After waiting and hoping for more than six years, the family of two missing Chicago sisters have the most solid lead yet on one of the girls. A Texas-based forensic artist confirmed a picture on the Internet site, MySpace, is that of Tionda Bradley.
At the family’s request, Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson compared three Internet photos of a girl that looks like Tionda to five photos obtained by the Bradley family of the missing girl taken seven years ago. Based on her analysis, there is no doubt that it is Tionda.
"I tried to find out what I could see that would say that it wasn’t her. I didn’t want to build up any false hope. I went over every feature and then went, ‘Oh my God! It is her,’" said Gibson, a 25-year veteran forensic artist.
Family members saw Gibson on a CNN report and requested the help of the nationally acclaimed forensics expert.
A relative found a picture on a Web site last year that strongly resembles Tionda, the girls’ great-aunt Shelia Bradley-Smith said.
"I found a photograph of a young lady that looks just like Tionda would look. When some of the children in the family saw the photo, they immediately asked if we found Tionda; the resemblance is just that strong. If it’s good enough for the children to think it’s her, it’s good enough for us," Bradley-Smith said in a July 2007 interview with the Defender.
Tionda and her younger sister Diamond vanished nearly seven years ago from their Bronzeville home. They would now be 17 and 10 years old, respectively.
Bradley-Smith said the picture contained certain "scars and features" that Tionda possess and "the way she holds her head, it makes me know it’s her." Now that the forensic expert confirmed the family’s belief, they are waiting for good news about Diamond.
"This is the first time I’ve been able to really laugh in seven years. This is going to be even better when we find them. I think Chicago is going to have a party," she said Friday from a relative’s home in North Carolina.
She is in the midst of a national media blitz to garner more attention to the "new development" and hopes the girls’ safe return will happen before the seventh anniversary of their disappearance rolls around in two months.
Bradley-Smith said she spoke to Tionda and Diamond’s mother, Tracey Bradley, and she is "just waiting" to hear more.
The girls’ mother went to work as usual the morning of July 6, 2001. She returned home a few hours later at the Lake Grove Village apartment complex atEast 35th Street
and Lake Park Avenue to an empty apartment.
A private search was conducted by the girls’ family and friends, with negative results, before the Chicago Police Department was called around 6 p.m. that evening.
Searches in the neighborhood, at the Dan Ryan Woods, Washington Park and in more than 5,000 abandoned buildings across the city yielded no results.
The search for the Bradley sisters, one of the biggest in police department history involved more than 1,000 interviews, including most of the 100 registered sex offenders living in the area.
A spokeswoman for Chicago police said the images and its possible origin was investigated, but nothing substantive surfaced.
"When detectives obtained these images in 2007 they investigated IP addresses, obtained computers, but nothing provided any substantive lead or concrete information that would indicate that this was a Bradley sister. Independent of the forensic expert from Houston, we would operate under the ‘assumption’ that the images may be Tionda. Unfortunately, nothing concrete was determined. This case is and has been a top priority for the Chicago Police Department to the degree that we have a detective assigned to the case full time," said Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the department.
A $30,000 reward has been offered. Anyone with information is urged to call Chicago police’s Cold Case Squad, 312-746-9690 or the FBI, 312-421-6700. The official family Web site is www.findtiondanddiamond.com.
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