A crowd of craned necks and reporter's notebooks was gathering Aug. 30 at the corner of Vega Avenue and the brick-lined alley of West 26th Place after FBI sources announced a search for human remains was under way. This sort of congregation had become routine during the summer of 2013, the questions always teetering on the brink of tragic discovery. Habitual and rote by now, but never any less chilling.
Investigators were trekking through a house with a cadaver dog in tow following a "credible" lead and looking for answers in the case of Christina Adkins. Her story had been shelved for nearly two decades, ranking her among the coldest missing persons cases in the Northeast Ohio region.
Vicki Anderson, a special agent with the Cleveland division of the FBI, was on site to answer questions and fend off the local news media. She couldn't say much as the investigation toiled under the late summer sun. As it turns out, there wasn't much to say at all. Sources explain that a long-ago acquaintance of Christina had pointed the FBI to this home, though neither its owner nor the immediate neighborhood had anything to do with her story. Some close to the family tell Scene it may have been an intentional distraction from Christina's actual fate. But for what purpose?
Questions were flung toward Anderson all day. In the end nothing turned up in the house and further details remained scant, as they always have in the Adkins case. The last certainty in Christina's story is that she was seen walking along the concrete crags of Kinkel Avenue, just four blocks south of Cleveland's infamous Seymour Avenue, in the wee hours of a January morning in 1995.
"This is the house right here, where she lived at the time," says Heather White, casting an index finger toward a two-story beige affair midway down Kinkel. White is a missing persons advocate who has been traveling from Ontario to Cleveland to assist the Adkins family in their latest push for answers from law enforcement. She was in close contact with the family of kidnapping victim Gina DeJesus in recent years, which led her to the Adkins family several years ago. On the ground in Cleveland, she'll retrace Christina's last known footsteps through the neighborhood alongside anyone willing to take a walk.
Abruptly—always abruptly and with a hitch in her voice that approaches frustration—she stops outside the house that Christina shared with her boyfriend. She was heading there on foot at the time of her disappearance. "And that's it," White says with an air of finality, coming to the last spot Christina was seen so many years ago. "But there's no way she just vanished into thin air here. There have been many different stories given."***
Christina Adkins was having a bad day. The 17-year-old petite blonde had left her Kinkel Avenue home for Lincoln-West High School on Jan. 10, 1995, after another early-morning argument with her boyfriend, Jose Rivera. She was thinking about breaking up with him, though the five months of pregnancy she was sporting tangled the knots in her heart even further. At school, a friend consoled her.
The day waxed onward and she arrived at her parents' Prame Avenue home in the early evening, the winter sun already trudging toward the Clark-Fulton horizon. Her otherwise cheery demeanor was downcast. Something wasn't right, but such is the daily backdrop of life as a high school senior. Nothing really seemed out of sorts to her family. Before heading to her own home just across the brickwork alley for the night, she told her parents that she was going to visit a nearby friend.
Christina walked through the kitchen of her parents' house, tossing open the rickety side door and stepping down several wooden stairs to the ground below. She walked north just beyond the property line to her friend's place over on Kinkel. It was about 7 p.m.
She stayed with her friend for a few hours. The details grow hazy as the narrative reaches the endpoint, though Christina likely left her friend's place shortly after midnight. She walked about 90 feet to the east, back to the house at 2317 Kinkel Avenue she shared with Rivera.
And that's it.
That's the story of the last known whereabouts of Christina Adkins. That's the well-worn route that her stepmother, Mary, and her sister, Tonia, have walked since her disappearance. When her father, Roger, was still alive, he joined the efforts with unparalleled zeal. He died in 2010, still clutching a vague sense of hope.