No Trace on Trail

Jerika Alvey Binks (24) from American Fork, Utah, was on a journey of both spiritual and physical healing.

She was overcoming hurdles from her past and was taking positive steps in the right direction. Jerika was known for her increasing passion for running. She often went for long runs (her favourite being Altitude). She ran up to 6 hours a day, 24 km’s (15 miles) and upwards, and loved exploring new areas and trying out older trails in her area.

She had been staying at a Residential Treatment Center for several months and was on a path of enlightenment and healing, and was doing well in her road to recovery (despite extensive research, it is never stated what she was getting treatment for, so I will not make assumptions out of respect for both Jerika and her family).

On the 17th February 2018, she spent several hours on the phone to her mother and appeared to be in great spirits. The following morning of 18th February, Jerika told her roommate that she was leaving for a run. She was dressed and ready to go on her usual daily routine. Jerika had also recently received a new pair of shoes to wear whilst out running, and was eager to use them.

She set out for her run at approximately 9:30am on that Sunday morning, but has never returned. The last time she was physically seen was her leaving the Residential Treatment Center that morning for her run. A good portion of her steps after leaving the center has been traced but the path goes cold after some time. Here is what is known of her path after the leaving the center.

  • She headed north on North Country Blvd in America Fork, and continued in this direction. She passed Utah State Developmental Center at 9:39am (a sighting which was verified on the USDC’s camera).
  • then passed Lone Peak High School and a Walmart at 9:50am– (verified by Walmart parking lot surveillance footage) and continued north on that same road. \
  • Next, she turned onto Cedar Hills Golf Course jogging path at roughly 9:55am (confirmed sighting on residential home security system, as well as loosely triangulated cellphone data) and headed east to American Fork Canyon.
  • Approximately 10:10am, she entered American Fork Canyon, and her cellular service completely dropped out at this point – from this point it appears that she had ran up the canyon roughly 2.4 km’s (1.5 miles), where she likely turned onto an old historic Timpanogos Cave Trail, that had been closed for decades, that wasn’t maintained and had fallen into great disrepair.

The likely trail that Jerika was on was rough and raggedy terrain and would have stayed that way from the canyon road until the historic trail meets the cured, maintained and paved, Timpanogos Cave Trail.

  • It is believed she entered the Timp Cave Trail about 0.5 miles above a gate that blocks the current National Park trail, and headed down the National Park Trail. (position + direction confirmed by a trail camera at 1:30pm) – This is the last sighting of Jerika. 

sightings

The map above goes into detail of the last sightings of Jerika, as well as areas that have been searched.

                      The Search & Investigation

Investigators, Volunteers and Cadaver dogs have searched the areas surrounding extensively, including all the trails within the area, the Cedar Hills Golf Court, the area south leading to Art Dye Park and back to her home. Along the Canyon and the Murdoch Canal Trail, to Grove Creek and back to her home. Roadside and River along the Canyon have been searched many times, and so has the campsites within the canyon.

The Timp Cave National Park has been searched extensively by park rangers and search and rescue. Many hours of Search & Rescue, Volunteers, Family and drone pilots have searched all these areas, and yet there is still no signs of Jerika. Despite all of the efforts to find Jerika or a trace of her, there is still nothing that conclusively indicates what has happened to her, or where she may be.

Investigators have accessed her phone records, texts, google search history, icloud, messaging accounts, email, facebook, health & fitness apps, travel and other accounts, but have been provided with very limited information. Since her disappearance, her bank account has not been touched or accessed, and the funds that she was saving for her car are still within the account. Nor has there been any suspicious activity on her credit union account, according to warrants.

There have been reports of scammers claiming to be holding Jerika captive in attempts to defraud her mother, however nothing has come from these claims and Jerika still remains missing.

Jerika’s last known whereabouts was caught on the trail stop-motion camera, and family have released those last images of her. Alongside these photos, the family posted on Facebook the following:

“We as a family have been waiting to release these photos out of respect, and not wanting to step on anyone’s toes who are aiding in the Investigation. They say it’s Jerika coming down the trail, however, there is no footage of her coming back up. Which leads us to believe she gained access to the trail elsewhere. Furthermore, that leads us to believe someone showed her an entrance prior to her run that day”

Timpanogos Cave National Monument issued a statement to further clarify pictures, which were taken in an area that was closed to public for the winter about halfway up the trail.

“Typically, the camera records wildlife in the area while it is closed off to the public, and rangers were surprised to find an image that matched Jerika, date stamped February 18th, the reported date of disappearance,”

The park service concurred that “multiple days of searches were conducted by air and ground, including helicopters, drones, dog teams and ground searches rappelling through steep terrain both above and below the cave trail,”

Also, officials and the park itself are still unsure of how Jerika accessed the area of the trail that was blocked off to the public, as the gate was locked and blocking access. They stated:

“It is unknown what route Jerika took to get above the locked NPS gate and into the closed part of the hiking trail where the photos of her were taken. Adjacent scree slopes, animal trails and other possible but unauthorized routes have also been searched multiple times”.

