Rhode Island girls abducted in ’85 located in Texas

Kimberly (left) and Kelly Yates, pictured here in age-progressed composites with their last known photos, were taken from their family home in Rhode Island on Aug. 27, 1985, in a kidnapping case that made national headlines and spurred thousands of tips as to the sisters' whereabouts. The pair, now grown women in their 30s, were found living in Houston late last month, authorities said. Images courtesy National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Jan. 18 (UPI) — Two sisters who were abducted in Rhode Island more than three decades ago — allegedly by their mother — have turned up in Texas, authorities said Tuesday.

Police said the girls and their mother were located living in Houston. The matriarch, Elaine C. Yates, was arrested, and the girls, now grown women in their 30s, finally have an opportunity to speak to their father for the first time in more than 31 years.

On Aug. 27, 1985, 3-year-old Kimberly and 10-month-old Kelly were taken from their family home after a domestic spat between their parents. For years, they were featured by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as investigators wondered as to their whereabouts.

After decades of dead ends, an anonymous tip phoned in on Dec. 23 finally solved the case. Elaine Yates was arrested Monday by Texas Rangers and Rhode Island authorities.

“I always hoped this day would happen,” the girls’ father, Russel Yates, said after receiving the news Tuesday. “Now I hope they will want to get in touch with me.”

He was awarded full custody of the girls about three months after they were taken.

The girls’ disappearances made national headlines in 1985, and Russell Yates refused for years to file for divorce, fearing that would open the door for his estranged wife and the girls to legally change their names — and perhaps never be found.

The girls’ grandmother was jailed for a short time in 1990 for failing to divulge the trio’s locations. She had told authorities she did not know where they went.

Elaine Yates, 69, who had been wanted on a felony abduction warrant since 1988, now faces charges of child snatching and flight from prosecution. She was ultimately able to change her name, anyway, to Liana Lynn Waldberg in 2009, officials said. The girls also took on new names, but police refused to reveal them Tuesday.

Investigators said the grown women live in the Houston area and have families of their own.

It’s unknown where the girls and their mother had lived for the entirety of their 31 years in anonymity. It also wasn’t immediately known what the girls’ reactions were to the news, whether they were aware they had been taken from their father, or whether they knew they once had different names. Officials said the investigation is ongoing.

“What happens with my ex-wife, I really feel bad about,” Russell Yates told Providence’s WPRI. “That’s not going to help her, me, or anyone else at this point.

“I just want to see my kids.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here