HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – A chain-linked fence across from the last known location of missing Virginia 4-year-old Codi Bigsby still dangles with symbols of love and hope.

Not only are the stuffed animals and cardboard signs still there one year later — but so is the community’s determination to find Codi.

“I am just full of emotion with a missing child. Because it’s a child, because adults are supposed to take care of these children. They’re helpless,” Hampton resident Joan Lyons said.

One year ago to the day, Jan. 31, 2022, Codi was reported missing from his Hampton home in the Buckroe Pointe Apartments by his father, Cory Bigsby. It wasn’t long before investigators said Cory’s story wasn’t adding up.

Hampton Police Chief, Mark Talbot, said he has dealt with hundreds of missing people throughout his career and this one sticks with him.

“My deputy calls me on the phone and says we have a missing four-year-old and he described what we knew at that point very early on within a few minutes of getting the call and the police officers and detectives getting out there. He knew at that point; something is different here. We’re going to need to put more resources into this case early on…it was intense from the first moments of the investigation,” Talbot said.

After countless searches and interviews, police still say Cory is the only person of interest in Codi’s disappearance.

“We become intimately familiar with how he lived his life, we become intimately familiar with the trauma he experienced while he was living. The kind of deprivation he experienced in his short life. We learn those things through the course of the investigation process, it’s deeply traumatic,” Talbot said.

Cory is in jail on alleged child neglect and abuse charges. Court officials are waiting for a second mental health evaluation to move forward with the trial. In open court for those charges, officials presumed Codi dead months into the investigation.

“He is in jail, and he’s not charged with the death of Codi Bigsby, but it’s certainly related. I don’t want to pretend like it has nothing to do with it because there’s a really good chance, we never would have met him other than Codi Bigsby going missing. Do we anticipate more happening? Absolutely,” Talbot said.

However, without a body or confession, many are still wondering why investigators believe Codi is dead and not alive.

“Through the investigative process, we’ve encountered a number of things that make us think at this point, very unlikely that Codi Bigsby is alive. But also, being alive leaves traces on the world. He isn’t available. We can’t see him. We haven’t heard from him. There’s no evidence anyone has spoken to him on the phone or has seen him on video, haven’t seen a photo of him,” Talbot said.

He continued, “If he were alive, I think we would know it. If there’s no evidence of a human being, especially under these circumstances if he can’t care for himself, he would have to be in the care of somebody else. There’s no evidence of that. There never was from the very start.”

Dead or alive, the community is relentless in their organized searches, with the same gumption they had one year ago.

“We haven’t stopped searching for Codi…I believe that he is still here, and I am not giving up. We are not giving up. He is a beam of light,” citizen Bianca Wilson said.

But at this point, with new developments in the investigation under wraps, many are beginning to wonder if searchers are wasting their time.

“I know that we searched every location that we thought reasonably could be the spot of some evidence of something we could use to find out what happened or evidence of Codi or his remains. We searched all those areas. I don’t think they are wasting their time; I also do not think it’s likely they will find anything useful,” Talbot said.

Talbot also said they are not giving up. He gets a briefing every week and has since the start of the case.

“We are always doing something. We’ve done a lot we can’t talk about, and we believe ultimately the work that we have done and will continue to do is leading somewhere very important.”

​Cory Bigsby is due back in court on March 31. Attorneys are scheduled to get an update on a second competency exam. His first one determined he was competent to stand trial.