The public trail that was closed off during the winter and in the time of Binks’ disappearance, has since opened back up to public since May 2018. County Sheriff’s Sgt Spencer Cannon said investigators have no evidence on the whereabouts, or what has happened to Binks, including whether this is criminal or not. The search however has been very active, according to multiple search warrants and affidavits over April/May 2018.

In one warrant, investigators looked at what was possibly a second sighting of Jerika on the exact same Timp Trail a few weeks before her disappearance. In the photo, shows a woman with similar features walking with a man. But police since determined it not be Jerika.

“On the day she disappeared, she left 2 uncashed checks in her bedroom, along with her ID and debit card, alongside her phone charger. Her room was also tidy. In my experience, these facts indicate that Jerika did NOT run away or leave town because it is rare for a person to leave an area without taking their property, money and ID with them” – An investigator wrote in one affidavit.

In another affidavit, it is noted that “It is common for Jerika to go running, but she would always return back to the rehab center at reasonable time. Other individuals staying at the center believe this is abnormal behavior for Jerika and are concerned. Jerika has lived at the Rehab Center for several months and has been doing well with her treatment,”.

Despite it being reported that she had been doing well with her treatment, a separate warrant states that “She is known to sneak out of her house to meet with a boy approximately a week before her disappearance, and sneaking out was against the rules of the center. She also used her snapchat account to meet this individual a week before her disappearance,”.  However, the man the warrant is talking about was tracked down and determined not to be involved, states Sgt Spencer Cannon.

Since her disappearance, her birthday has also passed. She would have turned 25 on the 17th of June. Jerika’s family and friends constantly update the public through their facebook page “Finding Jerika”, and push for people to spread the word, and come forward with anyone information they may know that could lead to finding Jerika.

Theories

There are multiple theories surrounding this case. Mostly:

  1. Jerika had planned to escape the Rehab center, and she ran away.
  2. Abduction/Foul Play
  3. Accident
  4. Animal

Here are my thoughts for each theory. The first being that Jerika had planned to escape and run away. I am doubtful that this is what has occurred, and the county sheriff’s office and investigators also believe that this hasn’t happened. I think that based off the facts that we know. She didn’t take any of her identification, bank cards, phone charger or anything of that sort. It would be extremely difficult and impractical to run away with no way of accessing money, or having identification. And the fact that she was doing really well in the program, and was showing no signs of being upset in her situation. Like stated earlier, the night before she was completely fine and talking to her mum with no signs of anything like this occurring. She was making herself happy and healthy, and was loving going for her daily runs. I don’t think she wanted to “run away” at all.

2) Abduction/Foul Play

This is a theory which I’m skeptical of, but I’m not ruling it out. If Jerika was abducted, or had someone that knew of what area she was in and was possibly following her, the CCTV footage would show that. She was caught on multiple different cameras up to a certain point, and it would be a given that if there was someone following her in this time, they would also be seen on CCTV footage. However, that doesn’t mean that something happened further down the track. Jerika may have ran into someone or a situation further down the track while exploring. However, there is no evidence at all of this or even her being in the area. But in saying that, the trail is a very large area and it could just be that they have missed a certain spot.

3) Accident / Animal

Personally, I believe this to be the most plausible theory. The Park itself, and all it’s trails is exponentially large. My biggest thought throughout researching this case, was that Jerika was not carrying a water bottle of any sort during this run. If she was running such large distances of 24 kilometers (15 miles) and upwards, she would 100% need something to keep hydrated. The area that she was running through, she wasn’t familiar with, it was closed off to public so there was no one around and it was extremely rough terrain. The chances of falling, hurting herself or becoming dehydrated is extremely high. She may have wondered off track, as she loved adventuring, and may have become lost or injured and unable to find her way back. It is also important to note that there are hundreds of paths she may had mistaken for the main trail. The area is a mine field of pits, scree, rocks, crumbling edges, snags and so on. With areas being pretty much impossible to search due to snowfall, there were plenty of missed opportunities for search areas. The roads never opened for most cabins till 3 months after her disappearance, leaving more than enough time for the elements or animals to break down the remains.

Whatever has happened to Jerika Binks, I hope that she is found and brought back to her family. All her family, her friends, investigators and those who are aiding in the research are hoping to find Jerika safe and okay. The current reward for any information leading to Binks being found is now $10,000.

If there’s any information you are aware of, or think may benefit this investigation, please contact Sheriff’s office at 801-851-4013.

jerika.jpg

Jerika has brown hair, brown eyes, is 5’4″ in height and weighs between 120-125lbs (50-56kg).

 

links to information regarding this investigation:

Reddit Thread

Facebook Page: Finding Jerika

News Article

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