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In Green Moss, She Sleeps

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Indigenous people were the original residents of this country, long before the Christopher Columbus story we were taught in schools. The US government slowly took over indigenous tribes and land to make their own. Indigenous people are the keepers of a unique set of skills, knowledge, and belief systems. Over time indigenous people were left behind, becoming less and less important to America. You may have heard or seen the MMIW movement, also known as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. This is a more recent movement to bring light to stories of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. These stories have just recently been circulating on social media and news outlets. However, there is still not enough being done for the indigenous communities of this country. They fight to be equal and more importantly to be protected in their communities. I truly hope the inequality changes. This movement was not around twenty years ago when a missing native mother disappeared off the face of the earth. Police brushed off her disappearance like it was nothing and assumed she would return home sometime soon. That would not be the case in today’s story. Just like everyone else she deserves to be brought home and her family and tribe deserve the answers they have been searching for, for over two decades.

First, I would like to thank Mel, a co-admin of the Facebook group for Leona Kinsey. She gave me some insight into how Leona’s life, including details of her relationship with her daughter and how her case was treated by law enforcement in the beginning stages when Leona first went missing. She strives to uncover new details in those early days that might uncover where Leona has been and who caused her disappearance.

Leona Sharon Kinsey was born on December 15, 1953. Originally from Washington state and a Puyallup tribal member, she grew up on the reservation. Not much is known about her childhood. Leona was a warm ray of sunshine to everyone that knew her. Carolyn DeFord, her daughter and only child, recounted her childhood as being loving but dysfunctional. Carolyn now realizes her mother did the best she could with what she had. When Carolyn was young, her parents separated. She is unsure how they met, most likely from a local hangout where teenagers partied. Leona lived on the reservation and Carolyn’s biological father not far from them. When Leona became pregnant, they moved in together, off the reservation. After they separated, Leona quickly found herself a new partner. However, the men Leona dated were not always great and sometimes were abusive. The mother and daughter pair would often find themselves moving repeatedly. It wasn’t until Carolyn was around the age of four that Leona met a nice man. Carolyn remembers him being very kind and caring to both her and her mother. She also recalls the days and weeks they would spend with him at the logging camps, where he worked. Leona loved the outdoors and tried to teach her daughter all the things nature had to offer. They would take hikes through the wilderness to find berries and mushrooms to harvest. She would always make sure Carolyn knew which things she could eat and those that were not meant for human consumption. Leona also loved fishing and hunting and would make sure her daughter knew how to as well. They always had stockpiles of meats and berries to eat over the course of the year. Carolyn found it odd that kids her age got their food from grocery stores. Leona wanted to make sure Carolyn appreciated the outdoors just as much as she did. This way of life was very important to Leona.

Leona & Carolyn

when Carolyn was in her teenage years is when things for her mother started to shift. Leona’s romantic relationship was coming to an end, but that meant Leona could go out and do more of the things that she enjoyed rather than being stuck at home. Leona loved to go to the local clubs where they held dancing. Leona loved to dance it was in her soul. That was until one night her mother didn’t return home from her night out. Carolyn waited up for her, however Leona didn’t walk through that door until sunrise. When Leona did return, it was not how her daughter expected. She came home and went straight to the bathroom and took a shower. When she got out, she held her daughter tightly and told her of the horrific story she endured. She was leaving the club the night before when a man approached her, she was ordered to get into the man’s car when they drove away. A short time later Leona found herself alone in a field with the man. Knowing she only had one chance, Leona opened the car door and took off running. She made it home but was scared that the man might be able to find her because she had left her purse in the man’s vehicle, that contained her driver’s license with her address on it. Luckily nothing more would come of the incident, except for the everlasting trauma she endured at the hands of this stranger.

