Charges dropped against mother accused of snatching 2 daughters 3 decades ago

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Mugshot of Elaine Yates after her arrest in January 2017.

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HOUSTON — Charges have been dropped against a 69-year-old woman accused of snatching her two daughters from their Rhode Island home in 1985, and bringing them to live in Houston, where they all were recently found.

In 1985, Elaine Carolyn Yates took her daughters, Kelly and Kimberly, away from the home they lived in with their dad, Russell Yates. The girls were 3 years old and 10 months old at the time. Authorities believe Elaine Yates left the home with her daughters after the couple had a domestic dispute.

The father reported the trio missing, and the mother was charged with two counts of snatching, but there was no sight of the mother and daughters for more than 30 years.

In December 2016, members of the Rhode Island State Police received information on the possible whereabouts of the mother and children. With the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Elaine Yates, who was living under the alias of Leina L. Waldberg, was found living in Houston.

Yates was taken into custody without incident on Jan. 16.

After confirming her true identity, she was charged. She waived extradition and was held at the Harris County Jail while waiting to be transported back to Rhode Island for a formal arraignment.

The Rhode Island Office of Attorney General dismissed the case against Elaine Yates. A released sent out Tuesday gave the following explanation:

“After reviewing all of the evidence in this case, most significantly evidence that was not available or unknown to investigators prior to the discovery and apprehension of Ms. Yates, the laws in effect when Ms. Yates left Rhode Island with her two daughters , and the fact that the well-being of the missing children has been established, the charge against Ms. Yates is dismissed int he interest of justice,” the notice of dismissal read.

Kelly, now 32, and Kimberly, 35, both use different names and were not living with their mother, their father told the Providence Journal. Both women also have families of their own now.

“I always hoped this day would happen,” Russell Yates told the paper, “and now I hope they [his daughters] will want to get in touch with me.”

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