Part Two – Never giving up: Daughter continues plight to find missing mother after two decades
For Robin Wells Burton time doesn’t stand still nor does the desire to find her mother Cloudia “Leslie” Wells, now 65, who walked out on her family in Illinois in 1995.
Wells Burton was recently in Oceanside after she received a tip from a mysterious man called Tyler DePalma who said he was traveling with her mother.
The journey from her home in Illinois to the beach town ended in what she called “a hoax” in April.
She said after many exchanges via text and phone calls, she never met DePalma, and was never reunited with her mother. Instead, she was sent a photo via text message of a loaded gun barrel after her failed Oceanside trip.
However, Wells Burton said she’s never going to give up looking for her mother, but she’s going to be more cautious about traveling to find her.
“I won’t be taking any wild excursions; I just want to hold my mom and tell her I love her,” she said. “I know if the tables were turned, she would be doing the same.”
Words well meant, but a task not so easy to fill.
And while the hunt for Cloudia “Leslie” Wells has certainly had its downs, it has had a few positive moments over the years. For instance, there have been many sightings of Wells, but perhaps one of the most important leads came in 2014 via a Los Angeles Times article.
A big break?
In 2013, the Los Angeles Times wrote an article about the homeless population in Santa Monica. A photograph of a homeless woman was included, and Wells Burton was forwarded the article from a friend. She said as soon as she saw it, she knew it was her mom, and even now, she believes the woman in the photo is her mom.
“The eyes never change; I have no doubt the woman in the picture is my mom,” she said. “Yes, she looks aged, but living on the street will do that. Do I believe it’s her? Yes, 100 percent. Some people have their doubts, but I don’t.”
When the woman in the picture was interviewed for the article, she said she’d been homeless for 16 years, the same amount of time Wells has been missing. The name she gave was “Diane,” a known alias Wells used — one of more than 15, according to Wells Burton.
Wells Burton investigated further and learned her mom had stayed in various homeless shelters throughout California and listed her daughter as an emergency contact.
More leads, now Texas
In mid-2014, for the first time since her disappearance, Wells’ Social Security number was used. In the spring of 2017, Burton got multiple tips that her mother had been sighted in the areas of Dallas, Texas, and Richardson, Texas, she said.
Multiple witnesses said they had not only seen her mom, but knew her personally, and said she was using the first name “Diane,” again. Wells Burton said the witnesses told her that her mother had swollen legs, carried a large back bag and was known to ride the Dallas Area Rapid Transit bus line around the Richardson area, but no longer ventured into Dallas proper.
While the sightings seem to come on a regular basis, the most recent linked to Oceanside has rocked Wells Burton. However, she stressed she is not going to give up the search.
Helping others find the missing and homeless
In addition to searching for her mom, Wells Burton started “Missing and Homeless,” a group that does exactly what it says. To date, she said the group has reunited 50 missing and homeless people with their families. The group also has 41,000 followers on Facebook and has brought awareness to the plight of the missing and homeless, she said.
When asked if she thought perhaps her own mother didn’t want to be found, Wells Burton said:
“It’s possible,” she said. “Many of the homeless are mentally ill, have health issues and are addicts, and don’t want to be found.
“I always say if you want to escape from society, just become homeless. Nobody notices you if you are homeless. You are invisible to the human eye.”
But Wells Burton isn’t going to let those thoughts stop her.
“I can’t make her come home; I just want to have the opportunity to hold her, and tell her that I love her,” she said. “There is no law against being homeless; I just want her to know she will always have a home.”
And as another Mother’s Day approaches, Wells Burton will continue to pray and hope she will be reunited with Cloudia “Leslie,” Diane or with whoever her mother is calling herself. It doesn’t matter.
“It’s always a hard day for me, but I do believe she is out there, and I will never give up looking for her,” she said. “She’s always going to be my mom.”
Authorities report until her location and well-being are confirmed, Wells remains listed as a missing person.
Visit these websites and pages for more about Cloudia “Leslie” Wells: