The Crusader Newspaper Group

Mother, relatives of Tionda and Diamond Bradley seek closure after 20-year search for missing girls

At a press conference held in Taylor Park, 48th and State Street, late Tuesday, July 6, the mother of Tionda and Diamond Bradley said the family wants closure in this case and called on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to investigate the girls’ July, 2001 disappearance. Tionda was 10 and Diamond 3 at the time they were reported missing.

Before the press conference began, Tracey Bradley, the mother of the missing girls, was joined by dozens of family and friends who formed a circle in the park and prayed for Tionda and Diamond, and then they released balloons.

Bradley said it is important to “keep hope alive” in finding out what happened to her girls. Asked by the Crusader if she wanted Foxx to investigate this case, Bradley said, “Absolutely. Hopefully, I will get down there and talk to her or somebody, from the beginning to the end.”

Wearing a 20-year T-shirt bearing the pictures of Tionda and Diamond was activist Zakiyyah S. Muhammad who said, “Those of us who support this family, we want Kim Foxx to step in. We support this family.”

Joining that call was Reverend Paul Jakes, pastor of New Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church, who also wants Foxx to investigate the mother’s ex-boyfriend, George, whose lie detector test allegedly came back inconclusive.

However, in an interview with the Crusader, Shelia Bradley-Smith, the great aunt to the Bradley girls, commented on Reverend Jakes’ request saying, “Actually, to be fair, there was evidence pointing to George, which we are not ruling it out, but there were two Georges. There was also a level-three ex-offender.

“There were also people in the neighborhood…some people who are here now who said they saw those kids in that apartment the night before and Tracey (the mother of the girls) was not there,” Bradley-Smith said. “I just want the truth to come out because somebody is not telling the truth.

“That lack of truth is so pertinent to this investigation,” she said. “If everybody, including family members had opened up from the beginning, we may have recovered them, but unfortunately, we’re here 20 years later.”

Asked if she thinks the girls are alive, Bradley-Smith said, “I always keep that hope. I’ve been working on this for 20 years. I am the main one who has been getting the information out, talking to the media. I had a stroke last January on Tionda’s birthday while making photos.

“This has taken a toll on our entire family. We need closure, but we can’t get closure. I got great-grandchildren and that is terrible,” she said referring to the two decades she has been fighting to get answers to so many questions.

When told by the Crusader that a spokesperson for Foxx said no one has asked her to investigate the Bradley case, Bradley-Smith said, “That is not true. I mailed her and her assistant personally about a week before she sat down in her new office.”

P. Foster, the family’s private detective for the past 20 years, told the Chicago Crusader, “At the end of the day, there will be a resolution to finding out what happened and holding whoever is responsible for them being missing.” Foster has been working on this case pro bono for two decades.

Like Foster, Jakes has been there for the Bradley family for two decades. “I have been glad to provide the mother with prayers and vigils that allowed us to search near and far for the children,” Jakes said.

“There is a big discussion about how they disappeared into thin air. The children were at home while their mother went to work. They were vulnerable because of the situation. They were latch key children while their mother worked.

“The discussion was that someone came to the apartment by the name of George, and the older child called a family member and they were told not to open the door,” Jakes recalled.

“We would certainly hope that the new State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, will do more investigation into who that George was, because that is very important,” Jakes said.

When asked if that George was the mother’s ex-boyfriend, he said, “I understand that the George the family knew, who took a lie detector test and that test was inconclusive, was George. Allegedly, that George was the mother’s boyfriend.”

“George said he was somewhere else at some amusement park, (at the time the children were missing), but there is a contradiction because he said he was sleeping at their house and at 6 a.m. he took the mother to work.” The boyfriend told USA Today in the July 6, 2021 issue that he did take the mother to work but denied coming back to the apartment later.

“The police gave the mother a lie detector test and the mother passed it, but George’s [test] was inconclusive,” said Jakes.

“The police did a lot of searching, asking questions even at the nearby Jewel’s store at 35th and King Drive and the little ‘Ma and Pa’ store where the children went to,” recalled Jakes. “There was a video tape of the girls going to this store, according to a USA Today reporter.”

In his heart, Jakes believes that the children were left alone and that they just vanished into thin air because we don’t know for sure who took them.

Asked if the police have done a good job in looking for the girls, Jakes said, “There has been a lot of effort put into this case by the police and also private investigators, along with people in the community. We can assume that the police have exhausted every effort to find the children.”

Asked if the family should give up hope in finding the girls after 20 years, Jakes said, “I am a man of faith and I believe there is always hope. If anyone knows any information about them, they should call 911 and report it to the authorities.

“We have not given up yet, and many of the family members are working very hard to find the children,” Jakes said.

There are many unanswered questions about this case, for instance, the note that was left and according to the FBI was written by Tionda, saying they had gone to the store and to a park. However, family members say both the spelling and grammar far exceeded Tionda’s academic abilities. It was too perfect.

When contacted, the Chicago Police Department issued this statement: “The investigation remains open by Area 1 Detectives. Detectives have and will continue to follow up when tips are received. At this juncture, there are no new leads,” said spokesperson Tom Ahern.

Thanks to the generosity of funding provided by The Field Foundation of Illinois, Inc. in producing this article.

 (Published in the Chicago Crusader Newspaper July 10, 2021)

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