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Puyallup citizen added to Washington state list of missing Indigenous people

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Relatives, friends of missing and murdered Indigenous people share their stories with state task force

People gather outside the Yakama Legends Casino Events Center in Toppenish, Wash. before the first meeting of the state's new task force for missing and murdered Indigenous people on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

The name of a Puyallup tribal citizen who disappeared in Oregon more than 22 years ago is among 110 on the Washington State Patrol’s latest list of missing Indigenous persons.

The names on the most recent list, dated Dec. 1, include 27 women and men within the Yakama Nation and in Yakima County. The Toppenish Police Department has one case; there are two with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, three with the Yakima Police Department and 21 cases with the Yakama Nation Police Department.

The addition of Leona Sharon Kinsey is a change for the State Patrol, which has listed active cases of Indigenous people who have gone missing in Washington.

Kinsey was living in La Grande, Ore., in late October 1999 when she disappeared. Kinsey told a friend she was headed to the grocery store and then her friend’s house. The friend called Kinsey’s daughter, Carolyn DeFord, the next morning, saying her mother never arrived.

The Vanished: List of those missing, murdered on and near Yakama Reservation

La Grande police found Kinsey’s SUV in an Albertsons parking lot. She would now be 68.

DeFord, a Puyallup tribal citizen and a member of the state Attorney General’s task force on missing and murdered Indigenous women and people, is an advocate for her mother and others.

Patti Gosch, a tribal liaison for the State Patrol along with Dawn Pullin, said although Kinsey is missing from Oregon, she is from a Washington tribe. People who are missing from Washington tribes might have been in contact with someone from their enrolled community “or associates who would have information that an out-of-state investigator may not have access to,” Gosch said.

The Vanished Map Key

“If there is a person reported missing in another state who has a connection to Washington state tribal communities or is acknowledged by the tribal government, we can add them to the published list on our website,” Gosch said in an email. “We would have to be notified, however, because we cannot access out-of-state data and do not have a way of identifying these missing.

“Our goal is to keep missing people visible for more opportunities to be found. Our focus is about the people over statistics, recognizing statistics have their role as well.”

The State Patrol’s list is provided by the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC. Along with working with the state’s 29 federally recognized tribes, Gosch and Pullin request the list from NCIC and work to update it in response to questions and input from tribal citizens throughout the state.

Along with adding Kinsey’s case, the State Patrol added Teekah Latres Lewis to its list of missing Indigenous persons. Teekah was just 2 years old when she went missing from a family outing at the New Frontier Lanes bowling alley in Tacoma on Jan. 23, 1999. She would now be 24.

The Tacoma Police Department, which is investigating Teekah’s disappearance, recently released a video with new information about a potential person of interest.

“Although her family and siblings identify as African American, her mother also has Native American lineage and many tribal community members brought this to our attention,” Gosch said. “We followed through with the investigator and the family.”

Reach Tammy Ayer at tayer@yakimaherald.com or on Facebook.

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