dismissal of the case, but also just a lack of coverage. Here is a young successful, hardworking young woman who literally disappears into thin air and no one is talking about her. But both Shandreya and the Colton think that they know why. It is because Phoenix is black. In an article for St. Louis Post Dispatch, by Marlon A Walker, Goldia says they are able to get some coverage, but nothing close to cases like Natalie Holloway, for instance. But it is not just the media or the police or the institutions they are used to seeing this from. What is wild about Phoenix's case is that it is a grind to even get Phoenix's own friends to help. Goldia is shocked by how many of Phoenix's friends just kind of drop off and don't seem to care. Yeah, I'm always shocked when I hear stuff like that too. I mean, I've literally already had you search my house when I thought Justin was missing. For like five minutes, like the second you thought he was gone. Yeah, if something happened to you, it's like, oh well, would not be it. Honestly, this crime-nucky feed would just be episodes titled Missing Ashley Flowers. I literally thought about that that anyone I ever knew at missing. I was like every audio chuck show would just become about that case. Now, fortunately, there are a few friends who set up and offer some helpful information and the cold-ins learned that they might not have known their daughter as well as they thought they did. For example, a few days after she went missing, Goldia's kind of doing her thing, making some calls, and she's actually speaking to one of Phoenix's friends. And the friend mentions Phoenix's boyfriend, a boyfriend that Goldia and Lawrence didn't know about. So Goldia's obviously shocked by this and she asked if the boyfriend would know where Phoenix is. And the friend is like, I mean, yeah, if anybody would, he would. These friends, how are they not shouting this from the rooftops on day one? Yeah. Not like, oh yeah, maybe ask this person, she has this significant relationship with. Again, if you go missing the first episode of Missing Ashley Flowers, would just be me being like, Eric did it, right? You're like fully feeding into like the husband always did it thing. It's probably not Eric. But I think that this is like the tip of the iceberg of them discovering that they maybe don't know everything about their daughter, right? And I think that maybe goes into her friendships. Maybe the people they thought were her close group of friends aren't. I don't know the full dynamic. Right, right. And I also don't know how exactly this call went down. So maybe there was more urgency, but I don't know. To me, it just seems like someone should have let them know sooner. But this is what I was meaning about these friends, even the ones who are helping. It's just kind of like this, oh, by the way, kind of thing. So anyways, this friend does agree to call the boyfriend and see if he knows anything. And a few days go by before Goldia hears back. Days? Yeah. Where is the urgency? I know this is painful. But when they finally call back, they say that they talked to the boyfriend and he said he doesn't know anything. I'm sorry. This is all too weird. This is after days have gone by. I'm not buying it. Yeah, neither is Goldia. So she asked the friend, well, do you believe him? And the friends like, no, not one bit. I mean, that's all I'd need to hear. Let's go talk to him. See what he knows. Yeah, everything. Yeah, well, hold on. Because there's more. In these last few days, they have learned even more new information about Phoenix that they have to take into consideration when planning their next move. Like? Like? Not only did Phoenix have a boyfriend, the two of them had actually lived together for a while. What? How did her parents not know about him then? Well, let me give you, I think you need some context around this. So when Phoenix was 18, she had moved into an apartment with who her parents thought was a female friend. Like, Goldia had even signed the lease and each time, Goldia had been over to the apartment. She had never seen anything that would indicate that there was a guy living there. Do they know how long he was living with her? I don't think so at least not at this point, but it had been for a while because Phoenix had just moved back in with her parents like earlier that year. Which I can't imagine that transition was painless going from having all that freedom to living with your parents again. I had to go back to living with my parents when I was exactly Phoenix's age 23 and I mean, it was painful for me and I have lovely parents as she might too. And it wasn't the easiest for her, but again, as far as Goldia and Lawrence knew, things were okay. But the more they're uncovering about Phoenix, the more they start to question literally everything in her life. Because in addition to the boyfriend and the living arrangements before, they also find out that she actually hadn't enrolled in classes for the fall semester. So everything is a lie? Well, that's what they want to find out. It's around this time that they decide to go through her room. I mean, they had been in it since she went missing, but never with the intention of like searching for clues as to not just where she is, but like who she is. But when they do this, they find some items that make them start questioning what really happened to their daughter. First, they find one of her boyfriend's business cards with his phone number on it. And this is a big deal. Wait, why? I mean, didn't the friend have his number? They called him and talked