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With White's budding relationship with the family came a renewed push for action. She's spoken with investigators at length, insisting on getting the people who knew Christina back in 1995 to talk and to share what they know. In turn, the shadowy opposition became more robust, as well. White says, however, that former acquaintances of Christina's are slowly warming to the idea of talking with police. She's helping the family assemble some sort of reward nest egg, a cash incentive to get the right people to cough up information. For nearly two decades, very few people have passed along worthy information to the investigation.
When the FBI rolled onto Vega Avenue and began searching through a house that bore seemingly no connection to the Adkins case, Heather White got on the first bus out of Ontario.
"We appear to be getting somewhere now," she says, looking over at her own daughter, Angel, who survived a brutal kidnapping. "When you look at your own child, there's hope right there." Hope for the Adkins family, somehow, and hope for everyone caught in the great big void.
Activist and author Yvonne Pointer knows that yearning feeling all too well. Her daughter, Gloria, was raped and murdered 29 years ago. Only in May of this year did the police identify a suspect. "Who would have thought that eventually we would see some type of closure?" she asks. "Never, ever, give up hope."
Through those years and up to the present, Pointer has advocated for the missing and maintained a spotlight on the many names and faces. She explains that that's really all she can do. The struggle is her life.
"I kept waiting for the cavalry to show up, only to find out that I was the cavalry. Sometimes we may be the only help we have," she says.
Still, the litany of unanswered questions can pile high when left untended for 18 years. For almost all of that time, Mary says, the family has been left fumbling about in the dark for their own answers. They've worked the pavement of Cleveland - in recent years with White by their side - to determine who knew what and to get an inkling of Christina's fate.
"If things had been handled properly 18 years ago, we wouldn't be out here today," White says as she hoists aloft fliers bedecked with images of Christina. West 25th is coming to life as the sunlight dims. Another car speeds past.***
On May 10, days after the Seymour Avenue rescue, the FBI released a request for tips in connection with both Christina's case and Ashley Summers' case. Though their disappearances were separated by more than a decade, the profiles of the two young women fit startlingly well with the scene brewing on Seymour Avenue. Initially, authorities and the general public were concerned that the two cases could be connected to Ariel Castro. The FBI insists that is not so.
Even a quick scan of the missing persons database reveals more than 100 people across the region at any one time. Christina's face shows up at the end of the list, but dozens of men and women of all ages dot the data entries before her.
Often enough, the first dozen or so entries are riddled with AMBER Alerts that are called off within a day or two. Men and women who thought running away was a good idea sometimes return home. The list sorts itself out, but life has alternate plans for too many of the remaining names.
The years, the names, the faces: Each person on the list has their own story. And each experience is unique, of course. The common denominator is the simple fact that at some point, each person vanished into thin air.
In East Cleveland, the kidnapping and murder of Shetisha Sheeley, Angela Deskins and Shirellda Terry shook the community. Records show police checking in with all related parties following the missing persons reports of each woman, but nothing turned up until their bodies were discovered wrapped in plastic bags. An employee of a local cable company stumbled on Deskins' body initially.
Art McKoy, an activist working with Black on Black Crime Inc., led a grassroots search through abandoned homes and the wooded areas lining Shaw Avenue. He and the group of men were looking for more bodies, hoping to assuage concerns ebbing through the community. Women became afraid. Families huddled behind closed doors as the summer wore on.
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