Bernice Abeyta awoke on the morning of July 15, 1986, to find her life forever altered. Her 7-month-old baby Christopher had been abducted in the night; snatched from his crib just feet from where she slept. Bernice dedicated her life to finding her boy, but 32 years later, justice is yet to be done.
Christopher Abeyta was born Nov. 28, 1985, in Colorado Springs to Bernice and Gil Abeyta. Christopher was a surprise addition to the family, with a 15 year age gap between him and his youngest sister, and was doted on by his parents and 6 older siblings. By the time he was born Bernice and Gil had been married for twenty years, but had been experiencing some problems in their relationship. They eventually separated in March of 1986 after Bernice found a lipstick mark on one of Gil's shirts. Gil denied having an affair, but moved out of the family home and in with one of their older sons. However, the pair continued to work on their marriage and were in the process of reconciling at the time of Christopher's disappearance. Gil had come over for dinner that evening, and although he had not planned to, ended up spending the night.
When Bernice got up the next morning and went to check on Christoper, the baby boy was nowhere to be found. Frantic with worry, she began to check the house, and went downstairs to find the front door open. It had been left unlocked the previous night, but with three older children coming in and out of the home, this was by no means unusual. When the search proved fruitless the Abeytas called the police and, as is the case with all child abductions, the family were placed under immediate scrutiny. When police asked Gil if there was anyone new in his life, he admitted to having an affair with a woman named Emma Bradshaw. With the police firmly focused on the Abeytas, the family decided to take matters into their own hands, setting up a tip line and following leads wherever they took them. Without the help of social media, the internet, or even a mobile phone, the family travelled around the country talking to people, sifting through public records and begging news agencies to run Christopher's story.
As Bernice thought back to the months leading up to that morning, she began to piece together some unusual occurrences. On the day of Christopher's disappearance, Bernice had taken him with her to the grocery store where she was followed by a woman. When Bernice turned to ask her if she needed any help, the woman, who had no shopping in her cart, silently turned around and left. She had also been receiving hang up calls for months, always at around 10 in the morning. No such call was made on the day of Christopher's disappearance, but they began again several months later. When police placed a tracking device on Bernice's phone, the calls led to none other than Emma Bradshaw.
When Bernice asked around, she found that other family members had similar experiences. Her mother had also been receiving mysterious hang up calls, and Gil's mother had a visit from a woman who falsely claimed to be on his high school reunion committee and asked for family photos, which she gladly handed over. One of the Abeyta children, Shawnette, had been briefly hospitalised and told Bernice about a visit from a mysterious 'lady doctor' who she had also seen at her school. When shown a picture of Emma at a later date, Shawnette identified her as the same woman. On the night of Christopher's disappearance, the son who Gil had been staying with reported that Bradshaw had called several times looking for him.
When Gil confronted her, she suggested that a curandero, or Witch doctor, in New Mexico may know where Christopher was. She later testified that she had visited New Mexico on the weekend following the disappearance. In what is now believed to be a red herring, the family followed the lead from New Mexico to Texas and back again, where Bernice set up a trailer that she frequently stayed in over the next two years. The case went cold until 2009 when it was picked up by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They soon found out that Bradshaw had never been properly investigated by police.
Bradshaw was no stranger to the law and had previously been accused of harassing and stalking several ex-lovers, destroying their property and in one case even threatening their children. Her obsessive behaviour would come to light again when a co-worker submitted an anonymous tip to the Abeytas. The co-worker claimed that Bradshaw had repeatedly accessed the 'Find Christopher' Facebook page and posted under the name Jae Crystal. But when Denise, one of the Abeyta children, got in touch with her employer to find more information, Bradshaw lost her job. Despite previously telling a detective that she was behind the Jae Crystal account, she successfully sued the family for defamation and was awarded $155,000 in damages in 2015. It was during these court proceedings that police officially named Bradshaw as a person of interest in Christopher's disappearance.
Bernice Abeyta died peacefully at home on February 12, 2017, never knowing what become of her son. The Abeytas continue their tireless search for Christopher, and hope to one day get the answers that their family deserve.