Whatever happened to? Investigation into missing Adji Desir of Immokalee

Search for Adji Desir Continues

Hundreds of Volunteers gather in Immokalee to ...

Adji Desir Missing Child

Adji Desir Missing Child


Adji Desir has been missing from Immokalee since Saturday evening, Jan. 10, 2009.

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of articles about people and issues that were in the news in 2009, but haven’t been recently. Have a story suggestion? Post it below this story at naplesnews.com.

IMMOKALEE _ Christmas for the family of Adji Desir will be bittersweet this year.

The family members will mourn their first holiday season without Adji and celebrate his seven-month-old sister Adjiani’s first.

“I miss my son,” said Marie Neida, 36. “My heart is very sad. I need to see him again.”

It’s been 11 months since the now 7-year-old Adji was last seen playing outside of his grandmother’s house in Farm Worker Village in Immokalee on Jan. 10, while his mother was at work.

A week-long intensive search by roughly 300 statewide law enforcement officials -- 100 of which were Collier County deputies -- with ATVs, bloodhounds and boats didn’t find the developmentally challenged boy.

Since then, Collier County sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Becker said, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and agents from the FBI have continued to follow up on tips regarding the boy’s whereabouts.

Becker said the holiday season also will be hard for those who have been working the case since the night Adji vanished.

“It’s tough not only as law enforcement officers, but most of the people involved are parents,” he said. “As time goes by, it does make it more difficult.”

Three months after Adji went missing, nationally known psychic Gale St. John toured Immokalee and Farm Worker Village. But whatever tips she gave investigators, they didn't lead to Adji.

With every month’s passing, Becker said, authorities have become more and more dependent on assistance from the public to try to crack the case.

“We’re never going to give up hope,” he said.

But after initially receiving between 400 and 500 tips soon after Adji’s disappearance, the number of leads coming in fell to just a trickle in October.

Adji’s disappearance did garner national attention and was featured on America’s Most Wanted in January, February and most recently on Dec. 5. He also was one of six missing children appearing on the cover of People magazine’s “Vanished Without a Trace: Heartbreak & Hope,” issue in November, which featured the stories of young people who disappeared this year.

The magazine story was prompted by the August rescue of Jaycee Dugard, who was abducted in 1991 when she was 11 years old and held captive for 18 years in the California home of her alleged kidnappers, Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

In addition, Adji’s photo was featured on a national direct-mail advertising flier distributed to 75 million homes across the United States from Nov. 8 through Dec. 13.

“We were able to get a lot of exposure for the case,” said Robert Lowery, executive director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Missing Children division.

Between the mailing campaign and the People magazine article, Becker said another 40 to 50 tips were received.

“Unfortunately none of the tips we got look like they are going to lead us to Adji,” Becker said. “But we are following up on them.”

And with fliers with Adji’s information still hanging across many businesses in Collier County and nationwide, officials hope to keep Adji in people’s thoughts.

“I think it’s vitally important that people remember Adji,” Lowery said.

Through it all, Neida said she is grateful for all the help and support the community has given her family.

“Thank you! Thank you so much,” she said.

* * * * *

Connect with Elysa Batista at www.naplesnews.com/staff/elysa_batista

CLICK HERE for our entire 2009 "Whatever happened to?" series

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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