SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – The family of a Detroit mother who was murdered more than five years ago is holding out hope that her two missing children will return home.
Family members said tips are coming in from around the country, but years after Kaylah and Kristian disappeared, there’s still no sign of what happened to them. Loved ones hope by continuing to share their story, someone who knows what happened to the children will come forward.
June 5, 2014, was kindergarten graduation for Kaylah at Bradford Academy in Southfield. It was a day the whole family had been waiting for.
“Everyone was excited for her to graduate,” Kaylah’s aunt, Christene Doughty, said. “Her mom was so excited. She even got her a custom cap and gown made.”
When Alicia Fox, Kaylah and 7-month-old Kristian didn’t show up, family members went looking for them at the last place they’d been seen: their house in the 18000 block of Ardmore Street near West Seven Mile Road and the Lodge Freeway in Detroit.
“It was completely empty,” Doughty said. “There was no car in the driveway.”
She said she found an open window and peeked inside.
“I could see only into the window in the kitchen, where you can see the dining room and part of the living area, where she usually has her pictures and coffee table,” Doughty said. “It was empty. There was nothing there besides a bottle of bleach in the kitchen. To be honest with you, I was pretty confused, so my mind wanted me to believe that maybe she did move and was going through a phase and didn’t want anyone to know."
“But was that like her?” Local 4′s Sandra Ali asked.
“No, it wasn’t,” Doughty said. “It wasn’t like her at all.”
When Detroit police showed up to investigate, family members entered the house with officers.
“We went in and there was no furniture,” Doughty said. “It was cleaned from top to bottom. It was completely clean. At that point, I did believe that something bad happened.
“When I walked upstairs, I got chills. (It was) like going into a haunted house. You know how you get that anxiety? You know, you just feel weird. I had that feeling when I went up to that bedroom, so I immediately left.”
Then, she said something told her to check the house next door.
“There was a bottle of bleach in the living room of the abandoned house next door,” Doughty said.
All of Fox’s clothes, candles and pictures of her children were later recovered in a church donation bin not far from the home.
On June 19, two weeks after the family disappeared, Fox’s body was discovered inside an abandoned house on Penrod Street.
“We get to the basement and there’s a door with a blue tarp underneath it,” Doughty said. “So my uncle lifts the door up and her body’s in the tarp. I could tell it was her. Her head was covered with a black garbage bag. Something black, it was covered with, and it looked as if he tried to cut her legs off. But I could tell it was her because she had a favorite pair of purple basketball shorts and she had those on.
“I’d never imagined that I would lose her, but especially in that way. I was in complete disbelief. I couldn’t believe it at all, and even when they confirmed it was her, I said, ‘No, that’s not her.’ After that, I just immediately thought, ‘Where is Kaylah and Kristian?’”
Fox’s family believes she was having problems in her marriage. They suspect her husband, Erin Justice, killed her.
“I do believe that she asked him for a divorce because he had a history of infidelity,” Doughty said. “I believe she asked for a divorce and he snapped.”
Justice later confessed to killing Fox and pleaded guilty. He’s serving time for murder.
“I believe that he killed Alisha and he has family or friends somewhere helping him hide the children,” Doughty said. “The reason I believe that is because we have recovered all of Alisha’s belongings -- clothes, personal items, all of that. We have not one item of the kids’ -- not their bedroom furniture, their clothes, toys, anything. He took all of it.”
Fox’s family believes the children are still out there somewhere.
“Right now he has leverage by withholding where the kids are,” Doughty said. “I believe that he thinks if he tells where they are that he doesn’t have anything after that. He thinks that he has power over my family. The way the timeline is set up, the evidence shows he’s the last person to see the kids alive. They were with him."
Fox’s family members said not knowing is the hardest part.
“It really hurts,” Doughty said. “It’s a wound that doesn’t heal. When someone passes on, you know where they area. You know that you just need to grieve, but in a situation like this, you don’t know. Every day, I think about it. When I start to think about it, I just start praying. I ask God to protect them, wherever they are, encourage them, and I pray that they’re not being neglected. That’s the only way I can get through.”
The reward for information in connection with the case is up to $3,000. The family set up a Facebook page called Bring Home Kaylah and Kristian, where they continue to get tips.