A mother hopes for closure

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

DENMARK — Ramona Torres’ heart breaks every single day that goes by without any news of the whereabouts of her son, Tony.

“Every day seems like it just happened,” she said, clutching a framed photograph of Tony inside her Denmark home. “It’s a tough time of the year for us.”

In April, the Torres family celebrated Tony’s birthday. He would have been 33 years old.

Twelve years ago, Angel “Tony” Torres was last seen in Biddeford at 2 a.m. near a store. He had been out with friends, and later dropped off. Reportedly, he was looking for a ride to North Conway, N.H. That was the last time the 21-year-old college student was seen.

The date is firmly etched in Ramona’s memory.

May 21, 1999 — the last time Tony was seen alive.

Tony had returned home for Mother’s Day weekend, and told his mother that he planned to move off campus (he was a junior at Framingham State College in Massachusetts) to live with his girlfriend. The Torres met the young lady, and were impressed.

“We told him that she was a very nice young lady for him,” Ramona said.

Days later, Tony called to wish his parents a happy anniversary. He was excited about his new apartment/condominium. He told his mother he would call her again on a Thursday, figuring his new telephone would be in service.

“Thursday came and went with no phone call. There was a message earlier when he was moving. I didn’t want to erase it because I had a funny feeling about it,” Ramona recalled. “I was very emotional that evening. I went into the bathroom and cried. I didn’t know why I was crying. I had a bad feeling something was wrong. It wasn’t about him moving on (into his own place).”

Sunday came and went without any word from Tony despite repeated phone calls from his family.

“He always called. He knows how much I worry,” Ramona said. “I called some of his friends at Framingham to see if they knew where he was or if they had a new number.”

A friend told Ramona that Tony was in Maine. After talking with Tony’s girlfriend, the Torres called police.

“The police kept telling us that he is 21 and probably off doing something. I told them no, that’s not what my son would do,” she said.

Ramona learned that Tony took a bus from Boston and had planned to meet some friends in Biddeford.

“He never told me he was coming to Biddeford. We had no ideas who these friends were. He went to Bonny Eagle for a few years, so was that the connection? Tony was a sociable kid. A lot of people liked him. He was a good friend,” she said.

Through their investigation, police did learn that Tony indeed met some individuals in Biddeford. As time went on and no breaks in the case surfaced, Ramona started to hear speculation such as Tony was involved in drugs and had been killed.

“There was hope that the police would find him. Our emotions were all over the place from being optimistic when a tip would come in to major disappointment and a lot of crying when nothing seemed to be happening. Yes, we heard people talk, but no one really knows what happened. We just don’t know,” she said. “As parents, you try to give your children a good foundation. We have good values, and passed them along to our children. Then, they go off on their own. We can’t be with them all the time. Sometimes, they make bad decisions. Tony may have made a bad choice, and it cost him his life. He was a good person. We raised a good, young man.”

Not knowing where a child is “an awful feeling, like a cloud over you constantly,” Ramona said. “You try to be happy and compensate, but it is always there. My husband and kids have been supportive. It’s a cloud over all of us.”

The case has also frustrated police.

“It’s been a difficult case. We do have some specific information regarding activity when he (Tony) was last seen. We’ve talked with people he was with up to the time he disappeared, but we have not had anyone step forward with eye witness information,” said Lt. Brian McDonough of the Maine State Police.

Although a decade has passed since Tony disappeared and his family has declared him “deceased” in 2004, the investigation remains open. Lt. McDonough said every three to five years, a cold case is reassigned to another detective.

“After a while, you want a new set of eyes to take a look at all the information,” he said. “Unfortunately, the case is at a standstill.”

Maine has 19 active missing person cases. According to websites such as The Doe Network and The Charley Project, there are over 9,000 cold cases nationally, about 177 in New England. The sites contain photographs, vital statistics at the time of disappearance, as well as details of the disappearance. Most importantly, a phone number of the investigating agency is listed. The Maine State Police number is 657-3030 — a number Ramona hopes someone will “find it in their heart to provide information about Tony so we can finally bring him home,” Ramona said.

Heartbreak of not knowing

Every time Ramona sees a news story of a person going missing, she deeply feels for the families as they cope with “not knowing.”

“The pain in your heart of not knowing is incredible. It’s very difficult to cope with. We’ve learned to live with it, but it never goes away,” she said. “It’s the most painful thing you can go through. Not to be able to bring him home and give him a proper burial is awful, it’s wrong. All I want to know where he is.”

Ramona has developed a close friendship with a woman in New Jersey whose son also went missing at Carrabassett Valley.

“She is one of the only close friends I have because no one wants to talk about it,” Ramona said. “

When Krista Dittmeyer disappeared, Ramona wanted to reach out to her family to offer comfort. But, she waited, knowing all the emotions the family was experiencing during the early days of the investigation.

When news broke that Dittmeyer’s body had been found and arrests were made in her murder, Ramona felt two strong emotions.

“I was very sad for the family, knowing they had lost a child. I know the pain,” she said. “And yet, I also felt relief. At least, they got their daughter back. It’s really hard not to know where Tony is. We just want him back. We’ve accepted that he has passed, but we want to bring his body home. We just want someone to come forward to give us the chance to bring our son home.”

Although they held out hope early on that Tony would surface somewhere, as time passed, they suspected their son had been murdered.

“After a while, we just hoped that someone would find his body. He’s in Biddeford somewhere,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone can live with that knowledge; knowing the strain you are putting on a family.”

Ramona fears as she and her husband age, they might never learn where their son is.

A scholarship in Tony’s memory has been created, and a special garden graces the Torres’ front yard in honor of their missing son. Tony’s friends stop by from time to time.

“I grieve in the garden. I can feel his spirit there. I talk to him,” Ramona said. “I just hope one day that we can bring Tony where he should be — home.”

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