14 Rhode Islanders on National Missing Persons List

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Kate Nagle, GoLocal Contributor

With the FBI investigating whether a missing Cleveland, Ohio woman was recently spotted in Warwick, Rhode Island, records show that 14 Rhode Islanders have gone missing in the last 35 years who remain missing to this day.  

See the List: 14 People Still Missing from Rhode Island BELOW

"Warwick Police had a complaint, then that person's face was placed on RI Most Wanted -- we utilize that for missing persons," said Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Steven O'Donnell. "They said it looked like [the missing] woman, but I don't believe it has turned out to be the case."

The woman -- Ashley Summers -- is listed in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS), which lists 14 Rhode Islanders in the database as currently missing, ranging from someone seen last in 2011, to someone who hasn't been accounted for since 1971.  

"I'm sure there are more missing people reported in that database.  I'm not an expert at it, it's not perfect science," said O'Donnell.  "When it's an adult, sometimes they choose to disappear, sometimes there's mental illness.  When it's a child...that screams out."

O'Donnell noted that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) contained the information about missing youth.  Two children who went missing in Rhode Island in 1985 -- Kelly and Kimberly Yates, who were less than 1 and 3 years old at the time they went missing, are contained in that list, as well as NAMUS.   

Tracking Internet Activity

Lt. Chris Schram of the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit spoked to how they use technology to help identify missing persons, and youth in particular.

"We assist other agencies with computer related type requests -- forensic requests on phone and computer records, or giving them guidance on the type of things to look for," said Schram. 

"NCMEC, most of it is exploited children," continued Scrham.  "NCMEC can send us a lead having us monitor a text or FB message, but what I'm more aware of is us using social media that kids may be using or on to help go back and find their whereabouts."

Scrham noted the recent Amber Alert in Rhode Island in 2013, that resulted in the return of a Portsmouth girl who had been taken to New Jersey.  

"She was 14 years old, the guy comes up from New Jersey after meeting on Facebook, she ends up going down to New Jersey," said Schram.  "The FBI tracked her with our assistance.  We found her chat in iPad -- he was the only person her folks couldn't account for, so that our lead."

"There was a West Warwick case recently hat was somewhat similar," continued Schram. "They knew [the missing girl] was active on social media, we were able to get a friend who was able to get in contact with her."

"I would say it's another tool in the toolbox," said Schram of social media, and missing persons.  "Because [youth] are so active on social media, snap chat, whatever they're using -- it's a method for trying to figure out if law enforcement can track them back to wherever they are."

On January 13, NCMEC announced that Amber Alerts can now be found on Facebook. 

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