LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) — Jade Roberts was just 7 years old when she stood in the grassy field of River Island Park in Woonsocket next to her mom, Cindy Roberts.
Cindy got down on her knees and held Jade.
“You could tell she was worried,” Jade recalled.
That was 18 years ago, but the day is locked into her memory.
She knows what she was wearing. She knows how long they were at the park. She even remembers seeing what she thought was a cat in the water. Cindy laughed and gently told her daughter it was only a log.
But it was the goodbye she remembers most.
“She held my arms and said she’s going away for a while but [said] ‘I’ll be back’ and that was it,” Jade said, standing in that same spot years later.
“I never saw her again.”
Everyone tells Jade she looks just like her mom.
It was pretty much always that way.
“I was with her all the time,” she said. “We were attached at the hip.”
Dozens of photos show a happy family.
Cindy’s mother, Margaret Suttles, said everyone liked Cindy.
“She had a great personality,” Suttles said. “She always made people laugh.”
Jade remembers the same joy.
“She was a very uplifting person,” Jade said. “She laughed all the time.”
“I don’t remember her laugh anymore,” she added.
After the goodbye at the park, Jade assumed her mom would come back again.
“I used to write notes and leave them on my bed and leave my window open,” she said. “I was hoping she would come back in and read my note to know how much I had missed her.”
In July 2001, Cindy Roberts’ family went to police to tell them she was missing.
Days passed. Months.
In October 2001, a hiker found skeletal remains in a heavily wooded area of Lincoln. Testing confirmed it was Cindy.
The area has a couple of trails and power lines but that’s it.
Rhode Island State Police Detective Robert Hopkins said the site is a triangular area surrounded by I-295, Route 99 and Old River Road. The detective won’t reveal specifically where she was found or how she was killed. He said it’s an investigative advantage.
“If they are aware of a key detail pertaining to the crime scene or specific things we know about the case when we talk to people we can key in on that information,” Hopkins said. “It’s an investigative technique that we utilize, especially in cases like this.”
The detective did reveal they believe the killer knows the wooded area well.
In 2001, detectives followed leads but eventually, the case went cold.
Jade said her mom ran with the wrong crowd before she died.
“The type of people she hung around definitely know what happened,” she said. “What could she have done so wrong that you need to take her life away?”
“It’s not normal,” Jade said in the last place she saw her mom. “It’s sick. The way that it happened. The way she was found was just sick.”
“Whatever happened to her she didn’t deserve,” she said. “It should not have happened.”
“Just the mystery of all of this is what kills me the most,” Jade added.
Since Detective Hopkins took over the case, he said he is always thinking of ways to try something new to bring in leads.
“You take it home,” he said. “You’re having dinner with your family, the case is on your mind. You’re at the gym, the case is on your mind.”
He added the case to a deck of playing cards. Each card highlights an unsolved homicide or missing persons case in Rhode Island. Cindy is the 6 of spades.
Hopkins had a message for someone holding onto information.
“Whoever did this, they’re out there with you,” he said. “Not only do we have a victim, but potentially other people out there could be victimized by the same person.”
Jade realizes what she missed out on, now that she’s a mom herself.
“Eighteen years,” she said. “Eighteen whole years without the person who brought me into this world. My family just needs to heal. We need something.”
Jade said she’s thankful for old videos of her mom, but devastated it’s all she has.
“It’s not fair at all,” she said. “Living every day wondering how someone can live their life OK while we suffer every single day.”
Anyone with information is urged to call 1-877-RI-SOLVE.