to him. Here's the thing. So for what I can tell, the friend did have the number. The friend did call him, but the coldans didn't have his number. So I don't know if the friend like just didn't think to pass along, then they couldn't get a hold of them or wouldn't pass it along or what, but from what I can tell, this is the first time that they're seeing his number anywhere. So anyways, this is huge because back in 2011, when you got your phone bill, you could see every number who called you and every number that you called. So they take a look at their phone bill specifically for the last few days before Phoenix went missing. And his number shows up multiple times. The day before she went missing, that was December 17. They had had a phone call that lasted 116 minutes from 11 p.m. to almost 1 o'clock in the morning. And then the day she went missing, they had talked twice once for six minutes and once for just a single minute. And actually that one minute conversation is the last number that she called on that phone. Could that be the call she took from the driveway or is this later like after she left? Actually, neither. This last call happened an hour before she left the driveway. How is this the last call if it's before the call she made in the driveway? So that's the thing. We actually don't know if she made a call in the driveway. So the thing that her dad said is when she went to her SUV, like he said it was normal because she would often take calls, not that he saw her taking a call. So as far as we know, no call necessarily was made. Okay. Are the police aware of any of this? Because if he's the last person she talked to, it seems like he's the person they should be looking at, right? Well, no. I mean, as far as I can tell, the police aren't looking at anyone. So they're definitely not starting with him. Now, the phone records are not the only thing that they find suspicious because tucked into the pages of a notebook in her room. They also find a piece of paper with this hastily scribbled note. Now, they can tell it's written by Phoenix. But from what quality it can tell, it's seemingly something that someone said to her. Now, I don't know exactly what the note says, like verbatim, or even what it's written on. All I have are like that it's a piece of paper dated for the day she went missing. And I just have this summary that Goldia gave on that episode of Real Talk with Tamera that I mentioned earlier. And what Goldia said on that show was, quote, we think you need to make up your mind about what you're going to do before 2012 or else I'm going to have to show you what I can do about your parents. End quote. That's a threat. That's what Goldia ends up thinking too. Well, and also who is we? I have no idea. Again, Goldia is paraphrasing there, not verbatim, what the note says. So I don't know if it actually was a we or an eye or whatever, but whoever said that clearly wanted Phoenix to make a decision about something and it does seem like they're threatening her, but her parents don't know what the decision would need to be about. Now, after they find the note, the coldines keep searching for Phoenix and whatever way they can, but they just keep hitting dead ends. That is until two weeks later, when they learn that her car has been found. Where did they finally find it? Well, that's the thing. It has been sitting at an impound lot in East St. Louis since the day she went missing. Well, I'm confused. Same. The police ran her plates the day she went missing. Bingo. Why didn't it show up in their system till now? Well, for a second, you got to slow down because yes, police ran the plates the day she went missing and they found nothing. But right now, it's actually not the police who find her car. So get this. On January 1st, Goldia gets a call from this family friend. This is somebody who had heard Phoenix is missing and they basically just are calling to see what they heard is true. Now, whoever this person is, once Goldia confirmed that yes, my daughter's missing, this family friend says, okay, I'm going to do some digging. And they ask for Phoenix's license plate number, her vehicle description, stuff like that. They hang up and not 15 minutes later, Goldia gets this call back and this friend says, listen, I tracked down her car to this tow yard in East St. Louis, which is across the Mississippi River from Missouri in Illinois. 15 minutes, it took them 15 minutes to find the car. Well, police have been doing what exactly all this time. And that's the question, isn't it? But regardless of how they learned where it was, what matters now is that they know where it is. So the coldens passed this information on to the St. Louis County police who headed the in-pound lot and start processing the car. And they do end up learning some pretty disturbing details about how it was found. So it turns out the car was found less than three hours after Phoenix left home at an intersection at around 5.30 p.m. And they're told that it was found in the traffic lane with the engine running, he's still in the ignition with the driver's door just open. Now the officer who first came upon it said that he didn't see anyone inside and after confirming that it hadn't been reported it was just towed away. And as if that wasn't suspicious enough, the area where it was found makes her parents even more worried because, again, it's found in East St. Louis, which is known for violent crime known for drugs, gang activity. I mean, this is known to not be a great place to be in. So it's not a place that Phoenix would normally go to