Missing woman's family still hopes to learn her fate
By Jason Hardin
Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2008 3:00 am
Among the missing
Some of the Triad residents who have been reported missing this decade:
Angela Whalen Hudson
Description: White female, 5 feet 7 inches, 120 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes. Tattoos of a red scorpion on her back, a Chinese dragon on her upper right shoulder and Egyptian hieroglyphic writing on her right ankle.
Last seen: Sept. 20, 2001. Hudson lived in Pelham.
Who to call: Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office at 634-3238.
Description: 5 feet 10 inches, 210 pounds, gray hair, brown eyes, tattoo of “Roy” on his lower right arm.
Last seen: May 10, 2004. Maynard walked away from a residence on Frazier Road near Groometown Road.
Who to call: Guilford County Sheriff’s Office at 641-5969 or Crime Stoppers at 373-1000.
Michelle Hundley Smith
Description: 5 feet 5 inches, 150 pounds, brown hair, hazel eyes.
Last seen: Smith drove a green 1995 Pontiac with North Carolina license plate ROKNON.
Who to call: Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office at 634-3238 or Crime Stoppers at 349-9683.
Description: 6 feet 1 inch, 180-200 pounds, braided gray hair
Last seen: Dec. 19, 2004, at The Depot in downtown Greensboro. He has Alzheimer’s disease and possibly was going to Danville, Va.
Who to call: Greensboro Police Department at 373-2255.
Sonjah Nicole Kingston
Description: 5 feet 10 inches, 150 pounds, medium-length braided hair, pierced tongue and lip, and several tattoos.
Last seen: July 2, 2002. She left her residence in Greensboro driving a dark green 1995 Mazta Protege with North Carolina license plate PTL-7712.
Who to call: Greensboro Police Department at 373-2255 or Crime Stoppers at 373-1000.
It's not easy to look at Web sites to find information about unidentified dead people.
Especially when you're looking for your sister.
But that's the world in which Melissa Hopkins has lived for more than six years, ever since Angela Whalen Hudson disappeared from her Pelham home in 2001.
It's hard to not know what happened to someone you love. After a few years, Hopkins became discouraged as the trail grew cold.
But in recent months, she pushed forward again, and the effort is paying off. The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office will take a fresh look at the case.
Penny Lillie, a family friend, said she can't believe Hudson has been missing so long. It's been painful for the family, she said.
"They need to know one way or the other," she said. Sheriff's Detective. Juan Tejeda said there was nothing to indicate foul play was involved in Hudson's disappearance.
Despite common perceptions created by media coverage, the vast majority of missing people weren't abducted or otherwise harmed.
They simply decided to leave. Almost all come back within days.
But some stay missing. In the Triad, at least 10 people have been missing for years.
In this case, Tejeda said the department investigated the disappearance back in 2001 but ran out of leads.
"Eventually you end up with dead ends everywhere," he said.
Still, taking a fresh look at the case never hurts and could turn up something new, he said.
The recent action in the case came about after Lillie ran into one of Hudson's sisters in Yuma, Ariz., where they both live.
That's when she found out Hudson had been missing since 2001. Appalled, Lillie then called Hopkins, who lives in Hawaii, and encouraged her to press forward again.
It just seemed wrong that someone could be missing so long, leaving a family with no answers.
"I've always wanted to make a difference in somebody's life other than my own," Lillie said.
Hudson, who was reported missing by a family member, had grown up in Arizona before moving east. Those who know her describe her as a private person, keeping things to herself.
Her disappearance left her two children without a mother. Her son, who is 14 now, lives with Hopkins, who has custody. Her daughter, who is older, lives in Virginia.
Hopkins said she talked often with the sheriff's office in the first few years after her sister's disappearance. But after a time, it became hard to keep pushing.
"I think for a long time I was afraid it was too painful for my mom and my sister," she said. But she decided she needed to make a new effort.
Now, she is encouraged by the sheriff's office's decision to take a new look at the case.
"It's an opportunity … to really look again and say did we miss this, or did we miss that," Hopkins said.
Technology could play a role. Lillie said she is trying to arrange for DNA samples to be taken from family members in Yuma. That could be used to check for a match with unidentified bodies across the country.
Ultimately, Hopkins said, she is not optimistic that any news that comes out of the search will be good.
"I honestly, deep in my heart, feel like she is no longer on this earth," she said.
But there is some comfort, however cold, in knowing.