Yolo Co. mothers: Don't forget our missing sons

ABC10's Becca Habegger was at a vigil held for two Yolo County teenagers who have been missing for nine months. Late News Tonight at 11 7/28/17

Two heartbroken mothers are asking you not to forget about their sons.

ABC10 has told you about Yolo County teens Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore. They vanished about nine months ago, within three weeks of each other.

ORIGINAL: 2 Yolo County teens missing for weeks

On Friday night, family and supporters held a vigil and passed out fliers in the small Yolo County community of Knights Landing.

Moore's mother Alicia Moore said her son's cell phone last pinged there, around the time he disappeared.

Both mothers - Moore and Lola Rios - say their sons are not runaways and that it's a struggle to keep the search for them in the public eye.

"To me, my son's important, and I'm trying to do as much as I can to put his name out there," Rios said. "A lot of people have said that maybe it's because their boys, because one's Hispanic and one's black. To me, I just continue to share his story."

She said her son likes to make music and poetry and play with his little sister.

RELATED: Search continues for two missing Yolo County teens

Moore believes the color of her son's skin did and does play a role in the attention this case is getting.

"The time that it took to even begin looking for him or consider this a priority, I felt it was based on his color," Moore said.

To be clear, both mothers say they're grateful for all the work law enforcement officers are doing to search for their sons. The Woodland Police Department is on Moore's case, with a detective Ms. Moore calls a "godsend" who goes "over and beyond" the call of duty. The Yolo County Sheriff's Department is on Rios' case, and the FBI is assisting with both. There is a $10,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of the two boys.

RELATED: FBI joins search for missing Yolo County teens

Retired Sacramento County sheriff John McGinness said, in any missing person case, key to bringing kids home is getting as many people as they can familiar with their faces.

There is, however, that important point about these teens being boys of color.

To dive deeper into that, ABC10 turned to Sacramento State professor of women studies and ethnic studies, Rita Cameron Wedding.

"These kids get forgotten easily," she said, of children of color who disappear. "Most people would like to think that all children are treated the same and therefore all children are worthy. And, of course, we know that to be true in our hearts, but the reality is, is that our unconscious biases will cause us to perceive some people to be more important than other people."

She's describing snap judgments, based on biases surrounding race, gender, sexuality and class.

Those subconscious stereotypes, called implicit biases, can cause us to treat some missing kids cases with more urgency than others, Cameron Wedding said.

"We've probably associated (Rios and Moore) with either being runaways or being bad kids or something that got that them into trouble, as opposed to kids who are victims," she said.

While we all have biases, Cameron Wedding said, what's important is acknowledging and confronting them.

"When we're not aware of our implicit biases, it looks normal because my stereotypes are telling me that, 'These kids are always in trouble, they look like trouble-makers.'"

It has been reported that the boys had recently gotten in trouble for fighting at their school and were moved to a continuation school and placed on probation. Also, Enrique Rios had run away in the past.

Instead of looking at any past mistakes, Cameron Wedding said, "think of them as victims, and we'll more likely respond differently, more urgently."

They are, after all, still kids who need to be found.

The California Department of Justice keeps a list of people who have been reported missing.

As of Friday, there are more than 3,000 reports, and nearly two dozen people are from the greater Sacramento area. They range in age from 5- to 82 years old. Many have been missing for years or even decades.

The state defines a missing person as someone whose whereabouts are unknown, including any child who may have run away or is in need of help.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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