Leona’s drug use would ramp up at this point with her addiction to methamphetamine. She had dealt with and was trying to overcome so many things that had happened in her life. Leona and Carolyn were still living together as her daughter was still a teenager. Carolyn noticed her mother was going out more to have fun. When she failed to come again, one night, Carolyn feared the worst. It wouldn’t be too long after that Carolyn found out her mother had been arrested for drug possession. She was mad at her mother; how could she allow this to happen. But Carolyn wasn’t going to give up on her. While Leona was in jail, Carolyn stayed at home alone, stayed in school and took care of everything that needed to be done around the house. Leona would eventually get a job just across the way from the street they lived on in a hotel, doing housekeeping. Carolyn would walk over to the hotel often and bring Leona’s dogs along with her to visit. Even though there seemed to be difficulties, Leona would get sober, and Carolyn had hope that their relationship could finally be repaired.

Everything seemed to be going good for the mother and daughter for a few years. Carolyn would eventually fall in love and move with her significant other to Washington State, a few hours' drive away from the family home. Carolyn was in regular contact with her mother via phone and letters. Soon Carolyn would start a family of her own, welcoming two children. Leona adored being a grandmother and would often send “care packages” to her daughter for her grandchildren. While Carolyn wasn’t always around to keep an eye on her mother, she suspected Leona had relapsed. One time, Leona came to visit Carolyn for a few days along with her new boyfriend. While they were visiting, Carolyn knew her mother was high and did not appreciate her and this random guy being around her children. She told her mother she cannot be around her grandchildren if she was going to continue to get high. It was not safe. After Leona left her daughter’s house that day, that would be the last time Carolyn would ever see her mother, she just did not know it yet.

On October 25, 1999, Leona Kinsey would vanish. Carolyn was not notified until the day after. Carolyn woke up on the morning of October 26, 1999. She was emotional all day, she said. She didn’t know why either. She woke up and was crying and then she was supposed to go get her kids from their father and driving there she was sad and ended up crying while she was getting ready for work, she was crying. She just didn’t know what had come over her. However, when she arrived at her job, her coworkers were stunned she was there. Feeling worried for her, they told her she should go home, and they got her shift covered for her that night. Carolyn, trying to make ends meet, didn’t want to go home, and was confused why they were telling her this. “I’m just having a bad day.” “I’m ok”. When her boss asked her if she received the news about her mother. Carolyn was confused and asked what news? Leona’s friend had phoned Carolyn’s work earlier that day, she told Carolyn’s coworkers that Leona was missing, and she needed Carolyn to call her back when she got into work. Picking up the phone and calling her mother’s friend Nancy, she wasn’t really worried about her mother because it seemed normal that she would go off and do her own thing. Nancy was sure something was wrong with Leona, because of the story Nancy had from the previous night. Nancy told Carolyn what occurred the night before. In the afternoon around 4:00 P.M., Nancy ran into her friend Leona at a local Walmart. They chatted for a few, and Leona told Nancy she was going over to Albertson’s, a local grocery store to meet with “Mexican John”. After her meet up with John, Leona would make her way over to Nancy’s to get some quality friend time. Leona would never show up to her friend’s home that night and the Walmart sighting was the last time anyone has ever laid eyes on Leona Kinsey.

First missing flyer for Leona

The following day on October 26, Nancy knew something must have happened to her friend Leona. It was not like her dropping out of sight for any length of time. She wasn’t home and wasn’t answering her phone or even calling anyone back that tried to page her. Leona had also left her precious animals at home alone, which is something Leona would never do. Her pets were like her children. When Nancy spoke with Carolyn later that evening, Carolyn was not overly concerned at first, her mom was a tough woman, and she was sure she would turn up any minute. As the hours passed, however, Carolyn started to feel anxious, just waiting for that one phone call that her mother may have gotten arrested again or something. That call never came, and the following day Carolyn, as much as she didn’t want to because she feared when her mom did show up that she would be mad at her, called the police to report her mother missing.

