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20 Years Ago, Police Searched 5K Buildings for Bradley Sisters

Tionda and Diamond Bradley vanished from Chicago's South Side in 2001
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2021 1:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – On Tuesday in Chicago, a group of about 50 people called out "we love you Diamond and Tionda" as they released 20 balloons—20 because that's how many years the Bradley sisters have been missing. It's a case that launched what USA Today calls "one of the largest manhunts in the Chicago's history," one that involved 5,300 abandoned buildings in the city being searched and 42 tons of garbage being examined. Tionda and Diamond, then 10 and 3, were left in their third-floor apartment on Chicago's South Side around 6:30am on July 6, 2001, when mother Tracey Bradley went to work. When she arrived home with her boyfriend late that morning, the girls were gone. The sole clue: a note purportedly left by Tionda that the family says raises red flags.

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"I taught my kids damn well," said Bradley, who says her girls knew to stay in the apartment and not open the door for strangers. She adds that it would have been uncharacteristic of Tionda to leave a note and that the grammar used was more advanced than Tionda's, reports WGN. The FBI reviewed the note, which said the girls were going to a park and store, and in 2001 determined Tionda did write it, and not under duress—which the family says indicates the girls were taken by someone known to them. A lengthy USA Today report looks at the suspicion surrounding Bradley's boyfriend, who has not been charged. One detail: The girls' hair was found in his trunk; he said he snuck them into city drive-in theaters, though the only ones operating at the time were in the suburbs. The Chicago Police Department says the case remains open. (Read more missing child stories.)

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