The family of two Chicago sisters who went missing nearly 18 years ago is reeling after they say a woman reached out on social media, claiming to be one of the girls.
“My gut, my heart and my head – they’re all three independently feeling all kinds of things,” said great-aunt Shelia Bradley-Smith.
Bradley-Smith has been searching relentlessly for Diamond and Tionda Bradley, who were 3 and 10 years old when they went missing from their South Side apartment complex in 2001.
The sisters left a note for their mom saying they were going to school and the store, but when the two never returned home, a frantic search began.
Their story has made national headlines since 2001, even garnering a feature on America’s Most Wanted, but as time went on, the case went cold.
About three weeks ago, Bradley-Smith said she posted a random thought on the Missing Diamond and Tionda Bradley Facebook page, pleading for the girls to come home. Bradley-Smith said a woman responded: “we’re trying.”
Through a series of messages, Bradley-Smith said the woman, who lives in Texas, said she is Tionda Bradley.
"She went on to say she was Tionda, that she and Diamond have been together this entire time, that they both have kids and Diamond is in college," Bradley-Smith said.
Bradley-Smith said the woman is doubling-down and willing to take a DNA test to prove she is Tionda. When reached through Facebook, the woman told NBC 5 News that she was not going to make any comments until she contacts her lawyer.
The family said an FBI agent from the Beaumont, TX Field Office confirmed they are actively trying to locate the woman. A spokesperson for the FBI Houston Office said it continues to pursue and review all leads on the case but could not provide additional information.
"In my heart, I hope it’s her," said Bradley-Smith. "If it’s not her, don’t lie. We’ve suffered enough. We don’t need to suffer anymore."
An update later surfaced on Saturday in what appears to be a family Facebook page where the post claims "the information provided on social media from this group of scammer are NOT MISSING DIAMOND AND OR TIONDA BRADLEY. We hope that all will continue to provide any tips as to the whereabouts of Diamond and Tionda Bradley. We thank you the Community, the Law Enforcement Community, the News that covered this heartbreaking HOAX. We further thank the Private Investigator and all tips that were provided to expose those responsible for this CRUEL AND EVIL ACT."