Children kidnapped in 1985 found safe, mother arrested

SCITUATE, RI (WPRI) — More than 30 years after police say Elaine Yates abducted her two children, investigators announced they arrested the Warwick, Rhode Island woman and located her now-adult daughters.

Rhode Island State Police, along with the Attorney General’s Office, announced new developments in the 1985 child snatching case during a news conference at State Police Headquarters Tuesday morning.

Police said Elaine Yates abducted her two daughters, Kimberly and Kelly Yates, from Warwick on August 26, 1985.

During the news conference, Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin revealed after receiving an anonymous tip a few days before Christmas, investigators tracked down Yates and her two daughters in the Houston, Texas area. He said drivers license photos and Facebook were both vital in helping crack the case.

Philbin said Yates – who’d been living under the alias Leina L. Waldberg – was taken into custody Monday around 12:30pm at her home and arraigned as a fugitive from justice. Philbin said Yates waived extradition and is on her way back to Rhode Island, where she’s scheduled to be arraigned at Kent County Superior Court sometime Wednesday.

Philbin said Yates confirmed her true identity and was arrested without incident.

The Disappearance

Philbin said Yates and her daughters disappeared from their home on Sayles Avenue in Warwick on August 26, 1985.

The next day, Yates husband – Russel Yates – filed a missing persons report with the Warwick Police Department.

At that time, investigators determined Yates was seeking a divorce from her husband.

Philbin said on Nov. 18, 1985, Russel Yates obtained a court order giving him custody of the missing children. He then brought the complaint to state police.

Police said a felony warrant for child snatching was issued on Nov. 16, 1988.

The Daughters

Kelly Yates was 10 months old at the time of her disappearance and is now 32. Kimberly Yates was 3 and a half years old at the time of her disappearance and is now 35.

Philbin said both women were also living under aliases and were informed about the case following their mother’s arrest.

While he would not reveal their current identities nor other specifics about the case, he said both daughters were surprised about their mother’s arrest.

Philbin said the women were both given their father’s contact information in the event they want to be reunited with him. Though police have not given Russel Yates information about his daughter’s whereabouts. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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