On October 29, 1999, Nancy, Leona’s friend, would call the police to report that her car was found in the Albertson’s parking lot. When the police showed up, they checked the vehicle but nothing of note was found. However, the outside of the Golden-brown 1980’s model GMC Jimmy was caked in mud like someone had taken it off roading somewhere. Also, of note, was the vehicles’ four-wheel drive was broken. It seemed to have been sitting there for quite some time, but the store owner claimed the car was not there overnight. Whoever drove it there must have that day. Police then did not seem concerned, they knew Leona and assumed she was off getting high somewhere and would still return. In the meantime, Carolyn rushed down to Oregon to help clean up her mother’s home. Because it was so late in the month, rent was due soon and because Leona wasn’t around to pay it, she had to get all her belongings out. When she walked into her mother’s home a sadness took over her, trying to think of where Leona could be. She laid on her bed just wishing she could be pointed in some kind of direction, that is when looked over and noticed her mother’s purse that was tucked in between the bedside. When she grabbed it, she found her keys, wallet, pager, medications, everything was right there. This is when the realization really set in for Carolyn.

Juan Pena-Llamas

This is where Leona’s case becomes cold. Police back then never did much for her case. Whether it was because of her drug use, or her criminal record, they seemed to have more important things to do. Carolyn tried everything to find her mother, but she was also young at the time with a family at home in another state that she had to care for. In the year 2023 Carolyn is still fighting for her mother. The biggest problem they are facing today is where to start to look that is. Their first question was the identity of Mexican John, who they figured out was Juan Pena-Llamas. (Photo of Juan attached on the left). In 2006 Juan was arrested for theft and was deported back to Mexico because he was undocumented. Prior to his arrest and deportation, Juan had a history of violence and assaults, including, rape in the third degree, sodomy and was believed to have connections to the Mexican drug cartel. Police believe Leona was affiliated with Juan because he may have been her drug dealer and there was also a rumor, she may have been selling some drugs for Juan. He is a person of interest in her disappearance. In 1999, he was not the only one, as Leona had an on-again off-again boyfriend. They did not live together but just a short distance away. Lonnie, her boyfriend, admitted to breaking into Leona’s home after she disappeared to make sure she was not unconscious somewhere inside. His story would not end there, Lonnie said he had seen Leona’s purse and she had about a gram of meth inside. He took the drugs home with him, to consume himself. He claims to not know where Leona had disappeared to, and he had nothing to do with the circumstances. Even though Lonnie was curiously suspicious at the time Leona vanished he is not talked about as much anymore. The real suspicion falls on Juan. It seems today he has vanished also, being deported back to Mexico and blending back in with society. Juan has many aliases.

Juan Pena

Juan “John” Peña Ruiz Llamas

Juan P. Llamas

John M. Llamas

John J. Pena

Juan F. Alejandro

Juan F. Pena

Juan F. Pena-Alejandre

Juan F. Pena-Banada

Juan F. Pena-Aldjandre

Juan F. Pena-Alejandro

Juan Alejandre

Juan Pena-Lamas

Juan Pena-Llamas

Juan M Penallamas

Juan M Pena-Llamas

John Pena

John Pena-Llamas


What happened to Leona Kinsey that evening on October 25, 1999? Although she was known to use drugs, she still maintained a stable life. Leona had a home, a car, belongings, and pets to take care of. She owned a lawncare business and was a very hard worker. How ever many miles apart she was still part of her daughter’s life along with her grandchildren. Contact was not daily but regular with her daughter and then everything ceased. It is assumed that Leona made it home from the Walmart because her purse was located inside. If that is the case, what occurred that evening inside? Did someone pay her a visit? Leona was forced to leave behind everything she ever loved and cared for. She was forced to no longer live the life she planned on. She was forced to no longer enjoy the little things in life that the earth provided her. Carolyn only hopes her mother is at rest somewhere, somewhere at peace and with a connection to nature, as she lived her life.

Please like & follow the Facebook page that is set up for Leona's disappearance. Her daughter deserves to know what happened to her mother and Leona deserves to come home.


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