LUBBOCK, Texas – The mother of a 13-year-old West Texas cheerleader found dead in March said Tuesday that since her daughter went missing more than two years ago she had feared the worst, including that the girl was chained and tortured or had fallen victim to human traffickers.
Investigators have given no indication that Billie Jean Dunn's fears about her daughter are valid or under what circumstances Hailey Darlene Dunn might have been held captive, if she was. Officials have not released a manner and cause of death, and an FBI spokeswoman did not return a call Tuesday.
In the first public comments since Hailey's remains were identified, Billie Jean Dunn said possibly the most painful part was picturing her daughter wondering why her mother and father hadn't found her.
"I kept my hope the whole time. I did," the 36-year-old mother said. "That fear that she was dead, I put it way in the back of my mind."
Dunn reported her daughter missing in December 2010 in Colorado City, about 250 miles west of Dallas. Remains found in March near at a West Texas lake about 20 miles away were identified last month as belonging to Hailey.
No arrests have been made. Shortly after her disappearance, police called Dunn's live-in boyfriend at the time, Shawn Adkins, a person of interest, but he has not been charged.
Dunn and Adkins split up early last year and last had email contact in August.
"I've learned a lot over the past few months and I feel pretty strongly that he could be involved," she said. "I know there are other possibilities also."
Adkins has denied involvement in Hailey's disappearance. A call seeking comment from his attorney, Alex Eyssen, was not returned Tuesday.
From the start, Dunn said, her worry was that a "random weirdo" might have pulled off nearby Interstate 20 and abducted Hailey.
"Things you don't think of normally just run through your mind, like what is somebody doing to her, what is she having to live through," said Dunn, who works as an administrative assistant in Austin. "That would just worry me sick. That would really drive me crazy."
Dunn's attorney, John Young, said authorities have told him investigators are looking at "other cases that may in fact be related or may be the same type to the very specific facts of this case."
Dunn said it's "absurd" for people to question her having anything to do with her daughter's disappearance or death.
"That question has always disgusted me," she said. "It still does. This is my daughter. Hailey is my baby. She is my child."
Hailey's brother, 18-year-old David Dunn, is "very angry and very sad," his mom said. He sobbed throughout a memorial service held Sunday at Hailey's middle school where hundreds came to bid farewell to the girl.
"He couldn't stand the sight of a 'missing' poster (about Hailey), of course, because it made it too real for him," Billie Jean Dunn said. "Now it's real and now he accepts it."
Dunn said authorities still have Hailey's remains, which she plans to cremate once they're turned over to the family.
"They're being very meticulous," Dunn said of forensic experts. "They're doing everything they know that they need to do to collect any possible evidence."
Dunn said that while she got some answers from finally knowing where Hailey is, she "won't have full closure unless there's been an arrest made."