Black History Month: Emmanuel Kalief Birts

February is Black History Month. I got the idea to use the month to showcase some of the African-American MPs on the Charley Project. I thought maybe I should focus on the cases that didn’t get a lot of media attention, but that would be practically all of them — black missing people, and black crime victims in general, really tend to get ignored by the mainstream media.

Anyway, this blog is going to profile one missing black person per day for the entire month of February. The first is little Emmanuel Kalief Birts, who was abducted from his mother’s Dallas, Texas home on September 14, 1989, at the age of just five weeks.

The woman who took him claimed to be a social worker named Debra Manning and she was nothing if not brazen: she actually visited Emmanuel’s house and spoke with his family a total of FOUR TIMES.

The first time was on September 12, when she told them Emmanuel needed to be tested for HIV. “Manning” returned on September 13 with a letter, supposedly from the Child Welfare Department, that authorized her to take the baby away for testing. His mom, Kisha, wanted to go along, so “Manning” made an excuse and said she’d be back the next day. The next day she showed up, but didn’t have a car seat, so she said she’d go and get one. She came back with the car seat, whisked Emmanuel away and never returned.

The case made the local papers in Dallas, but quickly dropped out of the public eye, and I haven’t found anything in the news since 1990. He did eventually get added to NamUs, but only in 2014, and he wasn’t put on the NCMEC until sometime after that.

Both of Emmanuel’s parents have since tested negative for HIV. There’s no reason to believe he isn’t still alive out there, perhaps even still in Dallas, living his life with no idea he’s a missing person. He would now be 28 years old.

This just really makes me mad

On the first of this month, NamUs added the case of Emmanuel Birts, a five-week-old baby who’s been missing from Dallas, Texas since 1989. Their casefile provided no details about his disappearance. I did my usual info-checking and found a number of articles that mention the case. I found four or five from the time the abduction happened, and one from several months later that was about another missing baby but mentioned Emmanuel’s abduction in passing. This is my draft thus far of the summary that’s going to appear on Charley when I put up Emmanuel’s casefile:

Emmanuel was born at his grandmother’s Dallas, Texas home, but spent seven days at Parkland Memorial Hospital after birth. He was released from the hospital on August 11, 1989 and went to live with with his grandmother, Hermane Grady, and mother, Kisha Birts, in the 2900 block of east Ledbetter Drive. His abductor, who claimed to be a social worker and called herself Debra Manning, first visited the home on August 12, saying she was making a follow-up home visit from the hospital. She told them Emmanuel had an eye infection, which was in fact true.

Manning visited the family again on September 12, and claimed there was a possibility Emmanuel was infected with the HIV virus. Because Kisha had used drugs during her pregnancy, this was plausible. On the evening of September 13, Manning visted again, with a letter she claimed was from the Child Welfare Department. The letter said Emmanuel needed to go to the hospital and get tested for HIV. She said she needed to take the baby immediately, and Kisha wanted to come with them, but Manning made an excuse as to why she couldn’t, and said she’d come pick up Emmanuel for the test the next morning.

On the morning of September 14, Kisha went to Parkland Memorial Hospital to ask about her baby’s health. She left Emmanuel home with Grady. When Manning first arrived, she claimed she had to get a car seat for the baby and would be back in an hour. She did return and Grady let her take Emmanuel with her at 10:00 a.m. She promised to return by 2:00 p.m. Manning never returned with the baby and neither of them have ever been seen again. The family reported Emmanuel missing at 8:00 p.m.

The abductor is described as African-American, in her thirties, 5’6 tall and 145 pounds. Her hair appeared to be sandy brown, although it may have been a wig. She wore heavy blue eyeshadow and spoke with a foreign accent, possibly of African origin. She claimed to own a van, although none of Emmanuel’s family members saw any vehicle. The name Debra Manning was almost certainly an alias, although Grady actually did know a welfare worker by that name. Child Protective Services hadn’t authorized Emmanuel’s removal from his home for any reason. The abductor always wore a white lab coat and surgical pants; real social workers wore street clothes. Investigators believe the abductor may have a history as a con artist, given the nature of Emmanuel’s abduction. She apparently also had access to the baby’s medical information.

Both of Emmanuel’s parents subsequently tested negative for HIV. They also took polygraph exams and neither of them are considered suspects in the child’s abduction. The woman who called herself Debra Manning has never been identified and there’s been no sign of either her or Emmanuel since the day she took him away in 1989. His case remains unsolved.

What. The. Beep.

Where has this case been all this time? Why have I never heard of it before? Why hasn’t Emmanuel been listed with the NCMEC? Why hasn’t there been anything in the press about it since nineteen-fracking-ninety? Where has everyone BEEN?