By Bill Parry
For eight months, Chris and Donna Shields flew to Queens twice a month from their home outside of Chicago to hand out fliers and help the search for their daughter Sierra, a flight attendant who had been missing since January. Last week they were planning join a walk in Jamaica to support the “LaMont Dottin” law, a bill passed by the state Legislature requiring all police departments to promptly file missing-persons reports despite the person’s age. The Shields were to take part in the hopes that the bill becomes law nationwide.
Dottin was a 19-year-old freshman at Queens College when he disappeared in 1995. His mother Anita was prohibited from immediately filing a missing-persons report because her son was not younger than 18.
Four years later, Anita Dottin learned that her son’s body had been found in the East River six days after she reported him missing, and was buried in an unmarked grave in a potter’s field without her knowledge.
Last Friday, the Shields canceled their plans after they were contacted by the NYPD and were told their child had died in the East River, too.
Human remains that washed ashore on a Rikers Island beach Sept. 14 were identified as those of 30-year-old Astoria resident Sierra Shields, whose disappearance from LaGuardia Airport in January set off an eight-month search.
“We are eternally grateful for the outpouring of love and support for our beautiful sweet Sierra,” the family wrote in a statement released Friday. “We are truly thankful for how God used Sierra’s life to reflect the beauty of His Kingdom. Our family is requesting privacy at this time as we cherish the memory of our precious Sierra.”
She was last seen Jan. 14 when she was scheduled to work a flight out of LaGuardia Airport. After a brief conversation with her supervisor, Sierra left the airport on foot without her belongings, and had not been seen or heard from again.
On Wednesday, a skull and bones were discovered along the Rikers Island shoreline with several articles of clothing by correction officers training on the beach.
“Detectives from the 114th Precinct and the medical examiner’s responded to the location,” the NYPD said in a statement. “Based on an examination, it was determined that the deceased was Sierra Shields.”
A day before the identification was made, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said, “It appears to be, from someone who took their own life and jumped in the water.” Friends and family had noticed something different about Shields in the days before her disappearance, according to reports, and she had left her cellphone and wallet at her 35th Street apartment, her father, Chris Shields, told investigators at the time.
The medical examiner will determine her cause of death.
Last week Chris and Donna Shields thanked the more than 12,000 people who followed the “Find Sierra Shields” Facebook page.
“Thank you for sharing our pain, for consistent prayers, for all the loving good thoughts you sent our way,” they wrote.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr