CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She maintains a blog at www.chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Friday, May 1, 2015
A Mother's Quest For Her Daughter Who Has Been Missing For Eleven Years . . .
“There are no words in
the dictionary to describe what this feels like.At least not any words I know of.”
Pamela Riley Boldin was fifteen years old when
she got pregnant with her firstborn LaQuanta Nachelle Riley.
She remembers the baby kicking inside of her
stomach and how the feeling was spiritual and revelation-al all at the same
time.“I realized there was a life growing inside of me.”
On February 26, 1984, at age 16, Pamela gave
birth to her baby girl and when she looked at her baby girl for the first time,
she thought she was the most beautiful thing she had laid her eyes on.
When LaQuanta was six months old Pamela noticed
a rash on her baby girl and flew into a panic.
“She had some rash on
different areas of her body and it was like death and life to me.I had no idea what to do so I knew the only
person I could take her to was Aunt Katie.”
Aunt Katie, along with other family members, helped
raise Pamela since age five, when her mother (Aunt Katie’s sister) was murdered
in a domestic violence dispute.Aunt
Katie took care of six-month-old LaQuanta, giving her the medicine she needed.
Pamela went on with her sixteen-year old life,
doing the things typical 16-year old girls do, except she had a baby girl who,
through the years, would stop at her house and give her special letters.
“She would come to my
house and give me her school pictures in an envelope and when I reached in the
envelope there would be letters.That’s
how we communicated at that time– through letters – where we would talk about
everything(like) how the Christmas
dinner was, and how she was doing good in school.”
LaQuanta soon became the big sister to five
other siblings, whom she adored and they adored her, especially her one and
only younger sister Kamesha, who in 1992 was sexually assaulted by a
48-year-old-man infected with HIV.Four
years later, in 1996, Kamesha died from AIDs when LaQuanta was only 12 years
By age 13, LaQuanta proved to be intelligent,
compassionate, a studious student who made the honor roll and was a wiz at
her eighth grade graduation ceremony LaQuanta said she was thankful for the three
mothers that she had.“For my birth
mother who I love more than anything and I know she loves me more than
anything,’” her Aunt Katie, and cousin Tammy, Aunt Katie’s daughter.”
LaQuanta graduated from Redan High School in
Stone Mountain, Georgia in 2002.
In November of 2003, at age 19, LaQuanta was
making plans to move out of her apartment in Eufaula to move in with her Aunt
Katie.By this time LaQuanta had lived
in apartments in Atlanta, Montgomery, and Eufaula.The young lady, perhaps, was still trying to
decide where to settle, but there was one thing she was sure of:she wanted to become a forensic scientist and
she was making plans to attend college on a full scholarship to pursue that
At this time, Pamela was no longer the teenage
girl, and was in full mother mode, and desired to be the mother to LaQuanta
that she was not mature enough to be at age sixteen.
“There were so many questions I had for
LaQuanta – about her friends, her apartments in Atlanta, Eufaula, and in
Montgomery, about the people she hanged around with, but I knew our
relationship was not the typical mother and daughter relationship and I wanted
to give her space.”
In November of 2003, LaQuanta traveled to
Eufaula to retrieve some of her belongings.The same day, LaQuanta, sounding stressed, called her mother asking her
to pick her up.Pamela told her she
wasn’t able to pick her up that evening and she would have to wait until the
morning, but LaQuanta said she would get someone else to pick her up.
asked her what happenein Eufaula. I
was trying not to pry and to give her space.
That is y oe regret.”
Pamela did indeed give her oldest child
her space, but always was sure to be there for LaQuanta when she needed her,
like the time LaQuanta and her Aunt Katie got into an argument.LaQuanta immediately called Pamela.
Katie did not want LaQuanta to have male visitors in her apartment, but like
the typical 18 year old LaQuanta felt otherwise. I told LaQuanta she needed to
do what her Aunt Katie says.LaQuanta
said, “Oh, Mama, that is what you would say.’”
That was the last conversation Pamela
would have with her firstborn, and Pamela has not seen LaQuanta since then, for
over 11 years.
LaQuanta was last seen at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday December 7, 2003,
leaving her mother’s house in a green four-door car (Ford Taurus or Chevrolet
Caprice) with an unidentified male. LaQuanta’s
brother asked her who the driver was and LaQuanta replied, “Just a friend.”
Pamela reported her daughter missing to Montgomery Police 72
A few days later, Pamela received a voicemail message of what
she believes is LaQuanta’s voice upset and crying with an undecipherable man’s
voice in the background.
