Mary and Tonia say that people have never been quick to offer information to police. But they've spun stories among one another about what happened to Christina. All sorts of tales.
Some talk about California, where for a while people were hounding a woman named Christina Adkins on Facebook. No relation. There's West Virginia, where the roots of Christina's biological mother reside. There's still no proof that she ever fled there. Her boyfriend once said she phoned in from Florida, but he could never expound on that claim. Attempts by Scene to contact Rivera were unsuccessful.
Like many long-running missing persons cases, her status has quietly and unofficially passed into the "runaway" category. Others around town more grimly assert that she's dead. But conjecture holds no interest for Mary and Tonia.
Inside the Adkins' home on Prame Avenue, a seafoam-green anchor on the western terminus of the street, photos of Christina and Tonia are displayed alongside each other on the wall. Christina is frozen in time. Her smile is warm. Tonia, the younger of the two by five years, grew up an only child.
"She would have never just up and walked away from her family. She could walk away from anybody, but she could not walk away from me," Tonia says. "She always looked out for me. And we were very close. She would not have walked away from this house that night knowing that she was going to leave and not tell me."
Mary completes Tonia's sentences as the younger woman continues sharing details of her sister's life. They both call her "Christy." They've told these stories over and over again, repeating the facts and sifting through memories for any clues that may surface. This is what their lives have become—an endless cycle of yearning. Tonia compares the great mystery to a massive puzzle with pieces that have just never jibed. "It's like everything is there, but we just can't twist it to make it fit," she says.
The family doesn't even have Christina's physical possessions to analyze. Everything she owned was thrown out onto the street by her boyfriend a few weeks after she disappeared, the family explains. The police department's second district barred them from retrieving any items, citing possible "harassment" against Rivera.
"Could you imagine? There could be some clues in all that stuff that went to the dump," White says. "So basically, the family has nothing left of Christy except for some pictures."
Nevermind the grassroots, day-in and day-out efforts of the Adkins family over the years; there's really been little in the way of outside help. Until recently, progress on the case was nonexistent. Resentment lurks behind the family's every word.
"Nobody would listen to us. Nobody wanted to do anything," Tonia says. The years dragged on slowly and quite little changed. The family grew up, losing a father to sickness and watching Tonia's son enter this world and flourish. Christina Adkins remained a petite, 17-year-old blonde, forever emblazoned in a handful of family photos. Her name receded to the farthest reaches of Cleveland's subconscious.
And then the summer of 2013 began.***
It was a beautiful, if overwhelmingly normal, day on Seymour Avenue. It was May 6, 2013, and the tenor of the day would change dramatically when a young woman named Amanda Berry pounded her fists against the storm door of Ariel Castro's two-story torture chamber, waking the neighborhood to terrors unimaginable and simultaneously ceaseless tides of hope.
Many things happened in Cleveland once Berry and her fellow captives—Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and her own 6-year-old daughter—escaped. In the immediate sense, the Adkins family raced to MetroHealth Medical Center to find out if the third woman—Knight, then unidentified publicly—was Christina. Resounding joy soon crystallized into conflicting emotions.