After being missing for more than 30 years, Kimberly and Kelly Yates have been found. Authorities in Rhode Island believe that the two women, now 32 and 35, were kidnapped by their mother, Elaine Yates, 69, in 1985. Elaine Yates had lost custody of her daughters to her husband, Russell Yates. The couple had become estranged after she discovered he had been cheating. After Elaine Yates failure to turn up at a court hearing, Russell Yates was awarded custody.
The family had been living in Houston under aliases names. Elaine Yates went by the name Liana Waldberg. At the time of their abduction, Kimberly was 3 years old, Kelly was 10 months old.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Warrant for Child Snatching Has Been Out for Elaine Yates Since 1988
A felony warrant has been out for Elaine Yates since 1988. Authorities said that Yates was arrested in Houston on January 16 without incident in Houston. A tip was received by the Rhode Island State Police just before Christmas 2016 about the Yates’ whereabouts.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children profile on the family says they were last seen on August 26, 1985, in Warwick, Rhode Island. The Charley Project page for the Yates family speculates that they had been living in either Florida or Massachusetts.
Online records show that Elaine Yates lived as Liana Waldberg in a home located along Bering Drive in Houston. There is also a Melissa Waldberg who lives in the Houston-area and is the same age as Kimberly Yates.
Records show she was arrested in 2006 on public intoxication charges. In 2008, Melissa Waldberg competed in a bodybuilding competition in the Houston-area. A deleted LinkedIn page for a Houston-based Melissa Waldberg says that she worked as a business analyst for NRG Energy. That page adds that Melissa Waldberg is a graduate of the University of Houston.
Another woman associated with Melissa Walderberg is named Sarah Waldberg. Her age matches up with that of Kelly Yates.
2. Elaine Yates’ Mother Went to Prison at 77 Rather Than Give Up Information on Her Daughter’s Whereabouts
The New York Times reported in September 1990 that Yates’ mother Mary Pigeon, then 77, was sentenced to eight days in prison in relation to her daughter’s disappearance. Russell Yates had alleged that Pigeon aided her daughter’s escape from Rhode Island.
The Associated Press quoted the Rhode Island Women’s Political Caucus calling the decision to imprison Pigeon as showing “the judicial system at its worst.” The AP adds that during her prison sentence, Pigeon was put on light janitorial work.
The Times report indicates that the judge in the case implored Pigeon to disclose where her daughter was. Though, Pigeon maintained that she didn’t know the location of the family. After being released from prison, Pigeon said, “I feel much better. I would win everything if my daughter and grandchildren would come home.”
The Providence Journal reported in October 2000 that Mary Pigeon died after suffering a stroke at a Rhode Island nurshing home.
3. Russell Yates Admitted to Hitting Elaine Yates During Their Breakup
According to the Charley Project’s page on the Yates’ disappearance, Russell Yates admitted to cheating on Elaine Yates and to hitting. Her maintained that he only hit her after Elaine first attacked him.
The Associated Press reported in 1990 that Elaine Yates discovered her husband cheating with another woman on the family boat. The agency reports that Russell Yates “acknowledged hitting his wife and cutting her forehead with a diamond ring when they argued about the boat incident.”
On his Facebook page, Russell Yates says he still lives in Warwick, Rhode Island. Authorities described him as being “relieved” when he learned of his daughter’s discovery.
The couple didn’t divorce until 1996. The Providence Journal reports that Russell Yates held back on the divorce proceedings because “he did not want to give his wife the legal opportunity to change her name and the girls’ names.”
Russell Yates is the former owner of Copperfield’s Lounge, a bar and nightclub in Warwick, Rhode Island. An article on environmental violations at the property says that Russell Yates sold the bar and retired in 2007.
4. Elaine Yates Could Face 20 Years in Prison
Elaine Yates has waived extradition back to Rhode Island from Texas. During the initial press conference, Elaine was described as being “very” cooperative with the investigation. At the time of that briefing, Elaine was en route back to Rhode Island. According to law in the state of Rhode Island, Elaine Yates could face 20 years in prison.
5. Kimberly & Kelly Yates Have Families of Their Own
Kimberly and Kelly Yates now have families of their own in Texas. They were not present when their mother was arrested. The Providence Journal reports that officers who arrested Elaine Yates also gave her daughters their father’s phone number.
Russell Yates later told the Journal, “I always hoped this day would happen and now I hope they [his daughters] will want to get in touch with me.”
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