There have been numerous rumors – LaQuanta rented an apartment tin
Stone Mountain, Georgia; LaQuanta was murdered and buried in some secret place;
or LaQuanta was killed and her body tossed into Cooter’s Pond in Prattville,
It’s been 11 long years to think of the “what
ifs,” and the possibilities, in what Pamela describes as holes in her life and
in her soul, which resulted in a deep, severe, despairing depression.
knew what to do when you were thinking of suicide, I knew what to do when you
were depressed, I knew what to do when you were sick, but what do you do when
your child is missing?I buried my
youngest daughter, I buried my dad, (and) I buried my grandmother.I know how it is to loose somebody, but when
you have somebody that’s missing that ain’t on the same ball field. It’s the difference between tennis and
football.It’s not the same thing.It’s basically one day at a time kind of
thing and if you don’t got trust in God I don’t know any human being that could
run this race by themselves.”
Pamela withdrew from the world, from her
church, even her own family, going back and forth in her brain of all the
regrets she had of giving LaQuanta too much space, and not asking her more
questions about what was going on in her life.
One year later, Pamela released a balloon
to let LaQuanta know she is not forgotten.She somehow knew LaQuanta was looking at those balloons rise to the sky,
giving her hope.
She also held a candlelight vigil promising
LaQuanta that she would never stop looking until she was found.
The only problem was Pamela didn’t know what to
do, much less find any words in the dictionary to describe the torment that she
was going through.She fell even deeper
into a depression that consumed her entire being.
But in 2007, four years after LaQuanta
disappeared, it all changed, when Kelly Murphy, the mother of missing child
Jason Anthony Jolkowski and founder of Project
Jason (http://www.projectjason.org), called her.
“What I was doing was
giving up and dying slowly. From grief until I got a call from a Kelly, saying,
“Hey my son disappeared”, and this is what I did and this is what I’m doing.”She said she knew what I was going through.That phone call from Kelly changed my life
and gave me hope and purpose.”
As a result of that phone call, Pamela started
opening herself up to the missing child community, meeting other parents of
missing children, including John Walsh, whom she had a deep discussion with
about her situation, and his response:Never give up!
In 2008, she trained to become an a Team HOPE volunteer (www.missingkids.com/teamhope). In addition
to being an active member of the Team HOPE parent support network, Pam has also
become a missing person's advocate. Speaking as a surviving parent,
she travels throughout the country advancing her qualifications and
sharing her perspective of searching for a missing daughter.
That one balloon release in 2004 on her front
porch with just a few relatives turned into the Prayers By Balloon Release, which takes place every year on National Missing
Children’s Day, which was made into law by President Ronald Reagan and
first observed on May 25, 1983.
That first candlelight vigil now is a huge event
that takes place at designated areas in Montgomery every December; the past two
years the candlelight vigil has been held at the Montgomery Capital Rotunda.
The three things that keep Pamela going is the
candlelight vigil in December; the Prayers By Balloons Release in May; and the strong belief that LaQuanta is
still out there waiting to be found.
“When those girls (Michelle
Berry, Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, and Michelle Knight) from Ohio escaped one of
the girls said the only thing that kept her going was hearing on the television
when her family would remember her with a balloon release.Even the law enforcement said, “Okay we are
just going to call it closed. We are
going to get the judge to sign that she is no longer with us.” But the Mom didn’t want to do that and the Mom
had the right mind because everybody else was (saying) her daughter was dead,
but how could she be dead when she done escape the house she’d been caught up
in for eleven years? But the girl could
still hear on the television the different things the family did looking for
her. She said that’s what kept her sane,
(and) that’s what kept her holding on.
You know, every
situation is different but who am I to say that my daughter might not be somewhere
and she hadn’t given up by seeing us do these candlelight and balloon releases?
The best scenario is
what I’ve been hoping and searching for eleven years for God to bring her home
and that’s what I’m hoping and praying for and I don’t have any control of what
other people think and what they are imagining. I learned not to go in my head by myself
because that’s not a good place to be.So when people ask me what you think? I don’t think anything.I gave it to God and all I’m doing is putting
one foot in front of the other and seeing how it all turn out because the
energy it takes to think or to believe or to consider that she is no longer
with me is way more energy it take to believe that she is alive.God will bring her home at His appointed
Pamela set up the Riley Relief Foundation whose main mission is to provide awareness
and support for the families and loved ones of the missing and the exploited.
In fact, Pamela believes the person exemplifies
the Riley Relief Foundation’s
missions stations the most is LaQuanta herself.
what she’s doing now!She’s helping
millions of people and they don’t know that.She’s doing what she’s always dream of doing.What people are doing about her is what she
wanted to do now.
She’s still the same
bundle of heaven that God gave me 31 years ago.Nothing’s change that – can’t nothing change that.”
By Balloon Release will take place on Sunday, May 24, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. at
the Trenholm College Campus located on 1225 Airbase Blvd in Montgomery, Alabama.