The Strange Disappearance of D'Wan Sims
The Strange Disappearance of D’Wan Sims
There’s always going to be a case that shakes the nation. There’s always a case that shocks the most experienced law enforcer or has the biggest true crime fans pondering over it for years to come. You have cases that stick to a non true crime lover for the rest of their lives, wondering what really happened. The case I’m talking about today is definitely one of these cases. When I’m researching a case, I like to ask the ones close to me if they’ve ever heard of the case, and normally in response they have no idea what I’m talking about. But as soon as I say the name D’Wan Sims, it’s like I’ve taken them back to the early 90’s and they are reliving the emotions they felt when news broke on his disappearance. With no answers to this case, many have come to conclusion on what they think happened that day, but with a whole new generation looking in, I think it’s time for some fresh eyes.
Let’s start this case one Saturday, December 10,1994. It was a normal Saturday for the family. The mother, Dwanna Harris, went to get her hair done with her cousin and took her 4 year old son D’Wan Sims. He watched cartoons and ate some fast food as his mom got her hair done. She had plans to go out with her boyfriend at the time Victor so D’Wan stayed with a family friend for the night. While he was there, the friend said D’Wan kept going on and on about a trip to Wonderland Mall with his mom the next day. He was so excited about it that he woke up bright and early Sunday morning playing basketball and going on and on about a game or toy he was going to get at the mall. Dwanna woke up around 11 am that Sunday and got the laundry ready to take to the laundromat. She planned on getting a few loads done after she picked D’Wan up from the friend’s house. They go to the laundromat and while she does 5 loads D’Wan is watching cartoons on the tv. Once they finish up, they load the car up and head to his grandma’s house to get a vacuum cleaner. The grandma, Beverly Harris, was already at work when they stopped.
Dwanna claimed that the mall trip was a spare of the moment kind of idea and that she would have left him with her boyfriend but he was sleep when she left and figure he didn’t want to be bothered, but like I mentioned earlier, the friend of the family said that was all D’Wan went on and on about. Either way it went, they were on their way to the mall to do some shopping, it was about a 30 minute drive to the mall from grandma's house. It’s December which means Christmas time and so stores are packed with holiday shoppers.
While finding a parking spot, she gets into it with a man over a spot. They enter the mall through Target around 1:45. I couldn’t find a layout of the mall online so I’m going to try my best to describe this to you. They walk past a toy store and D’Wan stops at the window but doesn't go inside. He’s begging his mom to go get the toy he’s been talking so much about. She tells him no and they walk away. Or so Dwanna thinks, see D’Wan liked to be independent and so they didn’t always hold hands when they were out. Dwanna even mentioned that he would wander away sometimes but he always comes back. She walks past a perfume store and a clothing store and notices that D'Wan isn’t by her side. She searches the mall for him by herself, hoping that he just wandered off like he’s done before and that maybe because it was so crowded, he couldn’t find her way back to him. She looks for 2 hours before finally finding the first person she sees with a wallow talkie.
Although it wasn’t security but instead a custodian, she was still able to page security and inform them on the missing child. Security recalls that Dwanna seemed upset like any parent would be in this situation. As security arrives, like a lightbulb going off in her head, Dwanna brings up the fact that her mom, D’Wan’s grandma, worked at the mall at Lady Footlocker and maybe he went there when he got lost because he knew that’s where his grandma would be at least. Beverly Harris is shocked when she finds out that not only is her only grandson missing but the fact it took Dwanna so long to tell her that he was missing. But without any more questions, Beverly joins in on the search for D’wan.
Livonia police are now called to the mall and they start on the search too. They thoroughly check the entire mall, even areas customers don’t acces like the basement, but there’s no sign of D’Wan anywhere. Police began to fear that maybe he wandered outside of the mall on his own. So that very night, they expanded their search from inside the mall, to the area surrounding the mall and searched all night. Dwanna is taken back to the police station and questioned, seeming as though she is the only witness. She is also given a lie detector test in which she fails. Beverly says that the test was given to her daughter just hours after D’Wan’s disappearance at 1 am and that she was frantic and overwhelmed, which would explain the test coming back as failed.
Monday, The FBI, Detroit police, and Michigan State police joined Livonia on the search, a total of about 50 investigators assigned. This time they bring dogs in to try and catch a scent but once again, no indication of D’Wan. The employees are questioned but they tell detectives that they don’t recall seeing D’Wan at all. It’s a busy season so it’s hard to remember every face. Victor, Dwanna’s boyfriend is questioned and given a polygraph and passes. D'Wan biological father is also questioned and given a polygraph. He passes and even has a solid alibi for the time frame D’Wan went missing. He said he hadn’t seen D’Wan since Thanksgiving. Also, as this is going on, around 2pm Dwanna arrives at the station for more questions. She is even taken back to the mall to trace her steps with officers. While this is going on, another group of detectives have the job of reviewing all of the mall’s security footage, and what they find next turns this case upside down.
