- Remains that were found in an unplugged freezer by two homeless men earlier this month have been positively identified as missing Native American woman Rosenda Strong.
- Strong was 31 years old when she went missing after a night at a casino in Toppenish, Washington, on October 2, 2018.
- The mother-of-four was among at least 20 missing native women in Yakima County, Washington, as of June.
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On October 2, a friend picked up Rosenda Strong at her sister’s house for a night out at a casino. The 31-year-old mother-of-four was never seen alive by her family again.
Nearly 9 months later, on July 4, two homeless men found the Native American woman’s body in an unplugged freezer, in an area off Highway 97 on the Yakama Reservation.
The Yakima County Coroner’s Office confirmed that the remains belonged to Strong on Friday, after comparing them to the missing woman’s dental records.
No other details have been released about where the freezer was found or what condition the body was in.
Strong’s death has now been classified as a homicide and police are actively investigating her cause of death.
Her sister is demanding answers
So far, police have not said whether there are any persons of interest in Strong’s disappearance. Strong’s sister has been outspoken since her disappearance that the person or persons responsible are fellow tribespeople.
In early May, Cissy Strong-Reyes attended an event to bring awareness to missing or murdered local women.
She took the megaphone and said her sister was “last seen at Legends Casino with acquaintances that are still walking on this reservation. I see them every day.”
“I know you guys are watching and I know you guys see me. I just saw a few of you. Bring my sister home,” she said at the time, according to the Yakima Herald.
Reyes told CNN in April that police at first dismissed her sister’s case because she used to do drugs.
“When I told the cops, they said, ‘well, she’s just probably partying, getting, you know, doing drugs,'” she recalled.
At least 19 other indigenous women are still missing in Yakima County
Strong’s case highlights a bigger issue for Native American women, especially in Yakima County.
According to a report released by the Washington State Patrol in June, Strong was among at least 20 indigenous women who were missing in Yakima County. Activists believe the number is closer to 32, according to YakTriNews.com.
Multiple reports and studies have shown that Native American woman are more often victims of violence.
A 2010 Department of Justice report showed that more than half of native women encounter sexual and domestic violence at some point in their lives.
“People are getting killed, and it’s swept under the rug,” Strong’s sister told CNN. “To me out there, it’s like the wild wild west.”
According to the Yakima Herald, Strong was a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and a descendant of the Yakama Nation.
Anyone with information on her death is being asked to call the Yakama Nation Police Department (509-865-2933) or the FBI (509-990-0857 regarding case number 18-010803).
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