A woman in Ohio looks a lot like Alexis Patterson. Could she be the missing girl?
By Ashley Luthern and Gina Barton, USA TODAY,2023-06-03
The latest s e ason of Unsolved , a true-crime podcast for USA TODAY and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, examines the disappearance of 7-year-old Alexis Patterson . Alexis went missing in Milwaukee in 2002. Fourteen years after she vanished, a man in Ohio came forward to suggest his ex-wife could be Alexis. The following excerpts from the Journal Sentinel archives, reported by Crocker Stephenson, were first published in 2016. Unsolved is available on all podcast platforms.
New hope in mystery of Alexis Patterson’s 2002 disappearance
Originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 6, 2016
Law enforcement officials wanted to determine whether a woman living in Ohio was Alexis Patterson, the Milwaukee girl who vanished 14 years ago, a mystery that remains an open wound to those touched by her story.
Questions about the Ohio woman arose when the woman's ex-husband and his fiancée became increasingly curious about her murky past.
The woman, they said, has no memory of her childhood before the age of 10. She has no photographs or school mementos — indeed, no usual reminders of a normal childhood.
That was enough to spur the ex-husband and fiancée to search for clues on the internet where they happened upon a computer-aged photograph of Alexis Patterson, and became convinced that Alexis is the woman they know.
The couple compiled a set of about a dozen photos and, in late June, sent it to the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department. Within days, they also sent it to the Journal Sentinel, hoping for action. The newspaper shared the photos with the Milwaukee Police Department's cold case unit, which has been in charge of Alexis' case since 2009.
Alexis' mother, Ayanna Patterson, has never wavered in her belief that her daughter is alive. But she has had her hopes built up by purported breaks in her daughter's case, only to have them crash when the breaks didn't pan out. She has been besieged by hustlers claiming to know her daughter – or even to be her daughter.
When the Journal Sentinel showed her the photos of the Ohio woman, Patterson's initial skepticism gave way to cautious optimism.
"That could be my baby," she said. "I've never said this before, but that could be my child."
Her optimism deepened when reporters traveled to Ohio and interviewed the couple.
The woman, they said, has two features often mentioned in descriptions of Alexis by such organizations as the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children : a linear scar beneath her right eye and an unusual bump on her left pinkie finger.
They also mentioned a third characteristic, one that has not been released to the general public. When they told Ayanna Patterson, she confirmed that Alexis also had that characteristic. And then she wept.
The Ohio woman, however, has steadfastly denied that she is Alexis.
"I am not that girl," she told the Journal Sentinel. "That is a ridiculous question."
Unsolved podcast searches for the truth about Alexis Patterson
Seven years later, Alexis' mother continues to believe the Ohio woman is her daughter.
“I know that’s my child,” Patterson told USA TODAY last year . “I’m not afraid of nothing now that I know my baby’s safe, and I know my baby’s alive.”
In episode five of Unsolved , reporters travel again to Ohio to try to figure out the truth.
Learn more about the Alexis Patterson case by listening to the true-crime podcast Unsolved .
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A woman in Ohio looks a lot like Alexis Patterson. Could she be the missing girl?