This is the companion blog to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAq0HrpdbYM&t=36s
I want to start this case by saying that there is this huge issue that there is not enough attention given to missing and murdered indigenous women. Even though they vanish or are killed at a higher proportion than some other ethnic groups, the cases just don’t receive the same media attention and publicity. Sometimes that publicity is what is needed to really get leads and answers on a case. Being able to tell their story, spread the information and photos can produce leads, jog a memory or get someone to come forward with information. So I think it’s really important to tell those stories and share those photos, even though there often is very little information available.
Before I get into the case, this is how serious it is. According to the coalition to stop violence against native women, four out of five native women experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. Native women face murder rates more than 10 times the national average, and homicide is the third leading cause of death among native girls and women aged 10 to 24, and the fifth leading cause of death for Native women aged 25 to 34. Unfortunately there is no real database that tracks these statistics so it’s probably way worse than reported.
Today I want to talk about one of those indigenous women, Rosenda Sophia Strong.
Yakima County is a reservation in Washington state that has been the site of dozens of disappearances and murders. Women, girls, men and boys have all vanished or mysteriously died on and around the 1.3 million acre Yakama reservation, spanning decades to recent times. Many of these cases are still unsolved. Rosenda is one of these women and this is her story.
At the time of her disappearance, Rosenda was a 31 year old mother to four kids, 2 boys and 2 girls, when she went missing on October 2, 2018. She was a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation which is the tribe her mother was part of in Oregon but she lived in Yakama. She was described as being very outgoing and someone who loved to laugh. She grew up following her big sister Cissy around everywhere and loved playing outside and catching tadpoles and frogs. She loved animals and was a total mama's girl and really loved her mom. When people describe her they mention that people knew her for her unique laugh. Unfortunately in the home that they grew up in they were exposed to alcohol abuse and violence at times but her sister said that they looked out for each other and were there for each other. There was a time when Rosenda was removed from the home by CPS for a few years. A car just pulled up and took her because she wandered off and that memory stayed with her sister Cissy and she saw how hard her mom fought to get Rosenda back although it took about 4 years.
As she grew up, Rosenda got pregnant at a young age but she was described as being a great mom who made her children a priority. She really looked out for her family and those around her in her friend circle. But she also unfortunately struggled with a drug addiction. She lived with her sister Cissy Reyes at the time she disappeared.
She got a ride with an acquaintance to the Legends Casino in Toppenish in an older model Nissan. Rosenda was last seen leaving the casino with a man. When she left that night she was not reported being seen again. Her sister reported her missing and because of her history of drug abuse it was initially dismissed by the police and they told her that her sister would turn up and she was probably out partying. The police were familiar with Rosenda and her record so they didn’t take Cissy’s concerns seriously at the time, even though Cissy says that everything about the situation was out of character for her sister, like not coming home and leaving her kids and not answering her phone. With the police deciding not to even look in on the places Cissy thought her sister may be, she had no choice but to wait for her to show up. But Rosenda did not come home.
Now this is where it gets a bit confusing for me. Cissy has stated that a man reached out to Rosenda’s older sister from her father’s side and the sister reached out to Cissy. According to him, he was present when someone or some people were shooting at Rosenda or shot her and he was afraid that he would be targeted as well if he did not immediately leave. He said they were treating it as a game. Over the next few months more people messaged or texted Cissy, telling her similar things and to look in an upright freezer or fridge of some kind. She said that none of these people were hanging out in the same circle of people, making that information seem all the more credible.
Nine long months would pass and she wasn’t found until July 4, 2019 when her remains were found in an abandoned and unplugged freezer outside of Toppenish. She was found by two homeless men and her remains were able to be identified through dental records on July 12. The freezer was found on the 64000 block of US Highway 97 on the Yakama Reservation. After an examination, her body was finally released on September 2 to her family for burial.
Rosenda’s sister has been her biggest advocate and continues to try to get answers and justice for her sister. She has organized a march in her sister’s honor and keeps pushing for exposure and answers in this case. They had a special bond and Cissy said that she could feel her sister’s energy and a special connection between them. She said she could feel the loss of that connection after October 3rd and knew her sister was dead. If the police had followed up right away they may have been able to find more information or catch someone before her body was disposed of in the freezer.
Someone knows something about Rosenda. There is someone who is responsible for her death. People may have seen her after she left the casino that night. Whoever killed her may have told others. It seems like a lot of people have a pretty good idea of what happened to her. Why hasn’t anyone been arrested? I’m not sure why these people haven’t been questioned and if they have the names why hasn’t anything happened? I am so confused by this.
Please share her picture and story to get justice for this woman. She deserves to get justice and the more people know her name and see her picture the more likely it is that someone will have information and come forward. Anything could help to solve this case. She was a very loved and cared for person who was taken away from her family and her children. She was found basically in a trash pile a few miles from her house and she deserved better than that.
If you have any information about Rosenda Strong or this case please call the Yakama Nation Police Department at 509 865 2933 or the FBI at 509 990 0867 regarding case number 18-010803.