Missing: The Long Lost Case of Christina Adkins 

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"We were crushed," Tonia says, her words damp with a tear. "There was that one chance that it could be Christina."

Mary chimes in, describing how Christina's case and those of other missing women gained a bit of visibility in the wake of the rescue: "When they found the girls down there, we went and brought fliers." The family appeared on CNN and in the pages of the New York Daily News. Christina's name—along with Ashley Summers, notably—became a brief fixture in the aftermath reportage. "It took the ladies being found on Seymour Avenue for us to get any media attention," White adds.

Across Cleveland and more broadly speaking, the May 6 rescue triggered drawn-out introspection.

To be sure, the news of the summer of 2013 was focused more intensely on cases of violence against women—kidnappings, rapes, murders—than in any recent year. By the numbers, 2013 has been fairly typical; there has been so far no noted increase in violent crimes this year. But the news vans and the reporters and the cameras all descended with pronounced zeal into neighborhoods like East Cleveland's Shaw Avenue, the near-westside's Clark-Fulton district, the notably poorer corners of downtown. There was blood.

With due care, the cameras humanized what might have otherwise passed for bleak data points in other years. Names were published and life stories were shared across the region. Public officials took note, for better or worse: East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton was everywhere; Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed worked to stave off his own bleak image to focus the news on victims in his ward; Mayor Frank Jackson released a series of statements. But violent crimes persisted.

Despite the talk—and the talk following 2009's Imperial Avenue serial killings—not much has changed with regard to how the region tackles missing person cases. Hope seemed bountiful and calls to action resounded throughout the summer. Former classmate Paul Calderon says that the police line was never very firm, prompting hand-wringing and the very grassroots mentality that's kept everyone close to Christina going. Hope remained the only vestige. "All we want to do is get closure, whether she comes out alive or not," he says.

The Adkins family, however, soon fell back into a cycle of despair. Had their interactions with the police been effective?

"There weren't any," Mary says. Tonia adds quickly: "The report was made [at the time] and they came out to the house once. That was the last we saw or heard from them." The family alleges that Rivera first filed the missing persons report, though he mischaracterized Christina's appearance entirely. The current report was corrected once family members pushed law enforcement on the matter.

Christina's 37th birthday passed by 10 days after the Seymour rescue. She's been gone longer than she was with us. White leans in close and gets to the point: 18 years is a long time to wait for an answer.

***

The Adkins family and their friends are walking along a stretch of West 25th Street south of Clark and posting fliers against the telephone poles on a warm Saturday evening. Below the bold letters of the word "MISSING," three photos of Christina line up for the world. She's pictured at ages 15 and 16, but the third photo—a product of digital-aging software—depicts her at 30.

It's a nod to the longshot hope the family is hanging onto; really, there's no telling what Christina would look like today. In fact, victims of kidnapping and captivity often look years younger than they truly are when they're released.

"Yeah, I got one of these the last time I saw you," a passing stranger tells Mary, referencing the flier she's handing him. Still, he looks at the images and hitches the paper under his arm as he walks off.

Before the group begins the evening's work, they nonchalantly say that the fliers will surely be torn down by the morning. Maybe even within an hour or so. Sure enough, a group of people hit the area around Kinkel and Scranton several hours after the Adkins have headed inside and rip the fliers down, leaving nary a few left papering Prame Avenue.

Kinkel Avenue is a short street that connects West 25th and Scranton. Ariel Castro's brothers, Pedro and Onil, lived there with their mother, Lillian Rodriguez, for years. The home where Christina lived with her boyfriend, on the western half of the avenue, is the epicenter of this problem with the fliers. The Adkins family continues posting their information, though; sometimes they add a purple ribbon to the flier right outside the house. The ribbon never lasts long, either.

"The fliers came down as fast as they went up. And you do wonder, 'Why take the posters down if we're looking for a missing person?' It broke my heart to see how some of these posters were torn down," White says the following day. This is the general tone of the family's awareness efforts, especially in the past year.

More by Eric Sandy

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