on her own. Okay, but that's what they know of. I feel like she was doing a bunch of things they didn't know about. True. True. And I mean, even if she did take the car there, what I can't get over is they find this car in a bad part town under clearly suspicious circumstances. And no one was like, maybe we should see whose car this is and find out why it's here in the middle of the road. What? Still on. And this is what is, to me, the strangest part. The car is actually, though it's Phoenix's car, like she's the only one that used it, it's actually registered and insured under goldiest name, which you think they would have known. So literally all East St. Louis Police would have had to do is like pick up the phone and call her. So you got this abandoned car, it seems like there was no effort put in to even track down the owner. Right. And I still don't understand how the car didn't show up when the St. Louis County police ran the plates when Goldia and Lawrence went to them in the first place. I know. I was super hung up on that too. But Goldia says in an article for Huff Post by David Law, that she thinks the East St. Louis Police just didn't enter it into their system right when it came into their possession. So by the time St. Louis Police ran the plate, it didn't show up. Like just this small window, they basically missed each other. And how much was lost in that, though? Like even though they're processing the car now, it hasn't been treated like a crime scene for two weeks. Who knows what evidence was in there that might be contaminated or degraded by now? I mean, I think it depends on who you ask because police would say that nothing was lost in those two weeks because when the car is finished being processed, the police tell the coldans that there wasn't anything in it. Like it was empty. No items, no fingerprints, nothing. I mean, it's so worthless as evidence to them that they just release it to the family on January 5th. So when they release it, Goldia and Lawrence head over to the lot to get it. And I kid you not. As soon as they open the door, the first thing they see are Phoenix's reading glasses, like sitting right there. Bull sh**, there's nothing in the car. And the glasses aren't even all like there's a tote bag. Her purse is there. There's a scarf to short-sleeved T-shirts and extra pair of shoes that she kept in the car. There's a bracelet, some earrings. I mean, her insurance card, the list goes on and on. If all of that is nothing, what is actually- Do nothing to them. I don't know. Okay, so all of this is still in the car, and the police just collect none of it. None of it. Nothing. Which is- this is why I'm saying like to them, they're like, oh, the two weeks, you know, and again, there might have been more. Who knows what happened in those two weeks, but they think everything in there is useless. Especially again, to me, you didn't look at her purse. Were you even looking at the right car? I'm so confused. Right. But even after all of that frustration and negligence, it seems like the investigation is finally starting to take off. Goldia says in another episode of Real Talk with Tamera that after the car is found, police bring in cadaver dogs to search the area around where it was found. They also check her bank and her phone records, you know, actually starting to investigate Phoenix's disappearance. Yeah. And the police confirm that her bank account hasn't been accessed, and her phone hasn't been used since she went missing. And there was nothing suspicious from when or where the phone stopped being used? Well, again, so based on the phone, but we know that last call that she made was at one minute call I mentioned earlier, but police have never said if she was texting on it or anything afterwards. And I couldn't find like, again, where it stopped transmitting or died or anything like that. Now they at this point also finally interviewed the boyfriend, who they end up clearing. So he's a dead end. This is when the black in missing foundation steps in and helps the coldans get some national coverage for the case. And once Phoenix's name is out there, tips do start coming in. For instance, there is one where someone contacts investigators and says that they think they saw Phoenix at a bus stop there in St. Louis. And wouldn't you know it when they go to check it out? There is surveillance footage. So they take a look and there is a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Phoenix to the point where investigators think that they found her. So they take some of the images to her parents just to be sure. And they say it wasn't her. But despite that disappointment, the coldans keep pushing forward. They go on the local news, they keep handing out photos and flyers. They even start a fun to raise money to hire a private investigator. And Lawrence even leads searches of their own around where her car was found. But time after time, they come up with nothing. By the time spring rolls around, they have raised enough money to finally hire that private investigator who gets to work trying to fill in some of the blanks. And he starts with the police report from the officer who found Phoenix's car. He's able to get a copy of it, which he passes on to the coldans. And they are shocked by what they see. First, the report they get is supposed to be six pages. At least that's what they think because it's numbered one, two, three, four, six. Page five is missing, which strikes them as odd. There's also just not a lot of information in the report like nothing about who the car was registered