“It’s where we go to honor him and keep his light shining,” said Bianca Wilson on Tuesday.
Tuesday marked the first anniversary of Codi’s disappearance, and on that night, Wilson went to the fence to leave a poster. It read, “We love you Codi.”
Wilson never met Codi before he was reported missing at the age of 4, but that didn’t matter. Many of the people who have spent the past year searching for him and for answers about his disappearance didn’t know him. They also didn’t know one another. They were strangers until he went missing. But now, they are united by the same pressing question: Where is Codi?
“There is something about this little boy that was able to bring so many people together,” said Wilson, who founded Building Back Black. “I just cry sometimes, because I would have never met these people if it weren’t for this little baby. He’s a beacon of light. That’s why we’re not losing hope.”
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Just a few weeks ago, days after Codi would have celebrated his 5th birthday, Wilson organized a search in a wooded area where she and others had previously found discarded children’s clothes. It was her 10th, or maybe her 12th, search related to Codi. She has lost track.
“I will forever, throughout my entire life, do what’s best for Codi,” Wilson said. “I will not stop. We have not stopped.”
If you live in the Hampton area, you probably know about Codi. But if you live outside of the region, you might not have heard of the boy who disappeared in the winter last seen wearing Spider-Man flip-flops. Community members who have been searching for him want to change that. They want people in other states to look at his picture, study his features and consider whether they might know anything about his disappearance.
Authorities have described Codi as presumed dead, but Wilson and others remain hopeful that is not true.
“We believe Codi is alive and with someone, but not in the Hampton Roads area,” said Joseph Slabinski, executive director of Water Team, which has conducted searches for Codi. Slabinski said that his team consists of military veterans and that they, along with other groups, including Hear Their Voices, United We Stand of Hampton Roads, Team Codi, 6 Women N a Notebook, and BlackLivesMatter757, “made a commitment to never stop searching for Codi until he is found.”
“We all still search close to home, but we have all traveled from Virginia to D.C., Maryland, Indiana, Delaware and points in between,” he said. “We will continue to search wherever the leads take us.”
Authorities have said that Codi’s father, Cory Bigsby Jr., called to report the 4-year-old missing on the morning of Jan. 31. He told officers that he had last seen Codi in the house around 2 a.m., according to an account from the Hampton police.
Days after Codi was reported missing, officials announced they had “covered a tremendous amount of ground, spoken to hundreds of citizens, and followed every possible lead” but had not found him. They also announced that they had arrested Cory Bigsby and charged him with seven counts of felony child neglect.
Cory Bigsby has not been charged with Codi’s disappearance, but he remains in jail after being repeatedly denied bond. He is expected to undergo a third evaluation to determine whether he’s competent to stand trial. Media outlets have described Codi’s mother as living in the D.C. area and his father as raising Codi and his three young siblings on his own. The neglect charges, according to reports, stem from statements that Cory Bigsby gave police about leaving the children home alone.
Amina Matheny-Willard, an attorney for Cory Bigsby, criticized the way authorities have handled the case and the search for Codi. She said that they denied Cory Bigsby legal counsel after he requested it and that they never issued an Amber Alert, which would have let more people know to be on the lookout for Codi.
“Our law firm and the family believe Codi is still alive,” she said. “We believe he was taken, and because the police did not look for him, he was probably taken out of the state.”
She praised the commitment of community members who have continued to search for Codi and ensure he is not forgotten.
“I can speak for the family, including Cory, and we really appreciate the community’s effort,” she said.
Two girls went missing from the same D.C. shelter 8 years ago. One came back. The other was Relisha Rudd.
On Monday, a vigil for Codi took place at the fence, which is near where he lived. People wore shirts featuring his photo and prayed for him. They placed candles that spelled out, “We Love U Codi.”
The next day, when Wilson went to the fence, she recorded a video for social media. As she looked into the camera, she described the information the community had gathered about Codi’s disappearance as “a lot” and “not enough.”
“One thing I do want to say to anyone out there who may know what happened with Codi: Please come forward,” she said. “It’s just so important that you come forward.”
She spoke of how so many cases that are similar to Codi’s go “years and years and years” without being solved.
“I don’t want to go another year without Codi being found,” she said. “Not one more year.”
Anyone with information about the disappearance can call federal authorities at 800-CALL-FBI or the Hampton police at 757-727-6111. People can also go to p3tips.com.