It is a tragedy when any child disappears, but that tragedy is compounded when the state and every adult connected to that child has failed them multiple times. That was the case with Jaliek Rainwalker, who went missing from Greenwich, New York, in 2007.
A foster child from birth, Rainwalker bounced around from house to house and never felt he was truly a part of any family.
A family finally adopted Rainwalker in 2003, but his hope for a stable, happy life quickly became a distant memory. He moved with his adoptive family into a home with no electricity or running water and lived there until he eventually disappeared, never to be seen again.
The students at The College of Saint Rose Cold Case Analysis Center (CCAC) are keeping the Jaliek Rainwalker cold case alive in hopes that one day justice will be served for this boy that so many people failed.
In 2002, Rainwalker was placed in foster care with Stephen Kerr, Jocelyn McDonald, and their other children. Kerr and McDonald officially adopted Rainwalker in 2003, and everything seemed to go well until he made a comment to his therapist one day.
What he told the therapist sparked an investigation with Child Protective Services (CPS) to determine the safety of Rainwalker as well as the other children in the home, but CPS did nothing to protect him in the end.
One report indicates that a week prior to his disappearance, McDonald contacted a crisis hotline and stated that Rainwalker had become unmanageable, and they wished to reverse the adoption. Instead, the family was instructed to put Rainwalker in respite care to give the family members a break from each other, and that is what they did.
Jaliek Rainwalker was reported missing the day after Kerr picked him up from respite care. He was last seen on November 1, 2007, eating dinner at Red Robin in Latham, NY, with his adoptive father, Stephen Kerr. Rainwalker allegedly spent the night with Kerr in his parents’ home in Greenwich, NY, later that night. According to Kerr, when he woke up, Rainwalker was gone. He allegedly left a note stating that he had run away and would no longer be a bother. He has not been seen since.
Jaliek Rainwalker was born on August 2, 1995, and the odds were instantly stacked against him. He suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and was put into foster care immediately after birth. Sadly, he moved from home to home until he was seven years old. Rainwalker lived in six different foster settings before he was finally adopted.
This instability was extremely detrimental to the boy’s mental health, and he was eventually diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), which made it exceptionally difficult for him to form attachments to others, especially caregivers. RAD can also result in explosive outbursts and behavioral issues. When a foster child like Rainwalker suffers from RAD, it can be difficult to find a permanent placement due to the upsetting — and sometimes violent — outbursts associated with the disorder.
At the time of his disappearance, Jaliek Rainwalker was not receiving mental health care for these issues.
The Cold Case
There has been no sign of Rainwalker since 2007. In 2008, Stephen Kerr was named a person of interest in the case, but no arrest was ever made. In 2012, New York authorities decided to reclassify the case from missing child to probable homicide.
Although the case and Jaliek Rainwalker’s memory are kept alive by local authorities as well as an active Facebook community and the College of Saint Rose Cold Case Analysis Center, no major breakthroughs have been reported in recent years.
How Cold Case Analysis Center Students are Helping
The Cold Case Analysis Center has worked diligently to make sure that Jaliek Rainwalker is never forgotten. The CCAC has continuously conducted research, worked with members of the community, and shared investigative suggestions with law enforcement in an attempt to move the case forward and find justice for Rainwalker.
Jaliek Rainwalker is a biracial male with green eyes who had light brown and blonde-highlighted, curly hair. At the time of his disappearance, he was 12 years old and was approximately 5-feet-6-inches and 105 pounds. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a yellow fleece, a gray T-shirt with a dragon on it, and black canvas high-top sneakers. He may speak with a slight speech impediment and pronounce the letter “r” as “w.”
The CCAC always accepts tips on any local cold case in hopes that one day the families of victims like Jaliek Rainwalker will know what really happened.