The roads where Veronica Pate used to live are quiet now, but in 1998 — it was the place to be.
“This is a close-knit neighborhood. Everybody knew everybody,” Investigator Randy Lamberth with the Dooly County Sheriff’s Office said.
Pate says she and her family didn’t have a lot, but she called their house on Crumpler Avenue home. Her kids went to school nearby and participated in all types of events especially the homecoming football game.
That’s where her daughters Laswanda and Shy’Kemmia, or Shy-Shy, were headed.
“I figured that one of my daughter’s friends may have picked her up and took her to the game or anything because she was dressed to go to the game,” Pate said.
But Shy-Shy never made it to the game.
“Shy-Shy was very street smart, a young girl in this neighborhood,” Lamberth said.
Investigators say as she was walking from her home to a friend’s house — something happened.
“We’ve got no clue where’s she’s at. We’ve got nothing that we can go on at this moment. Every lead that we’ve had we’ve tracked it down and it’s turned into zero,” Lamberth said.
Shy-Shy was gone and no one has seen her since.
“She was a smart kid…friendly, lovable,” Pate said.
“We basically turned this neighborhood upside down for 2, 2 1/2 months,” Lamberth said.
Investigators say back in the late 90’s the neighborhood where Shy-Shy’s family lived was kind of rough, but still everyone knew each other — there was a sense of community. That’s why it’s so hard to believe no one knows what happened to Shy-Shy.
Search crews spent months looking for clues in the neighborhood, interviewing residents, trying to put together a timeline as to where she was – the last time anyone saw her.
“Whoever is responsible for this, she knew. Most likely, she knew very well,” Lamberth said.
Here’s what investigators know:
Shy-Shy was last seen on September 4, 1998 on the corner of Crumpler and North Avenues at about 7 p.m.
She was wearing a lime green Atlanta Hawks jersey and has a surgical scar along her waistline.
Sheriff’s deputies are following any leads they can…even the ones that take them hundreds of miles away, like the time a woman, who investigators say was the spitting image of Shy-Shy, was spotted in Detroit, Michigan.
“Once we got there, it ended up being a cousin. So we’re back at zero with it,” Lamberth said.
Shy-Shy’s picture is still on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website, along with an age progression rendering.
Veronica says she’ll take any help she can get as she waits for justice.
“You can’t ever give up. I will never stop believing that she’s going to come home one day,” Pate said.
“This is a little girl that’s lost. She needs to be back home,” Lamberth said.
Investigators say putting this case together is like solving a puzzle and it’s hard because they’re missing a few pieces. Shy’kemmia Pate would be 25 this year.
If you’ve seen her, remember seeing her or anything that happened that September day in Unadilla, please call the Dooly County Sheriff’s Office at 229-645-0920.