Still living in hope
Family, students, friends of missing St Ann teacher vow not to shut door on quest to find her aliveSunday, September 26, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
Every time Sheryl Williams' cellphone rings, she hopes she will hear the words: “We have found your daughter” when she answers.
Her only daughter, 34-year-old Ruchelle Williams, a teacher of Goshen district in St Ann, has been missing for 11 days now.
Ruchelle, who is also a mother of one, worked at the Meteorological Service of Jamaica from September 2007 to August 2013 before going into education, and got employed as a teacher of mathematics at Marcus Garvey Technical High School.
“She didn't do it herself. She wouldn't do this to me because she know her mother would worry. She wouldn't purposely do that. This is too much. I can't take anymore. I just want to find my daughter. Where Ruchelle coulda gone? She cyaan just wonder off inna bush,” Sheryl told the Jamaica Observer.
“We are always taking pictures of each other. I took some of her on Mother's Day,” she said with a rare smile.
“She also does private tutoring with one student who would come here on a Sunday,” Sheryl added.
Reports from the Brown's Town police are that on Wednesday, September 15, about 4:00 pm, Ruchelle was last seen at a plaza dressed in a blue blouse and black pants.
Hayvanleigh Bartley, one of Ruchelle's students who graduated from Marcus Garvey Technical High last year, told the Sunday Observer that knowing that a woman she respects greatly is missing is deeply upsetting.
“She is a humble teacher. She ensures that her students do their best wherever they go. She is calm and easy to talk to, loving, caring. Whenever her students don't come to school she ensures that he or she have the work that was given last class and she call to ask what is happening. I dearly love and respect her so much that, even when I left high school, I contacted her and asked her if she is okay with the grades she got the term I left. I wish she could just come back home for us to be okay,” Bartley said, adding, “She became my teacher after my other maths teacher left Marcus Garvey Technical High, and she came in the same year.”
Tessika Wynter, another student, said she found out on social media that her beloved teacher was missing.
“I saw it on another student's status. I was so broken when I saw it and I'm still broken at this moment as well. She is a wonderful teacher who is always trying with her students, no matter how hard they make it for her. She is always trying. She is not the teacher to report a student… she is the one to talk to them. I can remember when it was time to start our SBAs (school-based assessments) and I was thinking of doing maths City and Guilds instead of CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council), and she explained to me how I could do my SBA so it would be much easier,” she said.
Wynter said Ruchelle became her teacher in 2019 after her previous mathematics teacher left the school abruptly.
“She didn't teach me for a long period of time, but she was a very nice teacher. She is always fun, always trying to help students understand anything. We had another teacher before Miss Williams came, so we had to adjust to her as a new teacher and she made it very easy for us. She is very good.”
Another student said: “Miss Williams is my best maths teacher and I miss her.”
Sheryl last saw her daughter at home the Wednesday morning she went missing.
“Mi just leave her up a the house. I was expecting her to be here. I left about 10 am. I didn't go to work. I just leave to go and do some business in Brown's Town. I reached back here [home] 12:15 pm and she wasn't here,” she recalled, noting that she has since realised that a shoe Ruchelle bought recently was missing.
In Brown's Town, business owners and shopkeepers described Ruchelle as jovial and always laughing.
“Ruchelle always a laugh. She just ever a smile. Me always see her when she a pass,” a businesswoman shared.
When the Sunday Observer team visited Ruchelle's home last Tuesday, her mother, who was being comforted by friends who gave their names as Andrea, Sandra and McCowan, related that she was distraught.
Outside her gate, teachers and police officers gathered, and neighbours on their verandas looked on through grilles.
In one instance, Sheryl's cellphone rang and she answered: “What happened? Unnu find har?”
When the called went differently and she learned that, like her, someone was merely inquiring, she lamented that she was tired.
Meanwhile, Andrea told the Sunday Observer that she wants the ordeal to be over.
“I am hoping for her safe return. I am hoping and praying that she comes home safely. I knew Ruchelle from she was a baby. I knew her from before she even born. All three of us as friends were pregnant at the same time, so you know our connection. That's the bond we have. I am just here to support Sheryl emotionally through this rough time,” said Andrea.
Sheryl added: “She always supports me. Andrea is an awesome woman. When me pregnant, she was always here. Andrea sleep with me and help me. Is Andrea teach Ruchelle how to walk. A Andrea do that.”
And, in a matter of minutes, Andrea went to the kitchen and brought Sheryl a cold energy drink.
Sandra told the Sunday Observer that she was too nervous to visit Sheryl sooner, after learning about her daughter's disappearance.
“I am waiting up here for you, Ruchelle. Hurry up and come back. Me nuh want nothing fi do har.
''I was nervous to come up here to see Sheryl. Even now mi nervous. And when I was coming today, I was hoping to see her,” she said.
Last week, Winston Smith, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), said “no resources will be spared” in the search for Ruchelle. Further, Smith told the Sunday Observer that a post making rounds on social media purporting that “the teacher from Brown's Town has been found and she is okay” is false.
Deloris Gordon, a teacher from Brown's Town Infant School, was a part of an over 50-teacher search party on Tuesday, September 21 making efforts to locate Ruchelle. The group included teachers from Marcus Garvey High School, the police, as well as the missing teacher's family and friends.
“When persons go missing you know the end result is normally not pleasant. And when the last teacher [Nattalie Dawkins] was missing it broke our hearts when she was found dead,” said Gordon.
Nattalie Dawkins, 44, a teacher of Four Paths Primary and Junior High School in Clarendon, went missing on Tuesday, March 30. Her body was found in an advanced state of decomposition in a shallow grave in Sandy Bay, Clarendon, on Thursday, April 8.
Eladio Goulbourne, 20, of Sandy Bay district, and 19-year-old Mario Headley of Palmer's Cross, were charged with the abduction and murder of Dawkins, after they reportedly confessed to the crimes.
“I've never had anybody missing, but I can imagine how her family is feeling. And it takes more than just a family to go searching. The family is not enough. You need the entire community to search and it's good to know that we as a teaching body can participate in this effort to find her. And we really hope that we find her alive,” added Gordon.
Another teacher from the area, Sheryl Russell Brown, said they were out as early as 8:30 am.
“We started gathering at 7:00 am, but the groups dispatched about 8:30. We were dispatched to different locations in the area on a search to get any information in hopes that we will be able to locate our fellow colleague. We get funding from the union, get funding from business places in and around the area, [who] came together and gave us copies of the flyers.”
Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Ruchelle Williams is asked to contact the Brown's Town police at 876-602-2563, police 119 emergency number, or the nearest police station.