to and insured by. And finally, on one of the first pages, like there is this line that says victim where the officer can write if there is someone in the car or around the car, hurt whatever. And in that line, in that victim line is written adult female. How would he know that if Phoenix wasn't with the car? Exactly. It is bizarre. And they don't get an explanation for it either. So the report just ends up furthering the rift between the East St. Louis PD and the coldans. Yeah, I'm on the cold inside here. It's not adding up. And if you don't have answers for why then you're part of the problem. Same. Now, tips are still coming in to both police and the coldans themselves. And one of them does grab their attention. This man from Texas calls them and says that he knows where Phoenix is. He says she's alive, she's in Texas, and he can point them to exactly where she's staying. Now, based on their conversation, the coldans are convinced that this guy is legit. I mean, he gives them details that seem really convincing. And so they spare no expense, traveling to Texas to get their daughter and bring her home. And mind you, already, they have spent a lot of money in their search for Phoenix. I mean, their life savings are all but gone. But to them, this is all worth it to get their daughter back. Yeah. But when they travel to Texas, they are devastated to learn that the man they talk to was lying. Phoenix isn't there. And even though that's the most heartbreaking part of this, it doesn't even end there. Because a half-post article by David Law reports that the trip puts them dangerously close to losing their home. Now, they contact police to try and report this guy and have him arrested. But the authorities tell them that they actually can't do anything. Because he contacted the coldans and not police, he hasn't hindered their investigation. So apparently, there's nothing they can do. Now, the coldans are able to end up selling their house, which helps them avoid foreclosure. But their financial situation stays dire. All because this random man wanted attention or I don't know, whatever his motive was. What is wrong with people? I know. I will never understand the reasoning behind you like that. Yeah. So it is back to square one. So did they ever have any theories about where she is? Like, I know they had the boyfriend theory for a while, but after that was ruled out, what else were they working on? I mean, there's still the theory, I think, in police's mind that she left on her own, which her parents both adamantly deny, especially since she didn't take any personal belongings. But there is also a second theory that she was met with foul play, specifically that she was abducted and trafficked. I mean, at this point in 2011, 2012, St. Louis had a massive human trafficking problem. According to a two-part documentary titled The Disappearance of Phoenix, Cold and St. Louis is one of the top 10 cities for human trafficking in the United States. An Interstate 70, which runs right through it, is known as the Sex Trafficking Super Highway. Oh my god. And as we all know, there are lots of ways. Someone can become a victim of human trafficking. But, Britt, I actually had you look up some of the more common ways that people fall victim to this. Can you talk us through what you found? Yeah, so like you said, there are a lot of tactics to force someone into this. And I know we've talked about before that maybe it's, you know, someone you know who pressures you into sex work, like a boyfriend, for instance. They say, oh, it's just this one time. We need the cash. You'll never have to do it again. But then it becomes one more time, one more time, and it's never just one more time. Another common tactic is that someone will offer you a job that takes you away from home. It might seem like a little too good to be true. And once they get you away from like the safety and the comfort of home, you're forced into it. And then there are abduction scenarios where there's no tricking or manipulation involved. Right. Someone just grabs you. And those are two examples that they give in the documentary about Phoenix's case. Now, talk more about it later, but they even interview a survivor. And that's exactly what she says. I mean, there are so many ways someone can be lured or forced into trafficking. And the abduction theory is actually what the coldans start to think happened to Phoenix. Between the location of her SUV and the way it was found, they think it's totally possible that someone just grabbed her straight out of her vehicle. But what about the note? Who says it can't be both? Like maybe someone got her into this, and maybe she was trying to get out. It would explain a lot of the behaviors her parents couldn't like dropping out of school. Right. I mean, it's totally possible. But again, if we're looking at all scenarios, it's also totally possible that the letter was just a red herring and they aren't connected. I mean, like something definitely was going on that took her to that area and then she was abducted. And I only suggest that because of this story about another young woman that the coldans learn about. According to that same Huff post article by David Lour, this woman was at a stop like a few years ago and a man literally just walked up to her car, opened the door, reached over, ripped her from the car and shoved her into another vehicle. Now, she said there were a few people in the car and they took her somewhere that she didn't recognize. It was there that she was drugged, repeatedly sexually assaulted, and was basically