by Sam Howe Verhovek, The New York Times
OREGON CITY, Ore. - The people in Oregon City are looking, and
they are watching.
They are looking for Ashley Marie Pond and Miranda Diane Gaddis,
13-year-old girls who disappeared from the same apartment complex here in
recent months. They are watching for the person who may have abducted them,
searching for clues in the sketchy psychological portrait that the federal
and local authorities released this week.
Probably a man, the investigators said. Probably someone who has
displayed a high degree of interest in the local media's relentless coverage
of the case. He (or possibly she) might have changed appearance recently,
perhaps by changing hairstyles or hair color. The person may have appeared
extremely tired or sleepy, or missed work, especially on the days the girls
disappeared. He may be nervous or irritable.
"It's very generalized, very vague," said the Rev. Andy Anquoe, a pastor
at the Oregon City Baptist Church. "It's just very frustrating not to know
more, exactly what we're supposed to watch out for."
It is agonizing for the mothers of the two girls not to know more. They
cling to the hope that the girls will be found alive, that they just ran
But few people here believe that is the case, especially since Ashley
disappeared on Jan. 9, nearly two and a half months ago. Miranda, her fellow
seventh grader at Gardiner Middle School and fellow resident of the Newell
Creek Village apartments, disappeared on March 8. Neither packed clothes
did anything else indicating plans to run away.
At the apartment complex, home to some couples with families and to
several single mothers (the mothers of both missing girl are estranged from
the girls' fathers), a sense of terror and an eerie quiet are in the air,
two private security guards patrol the grounds and many parents keep their
own children inside.
Bicycles, tricycles and scooters are scattered around the buildings and
among the trees and lampposts bedecked with yellow ribbons, but no one seems
to be riding them.
"There are usually kids all over outside, running around, screaming and
doing the usual kid stuff," said Tori Lee, 25, the mother of Chase, 3, and
Cheyenne, 1. "But not anymore."
A few families have moved away in recent weeks, but many residents of
complex in this Portland suburb say they cannot afford to move.
"I'd be out of here in a second if I could be," said a woman, who gave
only her first name, Patricia, and said her daughter, a friend and classmate
of the missing girls, was having nightmares about their disappearance. "But
I don't have the money. My lease is up in July. Maybe we can move then."
While the case remains a mystery, plenty of tips are pouring in to the
Oregon City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which
recently announced a $60,000 reward for anyone with information leading
the girls - or possibly their assailant.
"That person is under they eyes of everyone in this community right now,"
Charles Mathews, special agent in charge of the F.B.I. in Oregon, said at
news conference on Wednesday.
"Every police officer is suspicious of you, and every action you take
being assessed and judged," Mr. Mathews said. "Someone out there right now
who is listening to my words and seeing this press conference has
information that will lead us to you. And we will find you, and we will
At a benefit called the "I Hope You Dance Invitational" at Oregon City
High School today fellow members of Ashley and Miranda's dance team, the
Fallen Angels, performed, as did dance teams from nearby schools. The event,
attended by hundreds of people wearing T-shirts and pins with photographs
the missing girls, raised about $6,000, organizers said. The money probably
will be added to the reward fund.
For the fourth time in Ashley's case and the second in Miranda's, their
story was featured on the television program "America's Most Wanted" on
Saturday night, and the authorities hope this will produce useful leads
The police and the F.B.I. have already received at least 1,600 tips in
the case and have interviewed nearly 1,000 people, including 90 percent
the registered sex offenders in the Portland area. Investigators and search
dogs have combed the apartment complex and the surrounding woods for
But no suspects have been identified. The girls' parents have been
interviewed extensively, which is routine in cases of missing children,
nothing suggests they are suspected in the disappearances, though both
girls' fathers have been in jail. (Miranda's father, Jason Gaddis, was in
the Clackamas County Jail on a parole violation when she disappeared, the
Oregon City police said.)
Miranda's mother, Michelle Duffey, who last saw her daughter on the
morning of March 8 before leaving for her job as office manager at an
engineering company, has made several televised pleas for any information
that could lead to her daughter's return. Speaking on NBC's "Today" show
recently, Ms. Duffey said she believed the girls were familiar with their
"We are all thinking it is someone they knew, because of the way the
girls were, especially Miranda," she said. "It would have been a really
fight if it would have been someone she didn't know."
Speaking outside her apartment recently, Ms. Duffey, 34, was subdued,
eyes red from crying. "I'm grateful that the whole community is watching,"
she said. "I don't want anybody to ever have to go through this again."
Interviews with neighbors suggested that Ashley was the more reserved
the two, while Miranda, with a pierced tongue and navel and a fondness for
brightly colored clothes, was more widely recognized at the complex. Each
girl seems to have disappeared on the way to the school bus stop on South
Beavercreek Road, perhaps a five-minute walk uphill from their homes. The
bus stop could be reached by stairs, the apartment complex's driveway or
shortcut along a dirt path.
In each case, several hours passed before the school reported the girls'
absences to their mothers, a lapse that, while not a violation of Oregon
law, has prompted criticism.
The search goes on, with yellow ribbons and "Missing" fliers throughout
Oregon City. At the news conference here on Wednesday, Mr. Mathews of the
F.B.I. was asked if he believed the girls were still alive.
"I'm not going to get into speculating on that aspect," he said. "We
no information that would lead us to conclude that they are not. Based upon
that, this investigation and the people who are working it are looking
forward to a resolution of returning these girls alive."