- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) After 12-year-old Ashley Pond vanished in January, her friend Miranda Gaddis became angry with her. The 13-year-old thought Ashley was needlessly alarming her friends, her family and police.
"She thought she ran away and didn't want to come back," said Miranda's mother, Michelle Duffey.
Two months later, Miranda herself disappeared. Now, the FBI believes both girls were kidnapped and has started a nationwide search.
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said investigators are making "good progress" in following up on more than 700 leads. She said agents have contacted a number of people both known and unknown to the missing girls and have stopped cars in neighborhoods to hand out posters.
On Saturday, five dogs were used to search near the apartment complex where the girls lived a few doors down from each other. There remains every reason to hope the pair remains alive, Miss Steele said.
"The investigators are very pleased," Miss Steele said Sunday after the dog searches ended. "They are making progress making good progress and they continue to hold out hope that the girls will come home and come home alive."
Miss Steele would not elaborate. The case was highlighted Saturday on TV's "America's Most Wanted," creating a new wave of tips.
The two girls had many similarities: They both were pretty, were raised in single-mother homes and loved to shop. They attended the same middle school and were teammates on the school dance team.
But Miranda was more outgoing than Ashley. She wore flared pants and pink T-shirts. She liked to sprinkle glitter on her face and arms during dance contests. Her belly button and tongue were pierced. The night before she disappeared, she had dyed her brown hair a lighter hue.
Ashley liked to practice her dance moves in private, but would perform karaoke at home for her family.
Both went missing while on their way to a school bus stop near the Newell Creek Village apartments tucked into a forested valley south of Portland. Ashley disappeared on Jan. 9, Miranda on March 8.
Miss Duffey last saw her daughter in a bathrobe at breakfast. She left for her job as an office manager at an engineering company, and reminded Miranda to lock the apartment door when she left for school.
Miss Duffey spends her days posting fliers and pleading in television interviews for her daughter's safe return. Miss Duffey said she can barely stand to look at pictures of Miranda, she misses her so much.
"They have the picture on the news, and I look the other way," she said, her eyes swollen from crying. "I hand out fliers, but I can't look at them myself."


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