made aware that they planned to traffic her. Now, thankfully, she was able to get away. Most of the people that she had been with had, I guess, gone out one day and there was just one guy left to guard her and he got drunk. So she took that opportunity and just ran to this nearby house where the woman who answered the door called 911 for her. After she was taken to the hospital, she learned that the place she had been taken was about three hours outside of East St. Louis. But she says that pretty much right away, the police didn't seem to care about what she'd gone through. They never found the people that abducted her and aside from being interviewed at the hospital, the police only contacted her once, like a year later, and she hadn't heard any updates since. So the coldens of gotta be thinking that this woman's ordeal and Phoenix's disappearance are connected, right? Oh, I mean, her family thinks it's a definite possibility, but I'm not sure what the police do with that information. In fact, they stay pretty tight-lipped about everything that they're doing. So I'm not entirely sure what they know or what they do with what they know. Anyways, after this tip from the woman, things seem to go quiet. The coldens keep their search going with their PI and if the police ever make any headway, it's never been reported on. But that police report that the PI got has just been nagging at Goldia this whole time. I mean, there are so many things about it that just don't sit right with her, like the missing page that spot where it said there was a victim. So in the summer of 2013, she goes to the East St. Louis Police Department and requests a copy of the report herself. They give it to her and she is appalled to see that what they gave her is a completely different report than what she saw a year ago. What? Yeah, this one is three pages, not six. The date that it was filed isn't December 18th when the car was found. It's January 1st, 2012. And Goldia says that it has a lot more information than the first report did. Like the first report didn't have anything about her registration information, which remember was in Goldia's name. And this report has all of it. So there are two reports or just this one and now they're saying the other one doesn't exist. I have no idea. I can't find any explanation from the East St. Louis Police on why the documents are different. And if the cold ins have ever been told why they've never made a public statement about it. But what they're really hung up on is the date that this second report says it was filed because January 1st is the day that that family friend was able to track down the car. Right. And if it wasn't entered into any databases until the first, that backs up Goldia's assumption that they just hadn't filed anything in a timely manner. So when the officer ran her plate back when she was first reported missing, there's no reason it would have shown up. Right. And we just just another example of how the police's incompetence at the start of this investigation may have severely hindered the entire thing. So over the next few years, the investigation seems to stall. I mean, there are a few sightings which make the cold ins believe that Phoenix is still out there. The most convincing which comes in March of 2014, basically one of Phoenix's former church friends is on a plane coming back from Vegas when she looks up and sees this group of women who are like still boarding. And among them is a woman that she is convinced is Phoenix. She says she's well dressed. She's with this group of other well-dressed women as well as these two large muscular men who look to be about 35 to 40. So when this church friend sees her, she says her name out loud, almost like out of shock. And the woman that she thinks is Phoenix turns to her, looks her dead in the eye and she says something like, oh, do I look like someone? And so the church friend kind of goes on to explain, you know, you look like my friend, Phoenix, and the woman just doesn't even respond. She just keeps walking past her to her seat. Now as soon as the plane lands, the church friend goes to the airport officials to report what she saw and police end up being called and they search the entire airport. But they're never able to track this woman down or even confirm if it really was Phoenix. You know, I feel like this fits with the trafficking theory. I mean, if she's traveling with a crew including these two men, I mean, it's suspicious, right? And like the fact that it's this church friend, to me, like, it feels a little less random. Like, I don't think they would have mistaken her identity. Like, they'd known each other for years. So I don't know, like, it just seems so legit. It seems to carry more weight for some reason. Yeah. Now, after this sighting, Goldia and Lawrence keep trying to push to get Phoenix's case solved. But as the years pass, it seems like everyone has forgotten about Phoenix. Everyone but Chandra Atomis, that reporter I mentioned earlier, she's actually never forgotten about the coldans and the search for their daughter, even though reporting on her case is all but stopped. So she actually starts working with oxygen true crime to produce that documentary on Phoenix's case that I've talked about. She teams up with this man named Joe Delia, who's worked for the FBI, the DEA, and he was actually part of a task force that busted one of the largest child sex trafficking rings in the US. The two of them together start digging into Phoenix's past for this documentary, and slowly but surely, they start to unearth