MILWAUKEE -- This week marks 12 years since 7-year old Alexis Patterson vanished on her way to school.
The investigation is still active with new tips and leads coming in every year. Charles Benson has learned one of those tips caught the attention of Milwaukee Police.
“On the morning of May 3 2002 Alexis Patterson walked down this side walk to the corner 49th and Garfield. She was on her way to school with her step father LaRon Bourgeois,” said Milwaukee Police Lietenant Keith Balash.
“He then watched her cross in a south westerly direction toward Hi Mount Elementary School."
But she never made it there. What happened to Alexis that day remains as much of mystery today as it did then.
"Whether she was abducted off the road in that short distance or whether she voluntarily walked off in some other direction is unknown," said Balash.
Lt. Balash has been on the Alexis Patterson cold case since 2009. In the 12 years since Alexis disappeared police have collected more than 10,000 pages of documents.
"This book here is basically a book for our current and most recent tips and leads."
Including an interesting tip in March.
“Several of my investigators had actually gone out and conducted an interview where somebody in this nearby neighborhood recovered what they believed was evidence that would help us in this investigation,” said Balash.
“It was something that was very legitimate, physical evidence that was recovered and it's on inventory.”
Investigators were given a letter. Balash said most of the information in the letter was not new.
“But,” Balash said, “it's interesting that it was recovered some 12 years later.”
Balash warns against anyone getting their hopes up just yet.
“We are following up on that,” he said.
“We are doing some research into potentially who lived in the residence where it was recovered from and that may lead to further interviews.”
Back in 2008 investigators tried another novel idea to generate leads. They distributed playing cards in prisons with information about unsolved cases.
Alexis was the Seven of Hearts. Inmates could read details about her case while playing cards and call with tips.
Balash said that, while it did generate calls in the case, solid leads were more difficult to come by.
“Well again, Alexis has yet to be found.”
Police say they stay in touch with Alexis's Mom, Ayanna. This weekend she will hold her annual Alexis Patterson Forget Me Not Day. She has not given up.
“We've got to be optimistic Charles,” Balash said. “Let's hold out hope.”
Success stories about Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugar or the three missing Cleveland women give him hope. In all three cases the kidnapped women were found alive after being missing for months or years. Lt. Balash knows all it takes is one tip or a lead.
"I can tell you as soon as a tip or a lead comes in we are all over it. It is a priority for the Milwaukee Police Department to get to the bottom of what happened here,” Balash said.
“Hopefully [we will] find Alexis Patterson alive so we can reunite her with her family.”
This story is part of a month-long series called "Find Our Children" on TODAY'S TMJ4. Every weekday on Live at Six we'll feature a missing child from our area in the hopes of bringing them home. You can find a gallery of Wisconsin’s missing children and adults here.