December 1, 2021
A missing Silver Spring baby has been found after an organization called the Black and Missing Foundation shared a photo of her with her father – and a woman was able to identify the pair all the way in New York.
One-year-old Ziona Amaya disappeared from Montgomery County on Sunday along with her mother. When her mother was found safe on Tuesday, police said Ziona was probably with her father, 28-year-old Cornelius Smith, who did not have custody of her.
News4 learned that Smith was placed on tier 3 – the most serious level – of Maryland’s sex offender registry, after a 2014 conviction and prison sentence for attempted sexual abuse of a minor.
Authorities noted that her family was concerned for her welfare, and that Smith might have been using public transportation to get himself and the baby around the D.C. area. But it was an alert from a Black and Missing supporter, hundreds of miles away in New York City, who helped locate Ziona.
Derrica Wilson, a Prince George’s County resident, co-founded the organization with her sister, Natalie. Their nearly 2,000 social media followers shared a post on Sunday about the child’s disappearance.
Wilson said the foundation’s 14 years of bringing attention to the disappearance of Black women and children have created a dedicated community.
“It also shows the power of the people. When we all come together, it is a collaboration. Law enforcement putting out this press release, social media and then our community just being involved, being vigilant,” she said.
And vigilant they were. A woman on the subway in New York was so convinced that the man and baby sitting near her were Ziona and her father that she took a picture with her cellphone and called Montgomery County police.
Police confirmed that her tip helped them locate the two with the assistance of authorities in New York.
Photo credit: NBC Washington