even more information that had never been made public before. For example, one of the things found in the SUV was a phone bill. But it wasn't for the family plan. It turns out that Phoenix had a phone other than the one on the coldans family plan. Did her parents know about it? Not until after she vanished. And they knew it for a long time, but it was something that they just kept under wraps, probably to try and protect the investigation. But I mean, with so many years at this point having passed, I think they felt like they had nothing to lose by including it in the dock. Now, Shandrea and former officer Delia confirm with the St. Louis County police that they have been able to track her phones, both of them, on the day she disappeared, but they won't share what those records told them. Okay, but do they know why she had two phones? If anyone, police coldans anyone know, no one says. But Shandrea and officer Delia talked to some of Phoenix's friends and they say that it was because she didn't want her mom or her boyfriend to know that she was talking to this other guy. Apparently, was a guy that she was dating while she was with her boyfriend that she lived with for a time, though I'm not sure like how much of an overlap there was. But either way, Shandrea and officer Delia dive into this guy's background and they dig up some pretty interesting stuff. So boyfriend number two has a restraining order against him from a girlfriend that he had up until the end of 2011. Shandrea and officer Delia track her down and they talk to this other woman and in the documentary she says that boyfriend number two, he was possessive and angry and over time became both emotionally and physically abusive. That's not all. She also says that he was obsessed with missing persons cases, specifically Phoenix's and a few others in Chicago. Now he told her it was because he was a psych major and just really into true crime. And fair listen, I'm also obsessed with missing persons cases. Right. We're all here, right? But she pressed him further and he asked her why she was so worried about someone who was already dead. I'm sorry, what? Yes, super sus. Well, when Shandrea and officer Delia go talk to him, they learn that he has a lawyer and isn't up for talking. Like he's not saying anything. But they know that the police are at least aware of him. So there's not much more they can do on that front. Now one of the other major discoveries comes when they talk to the officer who first saw Phoenix's SUV the evening she went missing. Now remember the cold ends were told really everyone was told that the SUV was parked door open, keys in the ignition engine still running. But when they speak to this guy again who is listed as the responding officer, he's like no door was closed, SUV was off, keys were not anywhere in the vehicle. So the complete opposite of what they've been saying for years. I have no idea how this story got so twisted. Again, this is years later. I don't know if he's misremembering because even on the police report that the coldans have, it's literally written that the car is still running and the door was open all of it. Okay, here's my question. Do the investigators have the keys then? We know the coldans don't have them. If the police didn't collect them when the car was found, that would confirm that would mean the story everyone's been believing for years is wrong. You've right, there's so many pieces that are missing. I don't know who has the keys because you're right, if the investigators have them, I mean they're keeping it under wrap. Right. And to your point, like if they have them, then the keys were with the vehicle. It just doesn't make any sense. None of this case makes any sense. So I have to keep going. The next thing that the doc reveals is another big twist. So they reveal this video from one of Phoenix's cell phones. Apparently, the video was taken about a month before she disappeared and in it, she is talking to herself about wanting to start over. She basically says that she's gotten herself into a situation and while she doesn't go into any detail, she's looking around like there's something or someone watching her. I feel like that would have been important to know day one. This plus the note in her room really makes it seem like she was trying to get away on her own. Yeah. But something about this, I don't know, it still feels like there's got to be a foul play element. You said she's like looking around in the video, but feels like she's clearly running from someone, right? Again, her parents are still adamant that she didn't leave on her own, but there are actually a few reasons that kind of back up that theory. Her friends tell Shondrea and officer Delia that Goldia and Lawrence are pretty strict and that ever since she moved home, she had been having a really rough time getting used to not having that freedom that she had in the past. But it goes beyond that. One of her friends mentions getting in an argument with Phoenix a few days before she disappeared in which Phoenix threatened to pack and leave. Okay. What if it's all of it? Like she could have run away, but also have been trafficked if whoever she ran away too would shady. I really think trafficking could be involved in some way. And I mean, again, to go back to even what I was saying, maybe that was happening before. Maybe that's the thing that made her want to leave. I mean, one of the ideas that Shondrea and officer Delia explore in the doc is that traffickers can hold something, basically quote unquote, shameful over someone to force