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'We’re going to follow everything': Alamosa County mother remains vigilant in search for her daughter missing since 2019

The 33-year-old, who is part-Cherokee, has been missing since Aug. 15, 2019
Rashell Hammond missing_courtesy Cheryl Moretti
Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 08:41:06-05

ALAMOSA COUNTY, Colo. — For almost 850 days, Cheryl Moretti has thought of her missing daughter and cried.

On Aug. 15, 2019, her then-30-year-old daughter Rashell Hammond, who is part-Cherokee, left their home in Mosca and has never been seen or heard from since. Hammond's 33rd birthday just passed on Nov. 15. On her birthday in 2019, 2020 and this year, Moretti lit a candle, said a prayer, and played her daughter's favorite song, "You Are My Sunshine."

Christmas and birthday presents for Hammond from the past three years gather in her home.

Thinking of her daughter and where she may be is an everyday occurrence, Moretti said. The "what ifs?" cause nervous breakdowns and her appetite has dwindled.

"It affects you — living in constant sadness because there’s no closure," she said.

Cheryl Moretti_Rashell Hammond

With a shaking voice, she said she would be heartbroken if she learned her daughter had died, but at the very least, she'd get that closure.

Moretti said she and Hammond moved to a rural part of Mosca from Columbus, Ohio in July 2019. About three weeks after they arrived — a warm Aug. 15, 2019 — Moretti headed out to run some errands. While she was out, Hammond left the home for a walk around 11:30 a.m.

Moretti said she was getting their cell service fixed at a local store, and had Hammond's cell with her.

"I come home — no Rashell," Moretti recalled.

This struck her as odd. It meant that the 30-year-old left the home with barely anything but the clothes on her back — no phone, no car, no ID, no computer, no medication. She left her dog behind. She works on cars and left her trailer full of tools at home, too.

Rashell Hammond_Cheryl Moretti

She didn't initially think too much about Hammond's whereabouts. But as night fell without word from her, concern bubbled up.

"Then I thought, 'Something is wrong,'" she said.

She worried that because her daughter is a very trusting person, she may have accepted a ride from somebody with ill intentions.

Under the false impression that she had to wait 48 hours to report somebody missing, Moretti waited for two heart-wrenching days before calling the Alamosa County Sheriff's Office on Aug. 18, 2019 to make a missing persons report.

When she called for help, the sheriff's office responded, and according to their records, a few people from the office searched the area on foot but came up empty-handed. The following day, they returned with dogs, a helicopter and SUVs, Moretti said.

Hours ticked by into the next day, and then the next. Days turned to weeks, which turned to months.

The two were attached at the hip, Moretti said. A day didn't go by that they didn't talk. They had plans to visit the Grand Canyon for Hammond's 31st birthday. They always went on an adventure that day, Moretti said.

"She wouldn't not talk to me for over two years," she said. "That's why I believe she's being held against her will."

She said she suspects sex trafficking is somehow involved in Hammond's disappearance.

Rashell Hammond_Cheryl Moretti

The case has transferred hands multiple times at the sheriff's office since August 2019. Alamosa County Deputy Sheriff Ric Martinez took over on Oct. 18, 2021. He said while there is no evidence that points to sex trafficking as of now, there's also no evidence that really points anywhere.

He said the sheriff's office received multiple scam calls about Hammond after the reward for information on her whereabouts was increased to $50,000. Unfortunately, he said, that is not unusual.

However, one lead stuck out — a tip that Hammond may have been in California or Massachusetts. The names and addresses included in the tip were real, he said, so he reached out to the Oakland Police Department in California and Randolph Police Department in Massachusetts. There has been little movement on their end for this case since he reached out, Martinez said. He's still waiting to hear from them on what they've found in their jurisdictions, if anything.

As of now, the case is stagnant, as nobody is contacting the sheriff's office with any other leads, Martinez said. However, he is focusing on two possibilities. First, he learned that one day before her disappearance, deputies had run into her and others on a vacant lot in Alamosa and that she was with a known female addict in the area. Martinez said it's a property the sheriff's office has had to watch constantly. Now, he said he's trying to track down the woman spotted with Hammond to see if she has any information. Second, he is planning on visiting a homeless shelter in La Puente to see if Hammond has been there, or if anybody there has seen her or recognizes her photo.

"It might be one of those things where she doesn’t want to be found. We have to keep that in mind," Martinez said.

Meanwhile, Moretti is working on her own, partially out of a mother's instincts and partially out of frustration with investigators' lack of leads.

Rashell Hammond_Cheryl Moretti

She said she hired a private investigator for about six months. She followed up on rumors that her daughter was being kept by two "bad guys" nicknamed Double and Diablo. She's met with a local homeless man who wanted to help her. She received texts from burner phones from a person or people claiming they had seen Hammond in December 2019 and that she was being sex trafficked in Massachusetts and California — something Martinez is investigating — though she said she takes the information with a grain of salt.

Some people are taking advantage of her desperation.

Moretti said she's been sent threatening scams "over and over again" from people who say they will share her daughter's location in exchange for money.

Ransom threat text for Rashell Hammond

In one instance, she was even sent a photoshopped picture of a woman with a man's hand over her mouth. A person had edited the eyes and face of the woman to match a photo of Hammond. Detectives confirmed it was not a real photo.

"You're already suffering, you're already hurting, and then for somebody to do that..." Moretti said, drifting off.

"But as a mother, I'm not going to take any lead and throw it in the corner — we’re going to follow everything," she added.

She recently was able to share her daughter's photo on "Dr. Phil" (at 13:19 mark) along with other missing and murdered indigenous people.

Moretti said her daughter has Cherokee blood as both her grandmother and her father are Cherokee.

According to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records as of Tuesday evening, 14 missing people in Colorado are identified as "Indian." Four are female and 10 are male. Currently, 1,429 people are missing statewide, according to the CBI.

READ MORE: National response for Petito was appropriate, but should apply to Indigenous people too, Colorado advocates say

Hammond has shoulder-length hair and brown eyes. Her septum is pierced and she has multiple tattoos, including stars on her left arm, a skull on her right hand, and a cat with a bong on one of her shoulders. She was not as muscular in 2019 as she was in some previous photos, and her hair is longer. The day she disappeared, she was wearing black Nike shoes, khaki shorts and a black tank top.

She is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 115 pounds.

Rashell Hammond missing posters

A $50,000 reward is available for information leading to her location.

Anybody with information on Hammond's whereabouts can call the Alamosa County Sheriff's Office at 719-225-5824 with case #190963 or Moretti at 719-937-9709. Moretti posts regular updates on her daughter's case on the Facebook page Please Help Find Rashell Hammond.

Moretti said she wants to share her cell number because her phone number changed and her daughter wouldn't know her new number unless she sees it on one of the flyers.

In February 2021, SR21-005 was passed in Colorado, designating Feb. 4, 2021 as Missing Persons Day in the state. Hammond’s name is mentioned in the full text.