Published January 18, 2017
A mother charged with snatching her two daughters from Rhode Island in 1985 is scheduled to appear before a judge Wednesday after police found the three living in the Houston area.
An anonymous tip two days before Christmas led authorities to Kimberly and Kelly Yates and their 69-year-old mother, Elaine, according to Rhode Island State Police.
Elaine Yates, who had been living under the name Liana Lynn Waldberg, was arrested Monday without incident, and faces arraignment in Superior Court in Warwick.
Kelly Yates was 10 months old and her sister, Kimberly Yates, was 3 years old when they disappeared. They are now in their 30s.
They were not living with their mother, but are in the Houston area and are in good health, said state police Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin.
The girls' father, Russell Yates, was told of the arrest and is relieved, Philbin said. His contact information was given to his daughters.
"I've always been trying to find my children," the father said. "Now at least, it's up to them to get in touch with me."
Russell Yates told The Providence Journal in a 1988 magazine story his wife had found out he had been unfaithful to her and had threatened to move out in the middle of the night with the children. He acknowledged punching her while they argued. A few weeks later, on Aug. 27, 1985, he came home after work around 2 a.m. and they were gone.
The case was featured on "America's Most Wanted," and police received tips from all over the country. But it wasn't until investigators received the anonymous tip late last year that they cracked the case.
Authorities said they used court databases, Facebook and driver's license photos to identify the mother and daughters.
Court records show Elaine Yates legally changed her name in Texas in 2009. The judge's order includes her correct birthdate and maiden and married names.
It says the Texas Department of Public Safety had examined the petition and found she had no recorded criminal history. At the time, a felony warrant for child snatching issued in 1988 was outstanding in Rhode Island.
Philbin would not comment on where Yates and her daughters had been since 1985 and said he did not know when they got to Houston. He said he could not comment on whether the daughters knew they had been taken or whether they knew their father was alive.
As for the mother, Philbin described her as being very cooperative with investigators since police knocked on her door Monday. She was arraigned in Houston, waived extradition and was being transported to Rhode Island.
When asked if Elaine Yates should be prosecuted, Russell Yates said: "That isn't going to help me, her or anybody else at this point. I just want to see my kids."
Associated Press writer Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.