FAULKNER COUNTY, Ark. — A woman who lost her two young sons in the Vilonia tornado five years ago is now missing after she disappeared during a trip to Toronto, Canada.
Investigators are searching for April Burkle, who friends say hasn’t been heard from in more than a week.
“We know that something is wrong and we need to get her home,” said longtime friend and former neighbor Alexis Cauthen, who’s helping search.
Burkle moved to Houston after the storm. The 34-year-old was supposed to be visiting a friend who’s currently working in Toronto, but reportedly refused to stay with them. The last time she was seen was October 22, when Burkle was helping take a stranger to a police station.
“Once they got there was no reason to detain her. That was the last time anyone has seen her,” Cauthen said. “We can’t let ourselves be distracted by the what ifs and the unanswered questions.”
For the past week, Cauthen has turned her Vilonia living room into an office to help search for her friend.
“What we need is people to share and share and share her picture,” she said.
While she works, outside her Cody Lane home splintered trees are just some of the reminders of the EF-4 that wiped out the small town.
Both Burkle and Cauthen lived on Cody Lane in April 2014 when the storm destroyed every home on their street. Burkle and her husband at the time, along with their two sons Tyler and Cameron, tried to take cover under a mattress. The tornado tore apart their home leaving only the concrete foundation, both boys were killed. At ages 7 and 9, they were the youngest victims of the storm.
As Burkle recovered from her injuries, she became an advocate for suvivors in the community. She spread she message about the power of faith across the country, many times aimed at helping other moms who also lost children.
In an interview a month after the storm, she told Fox 16:
“As a parent, knowing my kids are in the best hands ever and safe, I just have to endure what’s best for us because we are walking miracles. I’m sad, I miss them every moment , but I know where they are and I know I’ll see them again.”
It’s that same faith pushing Cauthen forward. She got a phone number just for tips, hoping one of the calls will be the answer she’s waiting for.
“I believe that she’s [Burkle’s] going to come home safely with everything in me,” she said.
The FBI, US Consulate in Toronto, and Toronto Police Department are investigating.
They’re asking people in Toronto, Houston, and Central Arkansas to be on the lookout for Burkle.
Anyone with information about Burkle’s whereabouts can call their local law enforcement or one of the following numbers:
Tip Line: (501) 269-0770
Toronto Police: (416) 808-2222
Crimestoppers: 1-800-222-8577 or online at 222tips.com