San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr held a news conference Wednesday mainly to ask for the public's help in solving the cold case. He released photographs of the person of interest hoping to jog peoples' memories. Homicide detectives at the briefing released information about his criminal history. It's a past that convinced investigators that this man may be responsible for the disappearance of Kevin Collins.
He was a man of many names and police say that's why they had such a tough time investigating him. He had at least five different aliases. "On April 16, 1981, Jackson was arrested under the name Wayne Jackson, in the Fisherman's Wharf area in San Francisco, for kidnapping and lewd acts on a child," said Lt. Tim Plyer said.
Jackson bailed out and never showed up for his court appearance. He was arrested six months later and spent six months in jail for that offense. Police say he used another one of his aliases when he was arrested in Canada nine years earlier. "Jackson was wanted in Canada under the name Raymond Williams Stewart for a 1973 incident where he allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted two juveniles," Plyer said.
He was released. Then, he fled the country. He successfully eluded arrest because he had changed his alias again once he returned to the Bay Area. He lived in the area mostly under the name Dan Therrien, the name he had when he died of natural causes in 2008.
Kevin vanished in February of 1984. He left basketball practice at the St. Agnes school gym and waited for a bus at Oak and Masonic, just one block away from Therrien's house. A nationwide search ensued. Kevin's picture was on the front of Newsweek and milk cartons. Volunteers scoured the city.
Two witnesses told police independently that they saw Kevin talking to a man with a dog. The first man said Kevin was at the bus stop. The second witness, who saw Kevin later, said the boy was in front of Therrien's home. Therrien, who had a pet dog, was question and his flat was searched a week after Kevin's disappearance, but police did not look in the backyard or the basement.
Last week, cadaver-sniffing dogs found some bones buried in the basement floor of the house. They were sent to the state lab for analysis although investigators from the medical examiner's office say they were probably from an animal. Still, Collins' family is stunned police never connected all these dots before.
"For the individual with five names who we now know had a history of molesting young boys," said Kevin's brother, Stephen Collins. "It seems like he should have been a stronger suspect back then."
ABC7 News learned Wednesday that at the time, police knew about the Fisherman's Wharf arrest which is why they questioned Therrien and searched his home. A subsequent photo spread produced no matches from the witnesses. It was also learned Wednesday that police only recently found about the arrests in Canada when the cold case unit began looking into the case.
"They said he was a person of interest in '84," said Kevin's aunt, Jackie Deasy. "Why didn't they connect that with the arrest made in 1981? Alias or no alias, they'd have fingerprints."
Kevin's uncle, Michael Deasy, added, "I'm not disparaging what they're doing now, they're doing everything they can, but we had an office right next door to where this guy was, we were there six months, and he was living there that whole time probably laughing at us."
Police say they are still analyzing the bones that were unearthed. Meanwhile the family says they've got to move on with no real closure.
"It's just hard going through it all again and we have nothing really concrete," Jackie said.