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Vicki Kelly
Tommy Kelly
Vicki and Tommy Kelly

Vicki Kelly last saw her seventeen-year-old son, Tommy, when he returned home after being gone all night on January 26, 1999. Because they lived in a rural area far from town, it wasn't unusual for him to stay with his married sister or with friends. He was last seen with an adult male who was known to be a methamphetamine user. Tommy walked out the door with the "man" and it would be a year and a half before Tommy's skull and 25 bones were recovered in a row of blackberry bushes, three miles from his home.

Due to the circumstances, law enforcement simply took a report over the phone and told the family to wait. It took six days after Tommy vanished before the media took notice. Immediately, four people called the TV station, and reported that a boy who looked like the photo on the news, had run to them begging for help, saying,"I've got to hide, they're after me." He was reportedly injured with a gash on his forehead, a broken nose, his clothes drenched in blood and mud. He didn't wait for help and kept running towards the hills; toward his country home. It took five more days for a detective to be assigned to the case, and over three weeks for search and rescue dogs to be sent out. The man with whom Tommy had last been seen was finally brought in for questioning and admitted to having injected Tommy with methamphetamine all night before he disappeared, but he denied knowing what happened to Tommy and law enforcement was unwilling to press charges without a body.

For a year and a half the family followed every lead, rumor and tip. On June 14, 2000, Tommy's sister heard on the radio that a skull had been found in an irrigation ditch. It took weeks to find out for certain that the skull belonged to Tommy and then the family was told that the law enforcement agency had no intentions of recovering the rest of his remains. The family went on the news and begged for help. The corporation who owned the orchard where Tommy was found stepped up to fund the rest of the search and recovery.

Vicki says that when she received the phone call confirming that the skull was identified as Tommy, she "vowed to be a voice for the missing and for other families of missing children." She established The Tommy Foundation (a 501(c)(3)non-profit organization) that addresses the issues of missing children and helped to pass several laws. The "Tommy Law," mandating law enforcement training on best practices for reporting missing children, was signed on May 25, 2001, National Missing Children Day. In 2007, Tom and Vicki Kelly spearheaded the unanimous passage of the Missing Person legislation, the Gaddis Pond Ramirez Act, which established law enforcement policy for the investigation of missing person cases and identification of unidentified human remains. In 2004, the Tommy Foundation drafted the Proclamation that was signed by Oregon Governor Kulongoski, declaring May 25th, National Missing Children Day, as Oregon's Missing Children Day.

link arrow The Tommy Foundation