Alyssa McLemore disappeared from Kent a decade ago, but the Washington State Patrol is hoping to shed new light on her case with something commonly seen on Northwest highways — commercial semitruck trailers.
The State Patrol on Wednesday unveiled a trailer at the State Capitol building in Olympia as part of its 14-year-old “Homeward Bound” program, which features posters bearing the likeness of missing people to raise awareness and possibly aid in their recovery.
Three trailers, owned by Kam-Way Transportation, will display three photos of McLemore, along with the message “Please help find me,” a number to call (1-800-THE-LOST) and a link with details, said Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis.
McLemore, who was of Aleut and African-American heritage, will be the first Native American woman to be featured on the trailers, Loftis said.
“We want to bring attention to the missing Native American women and children across the country,” said Carri Gordon, a State Patrol spokeswoman. “And have her family know we’re not giving up.”
Tina Russell, McLemore’s aunt, said she and her family are ecstatic about the new trailers, and credited the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement, which began with First Nations in Canada but has since spread to the United States. The Washington Legislature passed legislation last spring requiring the Patrol to compile data and analysis of missing Native-American women, which was released June 1.
“There’s many Natives and we just want to keep sharing the platform and attention,” Russell said. “We don’t want to just focus on us. This is just one step in the right direction. There’s a lot of work to do and there’s a long way to go. But we’re happy to lead the way.”
McLemore, then 21 years old, went missing in April 2009 after Kent police received a 911 call from her asking for help. Before they could ask anything else, the line went dead.
For years, Russell, who belongs to the Aleut tribe in Alaska, said she was searching for answers without much luck. Last year she found the MMIW organization, which urges government officials, law enforcement and the public to analyze and focus on the violence against indigenous women and girls.
With the group’s help, Russell has worked to share her niece’s story.
“Things are looking up,” Russell said. “We’re very encouraged … If Alyssa could hear us or see us or see anything written about her, I want her to know: we’re coming. We’re doing our best to find her — we’re going to find her, dead or alive. She’s coming home. I can feel it in my bones.”
Laurie Glavin, safety manager at Kam-Way, said they’re planning to release three trailers that bear photos of McLemore. They’ll be in service for about four to seven years, traveling throughout the region and possibly to Idaho, Nevada and Montana, depending on the client and shipment.
“The semitrailers are basically moving billboards,” Gordon said. “What better way to bring awareness to the missing-children issue than to put their faces on the sides of the trailers?”
The Homeless Bound program was launched in 2005 by Trooper Renee Padgett, who passed away in September after a long battle with blood cancer, Gordon said.
All the Homeward Bound trailers also feature a tribute to Padgett and a request for people who want to be donors for various types of cancer, Loftis said.
While the Homeward Bound program attempts to uncover clues and spread the word about certain incidents, Loftis emphasized that the state is also trying to raise awareness of the issue as a whole.
“It highlights that people are missing,” he said. “We want to bring focus not just to individual cases, but to the problem itself. Bringing resolution to that family, even if it’s not recovery, is a noble endeavor … It’s the idea that when families are broken apart, troops and truckers come together to try and find these kids.”