TIMES UNION REPORTS – The aunt and grandmother of a Syracuse girl that went missing April 27 and was found in Florida Aug. 27 have been arrested and face charges in the case.
Allissa Marie Sands, 25, Boynton Beach, Fla., and Elizabeth Ann Sands, 47, Boynton Beach, Fla., are charged with interference with custody, a Level 6 felony; and false informing, a Class A misdemeanor.
Allissa was booked into the Kosciusko County Jail at 3:52 a.m. Sunday with a $60,000 bond. Elizabeth was booked into the jail at 4:04 a.m. Sunday with a $51,000 bond.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed Aug. 18, at approximately 2:03 p.m. April 27, Syracuse police were dispatched in regards to a missing juvenile.
Police were advised that at approximately 8 a.m., Aaliyah Ramirez left for the bus stop but never arrived at school.
Aaliyah’s father, Anthony Ramirez, recently won full custody of Aaliyah in a custody proceeding, where he was granted physical custody. The order provided guidelines for communication between Aaliyah, Allissa and Elizabeth. The order prohibited contact between Aaliyah and a person identified as “the boyfriend,” currently living in Florida, the affidavit says.
Police spoke with Anthony who said he had been at work all day. When asked who may have been involved in her disappearance, he said her aunt and grandmother may be possibly involved. He said that when he was awarded custody of his daughter, Allissa and Elizabeth did not agree with it and both allegedly made comments in the past about taking Aaliyah and nobody would be able to find her again. Anthony said Aaliyah didn’t have a phone and wasn’t allowed to contact Allissa or Elizabeth, according to court documents.
Aaliyah’s mother, Ashli Ashby, said she believed Allissa and Elizabeth formulated a plan to pick up Aaliyah and take her back to Florida so she could be with her boyfriend. Ashby stated Elizabeth has “millions of dollars” and can basically do whatever she wants when it comes to financial situations. She provided police with Elizabeth’s and Allissa’s phone numbers.
During the investigation, two witnesses talked with police in regards to Ramirez’s disappearance. The first witness said she was Aaliyah’s first friend when she came to Syracuse and was the only person she trusted at school. The first witness said she would let Aaliyah use her phone to call Allissa because she didn’t have a phone.
The second witness stated Aaliyah did have a phone. The second witness said Allissa dropped the phone in the second witness’s mailbox and Aaliyah would charge it at school and keep it in one of the two witnesses’ lockers. When police asked the second witness for the number Aaliyah would text and call, the second witness provided the same phone number that was identified as Allissa’s.
At approximately 7:27 p.m. April 27, Allissa contacted police saying she was notified at work Aaliyah was missing and didn’t know anything about her disappearance. Later in the evening on April 27, Blackford County Sheriff’s Department provided assistance with the initial investigation. Police responded to the CVS in Hartford City to speak with Allissa to see if she knew where Aaliyah was. Allissa denied knowing where she was and said she last spoke with Aaliyah on April 24. Police asked if there was any way to track Aaliyah and Allissa said no and said she had taken away the phone she had given Aaliyah. Allissa gave the number of the confiscated number, according to court documents.
Police asked if Aaliyah was with Elizabeth and Allissa said no. Allissa said Elizabeth was sick.
Police again asked if there was any way to get hold of Aaliyah by email or social media. Allissa said the only thing she knew was Tik-Tok.
Police asked Allissa when the last time she spoke with Elizabeth was and Allissa said the week prior. Allissa said she tried to call Elizabeth but the call went to voice mail. She said she tried two more times, but the calls were not going through. While talking with police, Allissa maintained she did not know about Aaliyah’s disappearance and didn’t disclose she provided a phone through the second witness’ mailbox.
While meeting with police, court records state Allissa became upset and called Elizabeth and told Elizabeth police thought Allissa took Aaliyah. Police spoke with Elizabeth who told police that she just wanted to know where Aaliyah was and appreciated everything being done to find her. Elizabeth also stated that her cousin said numerous girls Aaliyah’s age have gone missing within a 30-mile radius area of where Aaliyah lived and Elizabeth was concerned that there are “sexual predators” in the area.
With the help of the Blackford County Sheriff’s Office, police were able to obtain and track the cell phone number of the phone Allissa provided to Aaliyah through the first witness. Law enforcement was able to use the cellular location to locate the phone in the area of Jackson, Ga., on April 30.
Deputies advised Syracuse police they knew from numerous past encounters with the family that Aaliyah is continuously trying to go to Florida with Elizabeth and Aaliyah has a boyfriend that lived in Florida. Deputies stated Allissa and Elizabeth supported the relationship between Aaliyah and the boyfriend.
On May 6, police spoke with Elizabeth who said Aaliyah has never been in the care of her father and didn’t want to be in his care. Elizabeth said in February, there was a family disagreement and it was decided Aaliyah was no longer going to reside with her mother and stepfather. Elizabeth also said in December 2020, she and Aaliyah’s mother had a falling out.
Elizabeth told police Aaliyah was not a risk taker and would not just take off. Aaliyah never gave any indication she wanted to run away, and if she had, Elizabeth stated she would have told Aaliyah no.
During the investigation, police, with the help of the Indiana State Police, applied and executed numerous search warrants and investigative subpoenas to try to locate Aaliyah. Officers located text messages between Aaliyah and a cell phone commonly known as Elizabeth’s and another person, leading up to Aaliyah’s disappearance.
Through the search warrants and subpoenas, police identified a new number associated with Elizabeth. On April 27, Elizabeth received calls from the Syracuse area.
In July, police obtained a break in the case and received information that led them to review surveillance videos from two shopping malls in Florida. Through the assistance of local law enforcement and asset protection police, police obtained surveillance video showing Aaliyah in disguise in the company of Elizabeth and one other person, according to court records.