The former Elaine Yates was back in Warwick Wednesday to face a charge from Oct. 14, 1988 that she had abducted her two daughters.
Yates’ apprehension in Texas on Monday was a long awaited break for Russell Yates, who for more than three decades wondered the whereabouts of the three and whether he would ever see his children again.
State Police told Russell Yates Monday that they had a lead on the whereabouts of his wife and children. Yates was hopeful, although police didn’t offer all that much information.
Then Tuesday, upon returning from work to his Warwick home, he was besieged by the news media. He had heard from friends, who had picked it up on the news, so he knew his wife had been located.
“There were all kinds of media in my driveway. I didn’t know what to say. I had less information than them [the media],” he said.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Yates said, “I’m just ecstatic.” As for the details, Yates said police told him they had informed his two daughters of his contact information, but he doesn’t know where they are located. He was told they now have families of their own.
“I don’t know what she [the wife] told them,” he said. He speculates they may have thought he was dead all these years.
“I have no animosity against her,” he said of his wife, “that’s not going to change anything now.”
In a post on his Facebook page Tuesday night, he wrote, “I don’t want to see my ex prosecuted for that certainly isn’t going to help anything at this point and I don’t want it to push my two daughters further away thinking I’m trying to jail their mom.”
Yates’ personal search for the children went on for years and years. He said every so often police would contact him just to touch base. With development of the internet, Yates searched online in vain. He said a week didn’t go by when he didn’t think of them and wonder what they were doing.
At yesterday’s arraignment in Kent County Superior Court, Elaine Yates pleaded not guilty to the 1988 charge of abduction prior to a court order, which is a felony. The single count names both daughters. Yates was released on $50,000 personal recognizance, agreed to a waiver of extradition and was told to surrender her passport to Texas authorities. Magistrate Judge John McBurney allowed Yates to travel for working and residency, thereby allowing her to return to the Houston area.
According to the state attorney general’s office, the case will come up again on Feb. 1 for a determination of attorney. She was represented by a public defender Wednesday. The first pre-trial conference will be Feb. 15. Yates will not be required to be in court. The arraignment was about 15 minutes. Yates was not in handcuffs.
In those first months after their disappearance, Yates said, “I had a little army of people helping.”
Peter Manders remembers the hours stuffing envelopes with fliers that were sent to school and agencies across the country. Manders was one of about five friends of Yates who did what they could to find his children. To Manders’ knowledge, nothing came of all the inquiries. It was like Yates’ wife and his two children disappeared into thin air.
Then, in a surprise announcement Tuesday, State Police disclosed in a press conference they received information about the possible whereabouts of Elaine Yates and her daughters, and with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety discovered her residing in the Houston area, using the name Leina L. Waldberg.
They reported she was taken into custody on Jan. 16 without incident, was arrested and charged with child snatching.
State Police Lt. Col. Joseph F. Philbin said at the press conference that the women were living in the Houston area but not with their mother. He declined to provide their names.
In late August 1985, Yates filed a missing persons complaint claiming his wife, Elaine C. (Pigeon) Yates, and two children had left Warwick and not been seen since. According to the Providence Journal archive, several weeks before Elaine Yates disappeared with Kelly, 3, and Kimberly, 10 months, her husband had struck her after she discovered him with another woman.
In September 1990, Mary Pigeon, Elaine Yates’ mother, was found in contempt of court and briefly imprisoned in the ACI for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of her daughter. Pigeon died in 2000.
According to state police an anonymous tip in December led Texas authorities to Yates and the two daughters. According to reports Elaine Yates legally changed her name in 2009 in Texas.
Manders, who still stays in contact with Yates, learned of the news Tuesday from Channel 12. He went to Yates’ Facebook page expecting to learn more, but nothing was posted by Tuesday afternoon.
“It was heartbreaking,” Manders said of Yates and the loss he felt.
In their effort to find the children, countless letters and fliers were sent to schools and law enforcement agencies across the country.
Manders is not one to call Yates an angel.
“He was a good father, but he wasn’t a good husband,” he said. As for his wife, he said, “She bailed with a lot of money, enough to bury herself.”
Manders’ hope is that the children will want to see and meet with their father.