Mom seeks answers on son’s disappearance

Published 6:04 pm Sunday, December 28, 2014

By Lance Martin

ROANOKE RAPIDS – For the first time since her son’s disappearance two years ago, Lola Robinson has put up a Christmas tree.

It’s for her grandchildren; it’s for some normalcy.

“I just wanted something a little different. Last year I didn’t cook anything. It’s not fair to them,” Robinson said.

The oldest of her five grandchildren, ages 11 and 12, are beginning to ask questions about her son, Shawn Cornelius Alston, and his disappearance, she said at her apartment earlier this in Roanoke Rapids.

“They are asking why someone would take him away. They want closure,” she stated.

She moved to Roanoke Rapids from Garysburg. Alston was living with her in Garysburg when her 41-year-old son disappeared.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were the time when Shawn’s kindness shown bright, Robinson said.

“This time of year he would buy my Christmas dinner,” she said, the ham, the turkey. “Even for Thanksgiving.”

She has a prayer for him….“I pray his soul is at rest. I pray he’s in a better place. I pray we find him and give him a proper burial.”

In the two years since he has been missing, his Social Security number hasn’t been used. She reported him missing on October 19, 2012, a day he was supposed to a take drug test before beginning work that Monday at Perdue Farms in Petersburg, VA.

“He went missing that Thursday night,” she said.

Shawn, who had been laid off from a construction job he had for 12 years, had been jobless for five months.

He lived with his mother and sister, Zana, who has cerebral palsy, on BarryScottTrail off Warner Bridge Road outside Garysburg. The last time she saw her son was 7:30 p.m. on October 18. He left his keys and wallet behind and was going to take a five-minute walk to hang out with friends on Warner Bridge Road.

“It’s been two years,” Robinson said. “I haven’t given up but I’ve come to the realization he may not return.”

She believes the friends he was going to visit that evening know something. She doesn’t call them his friends anymore.

“The ones he was with were just using him. They won’t even talk to me. Most of them didn’t have jobs. He was using his gas to run them back and forth,” she said.

One he would take to work in Emporia. He would take others so they could buy groceries or so they could pay their bills. Robinson wanted him to stop associating with them.

He liked to play cards and drink beer, she said, but he was good with Zana, sometimes to a fault.

“When I would try to discipline her, if he saw her struggling, he would put her in the wheelchair. I wanted to keep her active. He just didn’t like hearing her cry. It was like he was her savior,” Robinson noted.

Shawn, his mother said, was becoming excited over the prospects of his new job. He had offers of help so he could get back on his feet.

“His brother was going to give him gas money. He had a friend in Richmond he could stay with,” she said.

He had been watching a movie with friends. The house was one he didn’t go to often, Robinson said.

As Shawn was watching a movie and talking, the friend he came over with was on the phone. Shawn planned to leave at 11:30 p.m. to get ready for his drug test.

He had Grave’s Disease. That night he had trouble remembering how to exit the house and had to be shown out, as well as told what direction to go to get back home.

Robinson finds it strange the person he arrived with, the person on the phone, didn’t leave with him.

“I think it was a setup. That’s hearsay. The guys won’t come in and talk to detectives. They can’t make them take a lie detector test,” she said.

She hopes the State Bureau of Investigation will take an interest in the case.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for any information on his whereabouts and anyone with information is encouraged to call the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office at 252-534-2611.

(Lance Martin is Editor and Publisher of This story and photo are reprinted with his permission.)