that person into it. So maybe she had done something that she felt her parents wouldn't approve of or again, she just felt a lot of shame over whether she should have or not. And whoever she was with knew that and used that against her. Though, I will say that the cold-in's PI doesn't really buy into that theory. As far as I can tell, he doesn't work for them anymore. And he tells Shondrea and officer Delia that after everything he's learned, he thinks Phoenix ran away on her own. He says the human trafficking theory is unlikely because she had a support system around her. Even if her parents were strict, she had friends. Now, could she have gotten lured away by something? Maybe, but he says that he's pretty convinced she left on her own to start a new life. Listen, if he has proof, she did this on her own by her own choosing. Awesome. Great. Let's see it. But actually, people with support systems get trafficked all the time. I totally agree with you. This felt like a very old school mindset, yeah, about trafficking. And again, I don't want what he's saying to get like misinterpreted. I think this is some toxic misinformation that makes it so hard for people to spot trafficking. Because again, we've said it before, it happens to people with great support systems. Sometimes those people go home to their families. Well, on top of that, this is not like way back in the days. Yeah, it's in 2011. It is not that easy just to disappear in the thin air. Well, actually, it's funny. You should say that because for Phoenix, it actually might have been easier than for most people. Because in researching this case, I found out that she had two birth certificates. Okay. What are the odds of that, though? Why? I know. So the first one is from when she was born, and it has her mother's maiden name on it, which was Reeves. And then when Goldia married Lawrence, and Phoenix was still a child, she changed it. But the Reeves birth certificate still exists. And theoretically, she could maybe use it to assume a new identity. So, Shandrea and Officer Delia, they found this out as well. They decide to look into that idea just in case. And it might actually have some legs to it. They start looking into that name, and they find four people going by the name Phoenix Reeves. Three can be discounted right away, because they're able to determine that they're not Phoenix, or at least they're not the Phoenix they're looking for, right? But the fourth is interesting. They can't find a social security number for that name. No relatives, nothing. But there's records of someone going by the name Phoenix Reeves, because it was associated with a place in Anchorage, Alaska, from January of 2012 to June of 2012. Which is right after Phoenix, Golden went missing. Now the documentary follows Officer Delia as he actually goes to Alaska to see if he can track down this Phoenix. But as good of a lead as it seemed, he can't find her. I mean, he goes to the address, but the woman who lives there says that she's lived at the house since 2002. She's never rented to anyone. No one in the neighborhood recognizes Phoenix's photo either. So, I mean, this was promising, but it's like every other sighting. It seems like a dead end. Is there any other theory about where she could be any similar cases? The only other possible connection is the murder of a woman named Stacey English, which happened in Atlanta back in December of 2011. And Stacey's story goes that she'd gone missing after a family gathering and her car was found the exact same way as Phoenix's was, or at least how we thought it was in the beginning, right? Like door unlocked engine running. Anyway, Stacey's body was found on January 23rd of 2012 under a tree about a mile from her car. And while her death was eventually ruled as quote-unquote accidental, her family disagreed with the ruling. But that's really it. Over the last few years, there haven't been any possible sightings, at least none that have been reported on, but Golia and Lawrence are still desperate for their daughter to come home. So, Phoenix, if you are out there somewhere and you happen to hear this, maybe you did leave on your own. You don't have to come back to your old life. I mean, you'd be 34 years old now. You can make your own decisions, but your parents are desperate to know what happened to you. You don't have to talk to them. You don't have to tell anyone where you are. There are ways to keep your location and identity secure, but they do miss you and they do love you. But if you didn't mean for this to happen, if you may be trusted the wrong person or did something you aren't proud of, something that you think people will judge you for, there are resources out there that can help you. Get out of whatever situation you're in. You can call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 for anonymous immediate assistance. And that applies to anyone who feels like they might be in that situation. And if Phoenix isn't out there, or if this never makes it to her, then crime junkies finding Phoenix is up to you. If any of you know anything about the disappearance of Phoenix, Colden, you can call the St. Louis County Police at 636-529-8210. Or you can submit a tip online to the St. Louis Regional Crime Stoppers at stlrcs.org. You can find all of the source material for this episode on our website, crimejunkiepodcast.com. And be sure to follow us on Instagram at crimejunkiepodcast. We'll be back next week with a brand new episode. Crimejunkie is an audio check production. So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve?