Supporters rally on the anniversary of Hasanni Campbell’s disappearance
on August 11, 2010
Wearing royal blue shirts that read “A little boy not forgotten, Hasanni Campbell,” a smattering of people representing the non-profit organization Citizens for the Lost gathered in front of the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland to remember the missing Fremont boy on Tuesday.
Citizens for the Lost formed shortly after the boy’s disappearance on August 10, 2009, and has dedicated the past year to trying to find Campbell, who had cerebral palsy, used braces to walk, and was five years old at the time of his disappearance. Over the last year the group has held vigils and meetings, as well as organized large-scale volunteer searches to look for any clues to Campbell’s whereabouts.
At first, Citizens for the Lost held weekly events for Campbell. As time passed, they decreased the events to once a month and now always hold them on the 10th—the day of Campbell’s disappearance. In addition to handing out fliers, and holding vigils and fundraisers, a large part of their work has been the volunteer searches they’ve organized in the Rockridge area—where the boy was reported missing—and Fremont—where Campbell lived. At one point, one month after his disappearance, 100 volunteers showed up at Lake Elizabeth and scoured the open space surrounding the lake for Campbell’s whereabouts; one person even scuba dived and inspected the bottom of the lake.
So far, these searches have come up with little evidence. “Unfortunately we are not looking for an alive body now,” said Celina Carleton, one of the volunteers who gathered in front of the courthouse on Tuesday. “We are looking for clothes, maybe bones. We check swampy areas, shorelines and out in the Coyote Hills.”
None of the volunteers from Citizens for the Lost personally knew Campbell, Carleton said. “Unfortunately Hasanni Campbell didn’t come from a big background with lots of support,” she said. “It took a handful of us being strangers and getting involved in the situation.” Their group does work with Campbell’s biological grandmother and one of his aunts.
According to information provided to the Oakland Police Department by Louis Ross, Campbell’s foster father, the boy was last seen near College Avenue in Rockridge one year ago. Ross said that he left Campbell in a parked car near a shoe store where his then-fiancée, Jennifer Campbell, who was also one of the boy’s biological aunts, worked.
On August 28, 2009, police arrested both Ross and Campbell on suspicion of murder, but no charges were filed and both were released. Since then, the couple has split up; Campbell moved to Arizona and Ross moved to Maryland.
Tuesday morning, the Oakland Police Department held a press conference marking the anniversary of the boy’s disappearance, announcing that the investigation had not yielded any new witnesses nor much new evidence. But Sergeant Gus Galindo did say that the department still considers Ross a primary suspect in Campbell’s disappearance.
Shortly after the police department’s press conference, members of Citizens for the Lost met with Alameda County Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Rogers to see if there was anything the organization could do to help. “They’re working as hard as they can on the case,” said Sherri-Lyn Miller, the founder of Citizens for the Lost. Miller, who owns a T-shirt shop in San Leandro where she custom-makes t-shirts and jackets with photos of people’s loved ones, has been at the forefront of the volunteer searches for Campbell and making sure that his case isn’t forgotten. According to her, Rogers said he’d do everything in his power to find justice for the boy.
After the meeting, Miller and 10 to 15 other volunteers from Citizens for the Lost convened in front of the courthouse to talk to the press and show that they are still working hard to find out what happened to Campbell. “Today was more based around the meeting itself and just coming out and gathering and remembering Hasanni Campbell,” said Carleton. “We want to stress the fact that there is a $75,000 reward in this case. We want to keep hope alive and keep the search for Hasanni Campbell going.”
Now, the group’s goal is to get this case more national attention. “We want to get the story outside of the Bay Area,” said Carleton. “It’s a matter if someone has seen or heard anything and will come forward with some sort of tip.” Miller added that group members will go to Arizona and Maryland within the next couple of weeks to pass out fliers and garner attention in the states where Ross and Campbell are now living. “We want to let people know that there’s possibly a killer amongst them,” Miller said.
Tuesday night, Citizens for the Lost held a prayer vigil and a small reception with cake and juice at the Westminster Hills Presbyterian Church in Hayward. On Saturday, August 14, they will host a fundraiser at Mission Valley Elementary School in Fremont from 9 am to 4 pm.
Oakland North has created a timeline of the first six months of the Hasanni Campbell investigation that is available here, as well as a topics page with further information about the investigation into Campbell’s disappearance that is available here.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.