“I never gave up hope we’d find her and bring her home”

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ricky Lafferty said he never gave up hope that his missing daughter would be found. But he admitted, as he stood before reporters Tuesday, there were dark and lonely times since August of 2000 when he last saw his 10-year old daughter Alex Carter.

Alex Carter

“That would have been when I took her pets to her. I don’t know the date, but it was in the summertime,” said Lafferty who is from Glen Fork, West Virginia.

His daughter was removed from his home, along with all of her belongings, by the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department. She went with her mother to live at the home of Larry Webb in Beckley. Lafferty said he became concerned when Alex failed to contact him for an extended period of time. He said eventually, all contact was lost.

“I knew something was wrong. I knew she would have gotten in touch with me or my mother, but I never gave up hope we’d find her and bring her home,” he explained.

Initially, law enforcement ignored his pleas and concerns that his daughter was missing. But he continued his search.

“Every car that went by I’d look to see if she was there. I’d look in the ditch lines. I would search everything and everybody I would talk to I would mention it and bring her up asking if anyone had seen her or heard anything. Some people would tell you stories and would just want to hurt you,” he explained.

The investigation finally took a turn when the U.S. Marshal Service got involved in a national program searching for missing and exploited children. They eventually turned the case over to the FBI and State Police who had greater resources to dedicate to the investigation.

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Even though it had been years since he had seen his daughter,  Lafferty said he had renewed hope when Elizabeth Smart was discovered after she had been kidnapped from her home years earlier.

“That gave me hope that things do happen. There are people being held, so that gave me hope and renewed my faith in the system,” he said.

He credited the work of the FBI and State Police who became fully engaged as the began to discover disturbing evidence which indicated Alex along with her mother may have been the victims of foul play.

A day after their bodies were discovered in a shallow grave where they had been for more than two decades, Lafferty said his emotions were mixed.

“Sadness, happiness, relief, just a feeling of melancholy. You’re happy they found her, but you’re sad from the circumstances of her not being alive,” said Lafferty. “But at least now we can bring her home to where she is loved.”

He also offered a message to other parents in a similar position to never give up looking for a missing loved one.

“Never give up. I don’t care who you have to write. They may think you’re bugging them or whatever, but never give it up because someone is going to listen. Eventually, someone will listen,” he said.

Investigators said a probe into the initial handling of the case is ongoing and wouldn’t comment on Lafferty’s complaints that his initial concerns were ignored by the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department.

Alex’s remains are still held by the State Medical Examiner’s office, but Lafferty said he’s anxious to claim them and give her the funeral, burial, and  memorial she deserved.

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