Demetria Watkins hasn’t been seen since she left her Oak Park home on April 9. This isn’t the first time the 18-year-old girl has disappeared, but Demetria, who was born in Cleveland but grew up in Oak Park, has never been gone for such a long period of time, said her aunt, Brenda Potts. Of equal concern, her aunt says, is that Demetria was born with a developmental disability, which makes her very susceptible to the wrong kind of people.
“No one has heard or seen her since,” said Potts, who also lives in Oak Park. “She can’t move around this city as far as public transportation because she’s not used to that. That’s what concerns us even more, because she would be gone for three or four days, but never this long.”
Demetria, though good with numbers, doesn’t call home while she’s gone, but “would just show up,” added Patricia Brown, the girl’s grandmother and guardian, who works in Oak Park and River Forest High School food service department.
Demetria, whose nickname is Demi, is a senior at OPRF, and a student in special education, but was attending an alternative school in Des Plaines – Camelot Therapeutic Day School – because of her disability. She would have graduated in June. She also attended Whittier Elementary School and Emerson Middle School, now Brooks.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her early teens, she had been taking medication for the condition and also took medicine for asthma. The family has checked local pharmacies, but there has been no pickup of her medicines.
She turned 18 on March 12 and had disappeared prior to Thursday, April 9. That Monday, Brown came home from work and saw a male run out her back door. Demetria then ran out the front door and didn’t return for three days. Her grandmother contacted Oak Park Police about that disappearance. When her granddaughter returned, Brown took her to the police to tell them she was back. Potts said her niece is an introvert, quiet and keeps to herself, but is usually forthcoming when questioned. The fact that she wasn’t this time worried Potts.
“She’s not going to lie to you,” Potts insisted. “She’s very open when you ask her about something. That’s just how her mind works.”
Demetria and her grandmother returned home from the police station, but Brown had to go to work. Worried about her granddaughter, she returned an hour later, but Demetria was gone.
Brown said Demetria’s been in her custody since she was born. She has a younger brother who lives with her father in Cleveland, and her mother also lives in Cleveland. Both parents, according to Brown, chose not to be involved with her upbringing.
Potts added that her niece doesn’t say why she leaves or where she goes. She said Demetria has one friend – a girl with special needs – but no other friends, male or female.
“There’s no one to go to to ask where she is because she didn’t have those types of friendships,” Potts said.
It’s been in the last year that she started disappearing with greater frequency. According to her grandmother, Demetria wants people to like her, but when it comes to boys, they mostly have used her.
“She goes with them because she thinks they like her,” she said.
Potts added that her niece has been taken advantage of before due to her disability.
Demetria was sexually-assaulted last year, the perpetrators a group of boys from the Austin area, Brown said. According to what Chicago Police told the family, this particular group of five boys – ranging in age from 17 to 21 – was known to target young girls, including girls with special needs. Demetria was reportedly taken to a garage in Austin. A neighbor saw the boys take her inside. Hearing her scream, the neighbor called Chicago police. When they arrived, they found the boys holding her to the ground, Brown said the officers told her.
The boys threatened to harm Demetria if the family pursued the case. According to Brown, the family did want the case pursued but Chicago police didn’t file charges against the boys. She doesn’t know why. Potts recalled that Demetria later talked about why she went with these boys.
“Because of the names they called her. In order to make them stop, she would go with them. She’s aware of her disability and that embarrasses her,” Potts added. “She’s very impressionable, and because of her disability, she can’t say no.”
The family has posted her picture with her description on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Web site: www.missingkids.com. They’ve also contacted hospitals about her whereabouts but she’s not turned up. The family has talked with students and staff at her school in Des Plaines but they have not heard from her.
Demetria likes the Internet and has a MySpace.com page – her last login was on March 29 – and she visits Urbanchat.com. Potts isn’t sure if she was contacted by someone online and met up with them.
“That’s part of my fear,” she said.