Byline: James Kimberly Daily Herald Staff Writer
Eyes watering and voice wavering, Jewel Howlett made an impassioned appeal Saturday for the only thing that would let her family celebrate Mother's Day: the safe return of her granddaughter, Brittany Martinez.
Convinced the Elgin 11-year-old was abducted Thursday from right in front of her parents' Royal Boulevard apartment, Howlett asked that Brittany be returned unharmed.
"Please give my daughter-in-law the most beautiful Mother's Day gift you can give," Howlett said.
"Let (Brittany) off somewhere. Notify the police. Let her call the police," she pleaded.
In the three days since Brittany's parents, Scott and Wendi Howlett, reported their daughter missing, little has been learned about what happened to the energetic but shy fifth-grader at Illinois Park Elementary School.
Brittany's disappearance is a mystery in every sense of the word. A happy child and a successful student who was looking forward to visiting the Brookfield Zoo with relatives on Saturday, she does not fit the profile of a runaway.
But at the same time, police have yet to uncover solid evidence to support the suspicion that Brittany was abducted. Her natural father, Robert Martinez, was killed in a car accident in 1991, and his family remains close with Brittany and her mother, so there is no reason to suspect a custody battle kidnapping.
And at 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds, Brittany was physically mature for her age and quite capable of fighting a stranger who might try to forcefully pluck her off the street.
Working the case around-the-clock from within an hour or two of Brittany's disappearance, Elgin police are confidant Brittany is not in the fields, woods or bicycle trails near the family's apartment or along the banks of Tyler Creek or the Fox River.
Elgin Public Information Officer Eric Stuckey said investigators are satisfied all areas have been thoroughly searched and police were shifting their techniques. Instead of walking nearby fields, officers are now investigating tips called into a hotline at the department.
The FBI also is assisting with the investigation. The bureau has set up for the department a computer database to help investigators track tips that are called in and compare notes from interviews, Stuckey said.
Since opening the hotline Friday, Elgin police have received more than 100 telephone calls about Brittany. About half of them have been reliable tips that warranted further investigation, Stuckey said.
Among the leads being pursued in the case is the possibility that one of the 89 registered sex offenders living in the city had something to do with Brittany's disappearance. …