Sunday, Philip Townsend’s phone did not ring with the customary call from his son, Detreck Foster, wishing him a happy Father’s Day.
More heartbreaking, Townsend said, his two beautiful granddaughters, ages 5 and 13, could not call their daddy and wish him a happy Father’s Day, because they do not know where he is or what has happened to him.
June 15 marked Foster’s 38th birthday, which he shares with his twin sister, Danika Thomas of Parsons, but no happy birthdays were exchanged between the two.
Around April 12, Foster went missing. His family and friends were left to wonder what became of him. While the normal pattern of contact was broken, the family waited until Foster did not contact his mother, LaDonna Scott, on Mother’s Day, May 10, before seeking police assistance in declaring him a missing person.
“He would never go without talking to those five people,” said Siniki Thomas, Foster’s brother-in-law. “Those are red flags for us. Detreck has a pattern and he’s not going to go without talking to all of us, because Detreck loves his family.”
“We had a really close relationship,” Townsend said of his son, even though many miles separated them. “It was always full of I love yous and things of that nature, any time the conversation was going on, or text, or anything of that nature. It would be every couple of days.”
No one heard from him for a few days, and Townsend said he didn’t know if it was “just someone not contacting you.
“But then after a couple of weeks, and when you find out he hasn’t been in touch with his daughters, then you know something is just not right there because … the sun rose and set on his daughters. So, we knew something wasn’t right then.”
Townsend said he considered the idea a few weeks into his son not making contact that something bad happened to him. Flyers were distributed and word spread through media, social media and on sites such as Kansas Missing and Unsolved in the hope of someone with information coming forward. Foster, who was living in Independence at the time of his disappearance, is described on flyers as being 5-foot, 9-inches tall, weighing 190 pounds and having black hair and brown eyes, a description that falls short of the man who is known and loved by his family.
“He’s comical. He likes to make people laugh,” said Danika. “Very caring. Very much a listener. He explains himself very well. A very clear communicator. Very passionate.”
“And he enjoyed cooking. That was his thing,” Siniki said. “He loved baking and cooking and cleaning. His cooking was a staple for people that he loved. If he cared and loved you, he would go to people’s house and help them clean up if they were overwhelmed, and he’d cook food for the people. That’s pretty much Detreck, the type of person to help anyone he could. That’s his personality.”
He also liked to be outside, in nature, fishing and hiking. He especially liked to travel.
More than anything, he loved being around family and friends.
Danika usually stayed in touch with her brother through texts and calls every day or every other day, sharing with each other how their day went, or just to say, “I love you.” The siblings would visit face-to-face when they could, spent holidays and celebratory days together and on occasion Detreck would make special trips to Parsons on Sundays to attend the Macedonia Soul-Winning Church, where his sister and brother-in-law co-pastor.
Foster also shared a strong bond with his daughters and enjoyed talking to them and sharing stories of when he was young. He offered words of wisdom as they encountered life and its pressures, guiding them to making right choices and letting them know how their choices can impact them.
Because of the kind of guy he is, Danika said her brother has friends off all backgrounds.
“He’s known as a very likable person,” she said, breaking down momentarily into tears and then composing herself.
“He had the ability to make everyone feel he was their type of person. He was very charismatic, and people would like him and love him because he would be willing to help pretty much anybody,” Siniki said.
“Once all routine was gone, you could pretty much figure he was gone, that something nefarious is in play,” Townsend said. “No one has anything and that just doesn’t make any sense, because he is such a people person, such effervescence about him people would want to be in his presence. He’d give you the shirt off his back. Just really fun to be around. Loved making people laugh.”
There has been a lot of speculation, people saying they have seen Foster, but so far reports the family traced contradicted facts or led to dead ends time and again.
Detreck had worked different jobs, including as a correctional officer, but spent most of his working years as a traveling crisis or tactical private security officer. When he disappeared, he was between jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when he was going to travel for work, he always notified family and never failed to stay in contact on important occasions.
The family does not know some details of Detreck’s disappearance and are not willing to speculate. They will not discuss the actual case, as the investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Independence Police Department is ongoing.
Siniki said they would not try to surmise what has happened to Foster, as, “Trouble can find anyone on any day. …We know enough to know something is not right. … He is loved. He is missed.”
“Any tips or any information that someone may have heard, even rumors they have heard, anything at all. … We were here a year and a half and graduated from Parsons High School in 2000. We lived in Independence for a while and lived in Coffeyville, but we lived as kids in this area — small towns where people are well known. … With it being over two months since anybody has heard from him, there has got to be some more information.”
Tips can be shared by calling 1-800-572-7463, or information can be shared with the KBI at 785-296-4017 or the Independence Police Department at (620) 332-1700.
Siniki commended the Independence police, saying they are doing a good job, along with the KBI.
“They’ve assured us they are working hard on the case and we do believe them,” he said. “We appreciate all the hard work they are putting into Detreck.”
“I’m appreciative of all the different policing agencies involved … and am pleased with the effort that’s being led by Detective (Derek) Bryant and what they have been putting forth,” Townsend said.
Independence Police Chief Jerry Harrison said Detreck Foster’s case is an open investigation and he is not in a position to safely share information from the investigation.
“We are still actively pursuing leads, and we are still getting leads, so we can’t really say more than that on it,” Harrison said of the investigation. “As far as Detreck’s case goes, it is a priority for us, and it is definitely not been moved to the back burner.”
IPD has been working with neighboring law enforcement agencies, including Parsons Police Department.
Harrison said the department appreciates Detreck Foster’s family taking a role, going out and beating the bushes and putting up fliers in communities and online and soliciting information.
“And we’re getting information and that may be a part of why we are still getting information. There is no one solution to a problem,” Harrison said. “We’re out beating the bushes and soliciting for information and we’re following up on leads, but it sure is helpful that the family is keeping this in the public’s eye … because the worst thing that is going to do is bring us more information. It’s not going to hurt our ability to close this case.”
“I’ve worked a number of missing person cases throughout my career and you carry it. You carry it with you. You don’t come into this career because you don’t care about people, and you can empathize with these people and you think, ‘Gosh, I wouldn’t want to be in that position.’ And I’ve got to do everything I can to give them the information that they need to move through life, whether it’s good or bad. Sometimes it’s not good. For me, personally, the cases I’ve been involved in, they almost always turn out well. Not always, but almost always. You don’t know though unless you keep pushing. You’ve got to keep pushing,” Harrison said.
If anyone has information that can help solve the case and locate Detreck Foster and bring closure to the family Harrison asks that person or persons to look at their own families and think about if it was one of their loved ones missing.
“Anytime you get into these kinds of cases where you can’t talk to the victim, you work for the victim. We don’t work for the family. We don’t work for the newspaper. We are serving the victim, and we want to find him and if there is any criminality involved, of course, we want to seek justice for him,” Harrison said. “Those are all on our mind.”
Detreck Foster’s family is carrying hopes and concerns, too.
“My thoughts are that something nefarious has happened. That is my genuine belief,” Townsend said. “Of course it is emotionally painful, especially given that Father’s Day was (Sunday) and I couldn’t get a call from him and his daughters couldn’t call him. It’s taxing in that nature. Any time you don’t have, can’t get closure to something, that void it’s just there. Someone knows something. My great day will be them getting closure to this.
“Detreck knows that his family loves him.”