On December 18, 2011 Phoenix Coldon disappeared forever. The 23-year-old lived at home with her parents in Spanish Lake, Missouri. She played multiple instruments and was a fencing champion. After attending church with her family in the morning, she left the home in the afternoon to run normal errands and never returned. Her father believes she was going to the convenience store near their home and/or to a friend’s house.
In reality, Phoenix drove her car to East St. Louis, a city with one of the highest crime rates in the U.S., 25 minutes away. DNA testing showed no other DNA in her black 1998 Chevy Blazer other than her own and that of her immediate family. Wherever Phoenix went in East St. Louis, no one has heard from her since.
This story is so familiar. We’ve heard of so many women who went missing with a nearly identical story. They were doing an everyday activity and then suddenly vanished forever. These stories regularly capture the public’s attention. So why haven’t we heard about Phoenix?
In the U.S., 609,275 people were reported missing last year. If you consume true crime media or just watch the news, you’d think most of these missing people were attractive upper middle class white women. That’s not true at all. Half of the victims in missing persons cases are minorities. Black Americans make up less than 13% of the population, but more than 34% of missing people. Police do such a negligent job investigating missing Native American women that we as a country do not even have a count of how many Native American women are murdered or go missing each year.
Phoenix’s mother says unlike other highly publicized disappearances of young women, the news media “wouldn’t give us the time of day.”
Only three hours after Phoenix Coldon left home, her car was discovered abandoned with the door open and was then towed and impounded. Because East St. Louis is in Illinois and Phoenix lived and was reported missing in Missouri, police did not figure out that her car had been towed and her family was not informed, even though the car was registered in Phoenix’s mother’s name. Despite the police officer who found the car saying it was “empty”, Phoenix’s shoes, purse, ID and her glasses were still inside the vehicle.
The impounded vehicle was not discovered until January 1 when a friend of the Coldon family did her own sleuthing.
Because of the lack of police effort in finding Phoenix Coldon, the Coldon family spent their own money on private investigators. After using the last of their money to investigate a tip by a man in Florida, who later said he made the whole thing up for attention, the family lost their home. Of the foreclosure, Phoenix’s mom said “It is just money and it is just a house…We did what we had to do for Phoenix. She will be 24 years old on May 23. We are desperately hoping she is still alive and we can get her home to celebrate.”
Phoenix’s friends say that because her parents were religious and strict (Phoenix was homeschooled for this reason) she hid things from them. When she went missing, Phoenix was using two cell phones, the one her parents provided her with their family plan, and another phone she used to text with her boyfriend, Michael B. Phoenix had lived with Michael B. for a short time, but kept it hidden from her parents.
There was another man Phoenix communicated with named Mike. This Mike had a reputation for being violent. When his ex-girlfriend asked him about Phoenix, she says Mike responded “Why are you worrying about someone who’s dead?” One of Phoenix’s friends says Phoenix was worried about her safety before she disappeared and had started carrying a knife.
A month before she disappeared, Phoenix uploaded a troubling video of herself in emotional distress. She prayed and talked about running away. In the video, she said:
“I just want to be happy, man. I can’t remember a time when I was happy. Genuinely happy…I feel so stupid because I let myself go a little bit. I probably would have been in a better situation if I would have stuck with how it used to be.”
Some people view this as evidence Phoenix chose to run away from her life. However, the majority of people who go missing voluntarily eventually get in contact with their family. It’s now been a decade and no one has seen or heard from Phoenix. She vanished without taking any of her possessions, even her glasses. Her bank account has never been accessed since her disappearance.
Believing another theory, that Phoenix may be a victim of human trafficking, the family has searched abandoned buildings in East St. Louis and visited area strip clubs to talk to sex workers and drug dealers hoping to find any lead at all. They continue to post updates to the Missing Phoenix Coldon page on Facebook.
Seven years after her disappearance, Phoenix’s case was covered by the Oxygen show The Disappearance of Phoenix Coldon:
As I write true crime articles, it is very obvious to me that there is a massive disparity in the information available about missing and murdered white women compared to BIPOC. This compounds the problem because if little information is available about a case, it will be harder for people to make podcast episodes or write articles that bring new attention to the case. Once in a blue moon, cold cases are solved this way. If you have information about a true crime case involving a BIPOC person you would like me to write about, please contact me here.