Eight years after boy goes missing, search for answers continues
At any given time there are hundreds of people listed as missing in the state of Iowa. In Sioux County, there's one name that's been on that list for eight years.
It belongs to a four year old boy. On May 22, 2005, he disappeared right before his family's eyes.
"Nothing makes sense," said Brad Ackerman.
That's how Ackerman feels about the disappearance of his little boy, Breiton.
"We don't know what happened and I think it'll always be that way," said Ackerman.
When four year old Breiton disappeared, he'd been fishing with his family. Three adults and five kids were all down along the creek enjoying the afternoon. In an instant, he was gone. He vanished without a trace.
Ackerman said, "Everybody's just catching them and throwing them in the bucket and I think I had looked across , I asked one of the kids where'd Breiton go? It was just that quick. He was just standing by the bucket dumping fish in and boom that was it."
In the hours that followed, a frantic search of Willow Creek, southeast of Alton, Iowa. Gates were placed downstream as a precaution, search dogs combed the banks. Heavy equipment was brought in tear out the culvert and the land around it.
"They dug down and back in the bank to make sure he didn't fall in a hole or was covered up or all the center and culverts that had to come out were searched with dogs and people. Just looking for any stitching, any clothing," said Breiton's father.
Eight years later, Breiton's disappearance is still considered a missing person's case. The Sioux County Sheriff's Department looked into where he could have been taken or even walked off.
Brad Ackerman said, "He had bare feet. He's like I am, tender feet. I can't stand to walk on cement hardly with bare feet, so he wouldn't have just run up the hill. Nobody came down that road to where we were at."
Even though he believes the chance is slim, Ackerman followed the advice of law enforcement and submitted his own DNA for a national "missing children" database.
"They actually have their DNA taken, put in the national database and if the parent's have done that as well, they'll show up in a match," he said.
But as time passes, the reality that he may never know what happened to his son becomes more evident.
"I don't understand it. Don't like it, but you can't change it. It's over in an instant. You wished you could go back and say we shouldn't have gone down there that day or I should have had him, you know, tied to my belt or something like that. But you can't do it," he said.
Moving forward means finding his own way of coping with the loss.
"It happened," said Ackerman. "There's a reason, but we'll never know the reason. But I think for me it's making peace with it. Good family, good friends, good community, good church. Without that I don't know how people get through situations."
Sioux County Sheriff Dan Altena said his team hasn't given up on this case and that he's still baffled by it. He's hoping there will be a clue at some point, a piece of clothing that could help locate Breiton.
"The case is still open. And, especially people that live along the creek that was affected, if they see anything that looks unusual, to let us know. Contact us, let us come out and take a look at it," Sheriff Altena said.
When Breiton disappeared, Sioux County didn't have a dive team. A year later, they raised enough funds to buy equipment to start one. Brad Ackerman is one of a dozen members on the team.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety posts names of people who've been missing for more than 30 days. Click here to be connected to the Missing Persons Bulletin.
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