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Often times, those who go missing are runaways or have lost touch with their families.
Five years ago, Cleveland police were heavily criticized following the discovery of 11 women’s bodies in the home and backyard of a man later convicted and sentenced to death.
Police have since changed how they handle missing-persons cases, but activists like Arroyo think authorities need to be more proactive when people go missing. He has met with lawmakers to discuss an idea for issuing notifications when a child is missing or has run away but doesn’t meet all the criteria for an Amber Alert.
Detectives believed Christina Adkins was a runaway when she disappeared in 1995. She was five months pregnant and had fought with her boyfriend. Family members said they had little contact with investigators until 2009, when the FBI and police reached out to them.
But it wasn’t until the three women were freed from Castro’s home that they finally got a break in the case.
"People had forgotten about my sister," Tonia Adkins said. "The finding of the three girls finally woke people up. They said, ‘Something’s not right.’"
New leads came within days. In August, less than a week before Castro committed suicide in prison, FBI agents searched a house about five blocks from where Castro had lived. About a month later, they looked through an overgrown park and then along a freeway.
They found her remains in a manhole after a convicted sex offender confessed and led detectives to the site. Elias Acevedo, who lived a few houses away from Castro, pleaded guilty to killing Christina Adkins and another woman last December and is serving a life sentence.
Tonia Adkins says finding out what happened to her sister has lifted the guilt and anxiety she has felt over the last two decades.
"I spent 18 years blaming myself," she said. "My parents spent 18 years blaming themselves. We now know there’s nothing we could have done differently."
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