For 10 years, Tina Russell has worked tirelessly to answer one question: What happened to her fun-loving 21-year-old niece on April 9, 2009? Alyssa McLemore was a doting mother of a 3-year-old girl, and a loving family caretaker when she suddenly vanished without a single solid clue.
Russell believes someone -- possibly more than one person -- is keeping a secret about Alyssa.
"It's time for you to come forward," she said. "It's time to tell the truth and get it off your conscience. I used to say tell us before we die, or one of us dies. But you need to tell us before you die. That's how I feel."
On April 9, 2009, Alyssa's family called to tell her that her sick mother, who was suffering from scleroderma, and Alyssa helped care for, was taking a hard turn for the worse at the hospital.
Alyssa told them she'd be right home.
Police say three hours later, Alyssa made her last known cellphone call, which ended after 10 seconds.
"She called 911, and she screamed for help," Russell said. "There is no way anyone can convince me she left on her own."
Kent police worked for weeks to find the location of the distress call. They located the Kent cellular tower, but because her Blackberry was not equipped with GPS, her phone could not be tracked.
"When someone comes up missing like this, you just never imagine it could be for so long and to just to vanish without a trace, it's unbelievable," said Russell.
Three days after her disappearance, Alyssa's mother died. Through the funeral and beyond, her family hoped she'd come home. Her friends and family held public awareness rallies asking for help, not knowing where to search.
Now, national groups raising awareness of thousands of missing indigenous and Native American women across the country--like Alyssa--are offering help. Her story was featured on CNN on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance, and Kent police say the case is open and active.
"We're just desperate," said Russell. "We're desperate for answers. And by any and all means, we're going find them."
Kent police are asking anyone with any information about Alyssa McLemore to call them anonymously on their tip line, at (253) 856-5808.
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