VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Mountain View High School students got out of school a little early on March 11, 1987. There was a basketball tournament that had everyone’s interest.
Kimberly Kersey, an 18-year-old senior months away from graduating, typically left her locker and walked about 2 miles to her home at the Landover Apartments.
No one has seen her since that day more than 31 years ago.
“I remember, I think I was opening a can of pickles, making some tuna fish, and my mom just kept saying, ‘Where is she? Why hasn’t she called?'” said her sister, Kristen Kersey, who was 13 when Kim went missing.
It got later and later. “You see the panic on my mom’s face and my dad,” Kristen said. “They’re worried.”
Near the Landover Apartments was a wooded area that connected between 18th Street and Mill Plain Boulevard. The day after Kim went missing, her mom found her textbook and folder near that short cut.
“I just think she came through the woods at the wrong time,” her dad, Ed Kersey, recently told KOIN 6 News. “I think it was as simple as that. Somebody was in the woods and grabbed her and they took off. I say ‘they.’ I assume there were two.”
Police and volunteers launched a massive search but she was nowhere to be found. Kim simply vanished.
Ed said family and friends looked “out towards Vancouver Lake, just different places. Not knowing anything and we would look.”
Over the years things in the area have changed quite a bit and he hoped that when developers cleared some areas they might find some trace of Kim. But there’s been no sign.
“I personally think she was taken away from that area because they did a lot of searches, a lot of volunteers, the police, everyone,” he said. “That’s why I, personally, just a theory, think they took her away somewhere.”
Kimberly Kersey was the oldest of 3 kids, and Ed said “she was always kind of the leader and smart.”
Kim was “very tiny and petite, but tough. She was a tough one,” he said, but acknowledged it “wouldn’t have taken much to forcibly take her away.”
Kristen, now 44, said Kim was “a great older sister. Very pretty. She’s my big sister, so I got to admire her. I wanted to be just like her. So smart, everything she did she excelled at.”
She had a contagious smile and laugh and was a genuine person, Kristen said. “When she would say and care for people, you know, that whole heart was there.”
Kim loved Billy Idol and “her room was definitely filled” with his posters.
“She would paint posters of ‘Garfield’ and, you know, sunshines and rainbows and, you know, fun stuff like that.”
The ensuing years
Days turned into weeks, weeks to months and months to years. In 1996, Kim’s mom, Andrea, died of cancer.
“That’s the hardest thing,” Kristen said. “She never got to find her daughter and I hate that. I hate that for her.”
Kristen thinks about that often when she visits her mom’s grave every other week, which includes a memorial to her sister.
“We do have a little plaque on my mom’s grave of Kim, a little copper plaque with her name and the date of birth. And next to it, it says ‘Lost,'” Kristen said.
They wonder if, somehow, Kim could still be alive.
“Well, of course, of course,” Ed said. “I don’t think so, no, I don’t think so at all. But there’s always a chance.”
Kristen just hopes they can “have some peace with it in our minds, you know, not always looking over your shoulder thinking, ‘Could that be her?'”
They keep searching for answers because, he said, “the hurt doesn’t go away a bit.”
The case today
Clark County Detective Lindsay Schultz is now on the case and believes someone is responsible for Kim’s disappearance.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” Schultz told KOIN 6 News. “There’s multiple different names that pop up in the case file and there’s multiple tips that have come in over the years. It’s my intent as the case is assigned to take those tips and take a fresh look at the investigation.”
“It’s a missing person case, but in Kim’s case I would call it a child abduction,” Schultz said. “Even though she was 18 she was still in high school.”
The circumstances and their investigation “don’t add up to leaving on her own free will,” she said. “Suspicious activity definitely plays into Kim’s case.”
The last time Kim can definitely be placed was at the end of the school day.
“We know that she was at school,” Schultz told KOIN 6 News. “She may or may not have ever made it home.”
Schultz hopes investigators can find a resolution to this case.
“People’s relationships change over the years and people hold onto things for multiple, different reasons,” she said. “If they do have information, I would love to hear from them.”
Finding out what happened to Kim would mean everything to the Kersey family.
“I’m an old-fashioned guy,” Ed said. “I want justice for whoever did it, and so I always hope.”
“I think,” said Kristen, “it would seal a little hole that’s in my heart for her.”