CLEVELAND (AP) — The FBI is ramping up efforts to identify a woman in Rhode Island surveillance photos who strongly resembles a girl missing from Cleveland for nearly eight years.
The FBI plans to put photos of the woman and a man spotted with her on billboards along the East Coast and the Midwest. The woman bears a strong resemblance to Ashley Summers, who went missing in July 2007 at age of 14, an FBI spokeswoman in Cleveland said Thursday.
The case is starting to draw attention from national media outlets, which could prove useful in expanding the search, said Special Agent Vicki Anderson. She acknowledged that it's hardly certain the woman is Summers.
"We simply do not know," Anderson said.
The woman and the man in the photo are suspected of being involved in a string of identification thefts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The photos were released last October by Warwick, Rhode Island, police after the woman and a man believed to be in his early to mid-20s used a drive-up ATM machine to withdraw cash using a stolen card.
"We're hoping the public will take a look and get these two identified," Anderson said. "It's going on eight years. The family wants to know."
A step-grandmother contacted the FBI and media outlets late last year after spotting the surveillance photos on a Rhode Island "most wanted" list. The resulting publicity generated a few leads that were not fruitful, Anderson said.
Summers occasionally ran away and stayed with friends or relatives before she disappeared, but always returned home the next day, Anderson said. Summers and her mother had argued before the girl disappeared in 2007. Summers lived in the same neighborhood where Ariel Castro held three women captive for a decade before they escaped.
Summers' aunt told The Associated Press in 2013 that news of the three women being found alive bolstered the spirits of Summers' family.
"We're hoping for our miracle, too," she said.
Authorities have said Castro was questioned about Summers, but there was nothing that linked the case to him. He later pleaded guilty to a long list of charges and committed suicide in prison in September 2013.