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By daylight, Coombs' roommate at the Marriot, another Cerner employee, awoke to find that Coombs hadn't made it back. But the roommate didn't report his absence to anyone, figuring Coombs would return eventually. Coombs failed to check out of the hotel and never made his return flight that Monday morning, leaving an expensive laptop and the rest of his belongings unclaimed in his room.
On Thursday, January 23, Simmons and Coombs' mother, Denise Marby, filed a missing-person report with the KCPD. After Simmons told police that he might have been on drugs, she says the cops no longer took the report seriously. The police, she says, acted as though Coombs were an addict who would simply turn up when he was done with his binge. Simmons says she knew it was more serious than that.
"I mean, he partied," Simmons says. "He didn't have a problem. He didn't do crack or anything. It was the party thing just, like, cocaine or whatever."
Simmons shared a checking account with her fiancé, so she asked the bank to give her the locations of ATMs where Coombs had withdrawn money. His last withdrawal was at the Conoco at 37th and Main.
Simmons and Marby boarded a flight to Kansas City to look for Coombs themselves. They checked in at the Hyatt at Crown Center and took a cab to midtown. Simmons says she expected to see quaint, Midwestern Americana; instead, she saw drug transactions made openly on the street. Simmons grew up in Brooklyn and had seen her share of bad neighborhoods, but she was intimidated.
Simmons and Marby handed out homemade fliers with Coombs' picture to people they passed on Main. They knocked on doors in the neighborhood. They even walked into a crack house to ask about Coombs. The people there said they needed to find the local cop, Danny Holmes. They said that he knew everything and everyone in the neighborhood.
Simmons got a call that day from a detective. According to her recollection of the conversation, the detective wasn't pleased that they had been snooping around. He said he feared for their safety. He said an undercover police informant was building a case against drug dealers in the neighborhood where she and Marby had been searching and that the informant might find Coombs.
Unconvinced, Simmons demanded to speak with Holmes.
Holmes was an old-school cop. He wanted nothing more than to patrol a beat, according to ex-KCPD officer Chad Gardner, Holmes' partner before Hamre. Gardner says Holmes' interest in police work began when he was 9 years old, growing up near Chicago's Wrigley Field. His grandmother worked the night shift at a hospital, and Holmes would wait on the front stoop as she got off the bus. One morning, he watched as a stranger followed behind her and struck her in the head with a rock. The man stole her purse and ran down an alley. Holmes chased him, but the thief kicked him in the stomach and got away. After high school, Holmes got married, joined the Army and served in Somalia, Gardner says. He worked a few months for the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department before joining the KCPD in September 1997. Holmes earned the nickname "Turbo" because he drove fast, talked fast, chain-smoked and had a quick temper. In 2001, Holmes and four other officers received certificates of commendation for pulling people from a burning apartment complex.
Detective Hutcheson called Holmes and Hamre on January 26 and told them to meet with Simmons and Marby in their room at the Hyatt in Crown Center.