By Deb Patterson
SYRACUSE — Aaliyah Ramirez, 14, Syracuse, was found safe in Palm Beach, Fla., four months after she disappeared from her home on North Parkway Drive, Syracuse. The situation appears to have been planned between Ramirez, her grandmother, her aunt and a boyfriend.
The arrests, on out-of-state fugitive warrants, were made after U.S. Marshals observed Ramirez entering a vehicle in the Lake Worth Beach, Fla., area, near Palm Springs and north of where her grandmother resided.
Her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Sands, 47, and aunt, Allissa Marie Sands, 25, 7587 N. 100W, Hartford City, were arrested Friday evening, Aug. 27, by U.S. Marshals in Palm Beach County, Fla. Charges of interference with custody, a level 6 felony; and false informing, a class A misdemeanor, have been filed in Kosciusko Superior Court 1. Both are awaiting extradition proceedings to take place to bring the pair to Kosciusko County.
There is also a no-contact order prohibiting either woman from contacting Ramirez.
Bond has been set at $50,000 surety and $1,000 bond.
Documents regarding the case were filed with the court Aug. 18.
The affidavit of probable cause states that on April 27, Syracuse Police were called to North Parkway Drive regarding a missing juvenile. Kasey McIntire, Ramirez’s stepmother, told police at approximately 8 a.m. Ramirez left the residence and headed for the bus stop. However when she called the school at 1:36 p.m. to say she would be picking her up early for an appointment she learned Ramirez never arrived at school that day.
During the initial investigation, police learned that the teen’s father, Anthony Ramirez, had full custody of his daughter and there was an order granting communication between his daughter and her aunt and grandmother. There was an order prohibiting contact between his daughter and an individual identified as her boyfriend.
Ramirez told police his daughter’s aunt and grandmother may possibly be involved in the disappearance since neither women agreed with the court’s decision and had made comments in the past about taking the teen. It was also reported the teen did not have a phone and was not allowed to contact her aunt or grandmother.
Police also spoke with Ashli Ashby, the teen’s mother, who also stated she believed the aunt and grandmother formulated a plan to pick her up and take her back to Florida so the teen could be with her boyfriend. Police were also advised Elizabeth Sands has “millions of dollars” and could basically do whatever she wanted when it came to financial situations. Police were provided with phone numbers to the aunt and grandmother.
As the initial investigation continued, police learned Ramirez did in fact have a phone that had been dropped off at a friend’s home by her aunt, and she had been communicating with the aunt.
The aunt notified police on the evening of the teen’s disappearance, claiming not to know anything about the disappearance. The aunt continued to deny knowing anything about the disappearance when deputies from the Blackford County Sheriff’s Department went to speak with her. She also denied knowing her niece was with Liz Sands. Allissa Sands did admit to giving her niece a phone but stated she took it back.
Even though Allissa Sands said she had unsuccessfully attempted to contact her mother on several occasions, she contacted her mother in the presence of police and told her that she, Allissa Sands, was being accused of taking her niece. The grandmother spoke to police via phone stating she just wanted to know where her granddaughter was and stated she had been informed numerous girls around her granddaughter’s age had gone missing within 30 miles of where her granddaughter lived and voiced a concern of “sexual predators” in the area.
As the investigation continued, it was learned the phone the aunt gave the teen had not been taken back and was the same phone the teen used to communicate with the grandmother and boyfriend immediately preceding her disappearance.
Through the use of technology, warrants and subpoenas, it was discovered the phone was in the area of Jackson, Ga., April 30. Local authorities also learned from Blackford Sheriff’s deputies from past encounters with the family, the teen had continuously tried to go to Florida with her grandmother and the grandmother and aunt supported the relationship with the boyfriend.
Police did speak with the grandmother on May 6 who stated her granddaughter had never been in the care of her father and the teen did not want to be with her father. It was also learned in February there was a family disagreement when it was decided the teen would no longer stay in the care of the grandmother.
As the investigation continued, police found text messages the day before the teen’s disappearance between the teen, her aunt, her grandmother and her boyfriend, including several giving a time, and instructing her to take her phone with her.
The use of technology also allowed police to discover a new phone number for the grandmother. Police found that on the day of the teen’s disappearance, her boyfriend had called that number at approximately 7:31 a.m. It showed that phone was located in the area of Syracuse.
The big break in the case came in July when surveillance video surfaced from two shopping malls in Florida showing the teen, wearing a disguise while in the company of her grandmother and boyfriend. The trio was seen shopping and in possession of numerous shopping packages. It was determined the grandmother had paid for the items.
Ashby then positively identified the teen in the video as her daughter.
It was noted by police that at no time did the grandmother contact the police to report her granddaughter was in her custody.