After hours and hours of reviewing all of the footage, police finally spot Dwanna on camera… but they never see D’Wan enter the mall. She enters the mall around 4 pm and walks straight up to the cleaning lady and that’s when they see the cleaning lady page security. After making this realization, detectives are shocked. When news outlets get ahold of this information they immediately think of Susan Smith. Just a few weeks before this disappearance, a white woman named Susan Smith claimed a black man abducted her two little boys. This was nationwide news, and eventually Susan confessed that the boys weren’t abducted at all, and that she drowned them herself. So everyone was thinking, here we go again. When Dwanna was questioned about this, she stuck to her story and told detectives, she has no idea why D’Wan isn’t on the cameras and that everything went down just like she said it did. She even did a walk through in the mall to retrace her steps and recall exactly what happened, but it just didn’t line up with what the footage was showing. She even allows police to search her home, and they still turn up with nothing.
It’s now Tuesday, and there is still no sign of D’Wan. Despite what the security footage and everyone is saying, Dwanna’s family believes her, they constantly defend that she’s a great mother and would never do anything to hurt her child. Zachary, D’Wan’s father, even said that he couldn’t see Dwanna harming their child. Police on other hand start questioning Dwanna on another level. They even moved the search away from the mall to the area of the home. They checked garbage, cars, abandoned buildings, parks, and family homes. This enraged the family because they felt like Police were looking for a body and not a missing child. The family even had missing posters up for any information on D’Wan.Wonderland mall even offered a $5,000 reward. They received lots of tips on sightings but they were all dead ends when looked into. Beverly also made it public that although the police were nice, they’re now treating her daughter like a suspect because of the Susan Smith case that just happened. Zachary even said the questions police asked him sounded like they were putting this on Dwanna. She believed 100% in her daughter’s innocence.
She is given another polygraph and fails after leaving the test midway through. She was only at the station for about 45 minutes before storming out. Dwanna said that she was just tired of the police treating her like a suspect and that’s why she stormed out. Detectives felt like she was close to telling them something before she stormed off, but with no information from Dwanna, they continued their investigation. Investigators needed someone to verify the time frame from 12-3pm on Sunday, but nobody was able to come forward and say they saw the two at all. They even went back to the laundry mat that Dwanna said she went to before going through to the mall. One thing investigators learned was that the laundry mat only had 8 basic cable channels, and none of them played cartoons on Sunday like she told them at first.
With Dwanna now pulling away from the police because she’s tired of being treated like a suspect, she went to the media for help. Police would watch these interviews to see if she would slip up with any inconsistencies and how cooperative she is with reporters. Dwanna and Beverly even bought a coat that was exactly like the one D’Wan wore the day he went missing to jog anyone’s memory. She tells reporters in one press conference, “to whoever took my son, I know he’s safe and I know you’re taking good care of him. I’m hoping someone ran across him and took him in.” What police said about her demeanor was that it was advisory in nature.
In another interview with the media, it focuses on Beverly Harris. She talks about how police suggested a life insurance policy being taken out on D'Wan a few weeks prior to his disappearance. She said her daughter had no idea that she had taken one out for D’Wan and that it was just something she did for college and that she planned on taking one out on all her kids as well. The policy was taken out either the last week of November or the first week of December. She did pay premiums on this policy through payroll deductions and that it was for $25,000. She was also the sole beneficiary. When she was asked about D’Wan not being seen on the cameras, she said that Target admitted to their cameras not being 100% accurate and that it maybe messed up somehow when they were walking in. She was also asked what she thinks happened to D’Wan and she says a lonely person found a missing child. She was also ever given a polygraph test.
The case begins to go cold but it’s still open. This was one of the largest searches in Michigan. Beverly quit her job at the mall, it became unbearable to be there for her. Dwanna stopped working and moved out of Michigan 3 months after the disappearance but she said she still holds out hope that her son is alive. Police even said they believe he is still alive as well. In 2003, Wonderland mall was torn down. In 2009, Dwanna did another interview in which she said, “I haven’t given up. When it’s time for him to come back home, he’ll come home. If he was deceased, I think someone would have found a body by now. I feel someone has him and is taking good care of him. When D’Wan finds me, everything will be alright. I still have family in Detroit, and when he does come home, they’ll be waiting with open arms.”
In 2019, a 33 year old man by the name of Mike Cash on Facebook made a post that sent social media into a frenzy. His post said that he believes he is D’Wan Sims. Mike said growing up, his cousins would also mess with him and say that he was and that his mom was never pregnant with him. They would also say that he even favored D’Wan Sims. He submitted his DNA to Livonia police for testing but then something happened that put a hold on getting the results… the pandemic. What would normally take weeks to get back was now pushed to months. But in that meantime, Mike met with Dwanna. Dwanna said that instantly she knew that he wasn’t her son before the test could tell her anything. Things like his birthmark or certain things she said she’d know D’Wan would remember lead her to believe this. When they got the test results back, she was right. Mike Cash was not her missing son.
In December of 2020, Dwanna died and any secrets about D’Wan died with her. Although investigators say that now that she’s gone it’s going to make solving this case much harder, they still have hope that D’Wan Sims is somewhere out there, still alive.