Yolo County residents are searching for clues as to what happened to two teens who were close friends and disappeared under mysterious circumstances three weeks apart.
According to one person familiar with the incident, the boys, close friends, attended the same school and the same program – Northern California Construction Training at Cesar Chavez Community School in Woodland.
First, on October 16, 17-year-old Enrique Rios left his home after sneaking out of his house after saying goodnight to his family in the small farming town of Esparto.
Just 25 days later, on November 4, his close friend and school mate, 17-year-old Elijah Moore, was last seen cashing his check at California Check Cashing at 115 Main St. in Woodland.
The organizer of the event to help find the teens told the Vanguard that the Woodland Police and Yolo County Sheriff’s Office should consider this “their top priority case.
“I believe them and they are investigating every tip and every lead,” Liz Kelly said. “We believe they were taken forcibly by the same group.”
At the same time, she said, “But our group is also frustrated because both boys were immediately labeled as runaways; Elijah had never run away before. That set back the investigation 45 days.”
The group has a large and growing Facebook presence, with over 1440 people. And they have organized a fundraiser for June 4 at the Odd Fellows Hall in Davis from 1 to 4 pm. “Proceeds will go towards raising the FBI Reward fund towards locating two missing Yolo County teen boys Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore.”
According to their website, there is a $10,000 reward for the return of both boys or information leading to the return of both boys.
Here is additional information about the two boys from the website from Liz Kelly:
Enrique Martin Rios – Missing Since October 16, 2016
Lola Rios Gutierrez last saw her 17-year-old teenage son, Enrique, on October 16. He walked into the bedroom of his mother and stepdad Pedro Gutierrez, who were nestled in bed with his 4-year-old little sister, and said “I love you. Goodnight” – his typical routine at bedtime. The last messages she received from him were through text messages. The first one she received stated that he had accidentally fallen asleep at a friend’s house and was on his way to school. The last text message she received from him texted that he was under too much pressure and was going away for awhile but would return. Rios Gutierrez does not believe that the last text messages she received from her son’s phone were really from her son. I got a chance to view these text messages and I too am struck by the complete difference in tone from a week before – Enrique being happy about life to his suddenly needing to leave? It certainly doesn’t make sense to an outsider, let alone his family. Cameras on the Yolo County bus show that Enrique did not get on the bus at all that night, and the town of Esparto is pretty isolated. Enrique doesn’t have a car but certainly knows many friends or people who did.
Lola Rios Gutierrez, who has raised Enrique as a single mom after getting pregnant at the age of 16, describes Enrique “as a loner, a family kid. He was super sweet, the greatest kid.” Enrique is talented, a teen who put his all into writing rap lyrics and hoped to someday parlay his talent into a way to support his family. As Rios Gutierrez describes Enrique to me, she doesn’t paint the picture of a perfect angel. He had been reported as a runaway before, most notably in 2014 for two days, when he claimed to his mother he was in Davis. She also admits to his use of marijuana, which is typical for many teens. He was also currently on probation for a fight last year over a girl that he thought was pretty – Elijah Moore was on probation for the same fight. As Rios Gutierrez says, “You don’t know what your kids are doing without you but you can’t be with them to make good decisions for them 24/7.”
The money he earned from his job, at Northern California Construction Training (NCCT) after regular classes in the morning, he took great pride in. His mom laughs and shows me his room – full of nice designer clothes. It should be noted that Enrique went missing with just the clothes on his back – he was last seen by his mom in black basketball shorts and a black shirt. Enrique was reported missing by his mother on Oct. 19, 2016. He was last seen at 9 p.m. in his family’s home on Oct. 16, 2016. The next morning, Enrique was not at home and no one has seen him since. No sweatshirt, jacket or hat was noticed missing by his family members. Enrique may have left for a few hours of his own accord but certainly had many reasons to come back. He absolutely adored his 4-year-old sister, was proud of living in the very first house his family owned (he was so excited, he actually vacuumed the stairs to keep them neat), was proud of his job and the money he was making and really believed in his future career as a rapper. Besides these happy things, he also left behind his wallet with a California issued ID card inside and, also, still has a full check waiting for him at NCCT when he returns. As Gutierrez sadly tells me: “He has a check that he’s never picked up – it’s still waiting for him.” Someone else is eagerly awaiting his return too – his young sister. She sleeps with a blanket that was made by Enrique’s grandmother, celebrating his birth, every night and refuses to talk about Enrique.
Elijah Hassan Moore – Missing Since November 4, 2016
Alicia Moore is also still wondering where her son Elijah is. He attended school as usual the day of November 4, 2016, at Cesar Chavez Community School, then attended his job at the Northern California Construction Training. After his construction job ended at 4pm, he went straight to the California Check Cashing at 115 Main St. in Woodland – a place he used to go with Enrique Rios. There is video footage of Elijah Moore from the security camera at the business. His mother Alicia has viewed the footage and said, “Elijah did not seem to be under any stress or seem afraid of anything.” The footage was released after pressure from his mother. Elijah cashed the money he earned from the construction program through his high school, where both Enrique and Elijah took classes in the morning and then were enrolled in a construction program at the Yolo County Fairgrounds, gaining knowledge in carpentry skills in the afternoon. Alicia agrees with Lola Rios Gutierrez and says that “Enrique and Elijah were close. None of this (the double disappearance) was a coincidence.”
Elijah Hassan Moore was the third boy in his family – he has a 28-year-old brother married with two children, a 19-year-old brother Emmanuel who has a young son and, like Enrique Rios, a younger sister aged 7. Elijah had just moved to Woodland from Oak Park, Sacramento, in 2014. Alicia talks about how Elijah, too, was a “Momma’s boy” and how she “misses Elijah leaning up against her on the loveseat.” She goes on to tell me, “He was a normal kid. He loved his family and his friends.” Alicia says that Elijah was excited to gain knowledge in construction and was looking forward to attending college and learnng more about construction management. He, like Enrique, was very excited to be earning his own money. Elijah has never run away before – his family was very upset when his poster originally stated that Elijah was an “endangered runaway.”
Elijah’s older brother Emmanuel is very close to his younger brother. He is very troubled regarding the safety of his brother and has a lot to share when it comes to Elijah’s disappearance. Emmanuel said to me “I know my brother. He was very fight or flight – to grab a kid of his size, there had to have been weapons involved (in the taking of his brother).” He continues, saying, “This was a planned scheme, this was a group of people.”
At first, the Yolo County Sheriff named Enrique Rios as a runaway. Woodland Police Department did the same for Elijah Moore. Both posters have been changed to “Endangered Persons” and the FBI has stepped in from the Sacramento Field Office. The FBI has offered a reward of $5,000 for the safe return or information leading to the safe return of each boy – a total of $10,000.
—David M. Greenwald reporting