Friday December 14, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- Authorities joined the adoptive grandparents of Jaliek Rainwalker in a new appeal for a resolution in the case of the boy's 2007 disappearance.

At a news conference Thursday, police reclassified the investigation from that of a missing persons to a "probable homicide." Gloria Coppola, a state police major crimes investigator, asked media outlets to stop using an "age enhanced" photo of Rainwalker simulating how he might look today.

Police Chief George Bell said the hope was the change in classification would lead to new leads in the case. Now a presumed homicide, "this may show the public that this is now something worthwhile to bring forward," Bell said. "There may be someone who has key information and does not even realize it."

While most individuals who rose to the level of suspicion have been investigated and cleared, Bell said authorities were still interested in sitting down with Rainwalker's adoptive parents, Stephen Kerr and Jocelyn McDonald, who have not been fully cooperative. The couple moved to West Rupert, Vt., about four months after the boy's disappearance. Bell said they may still hold on to information "crucial" to the case.

Twelve years old at the time of his disappearance, Rainwalker had been considered by police to have possibly run away from the Greenwich residence where he was staying with Kerr the night of Nov. 1, 2007.


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McDonald's parents, Dennis Smith and Barbara Reeley, have cast doubt on that theory all along. "From the beginning we never really felt he ran away," said Smith on Thursday. "We just don't feel like that's what happened."

Still, "we've always held out hope that Jaliek is alive and would be coming home to his family."

"We would do anything to help find our grandchild," said Reeley.

Authorities denied the case had gone cold, and state police Senior Investigator Thomas Aiken said each department still believed there would be a resolution. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is currently in the midst of reviewing the case.

"The investigation remains very active and has never been considered a ‘cold case,'" Bell said, adding investigators had combed through nearly 500 leads, including a search this past Tuesday in Troy; none of which resulted in a positive identification or indication Rainwalker was still alive.

"Basically we've exhausted every lead," said Coppola. Most runaways surface shortly after disappearing because of lack of funds or planning, Bell said. He said the yellow fleece jacket Rainwalker was last seen wearing had been recovered.

Investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York State Forest Rangers also attended Thursday's press conference at the Cambridge police station.

Smith said he didn't understand why Rainwalker's parents weren't more cooperative with authorities. "We firmly believe the truth will come to the surface and eventually we will find out what happened to our grandson. And that's what we need to know," he said.

"We just need some closure," said Reeley. "We need to know where our grandchild is or what happened to him."

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Cambridge-Greenwich Police Department at 518-692-9332.