MISSOULA — Following the death of Gabby Petito several weeks ago, many people are calling for more media coverage on other missing people. Here in Montana, it's estimated that Native Americans are four times more likely to be reported missing, according to the state Missing and Murdered Indigenous People's database.
Kimberly Loring, whose sister Ashley Loring HeavyRunner has been missing for more than four years, was a key in creating that database and coordinating law enforcement resources. Ashley disappeared from Browning in 2017 when she was 20 years old.
MTN News talked with Kimberly as the new season of a podcast called Up And Vanished is shining a spotlight on her missing sister's case.
“We need to come together; our missing are important. They are not just a picture on a flyer, they are sisters or brothers, they are meant to be home with us,” Kimberly said.
She says it took effort from the family to get Ashley’s story in the news. "It took Ashley a very long time to be actually be seen by the media."
So the family conducted their own searches. “It was very traumatic. I was very numb at the time. We were searching in the forest, and I was yelling her name, expecting her to be like ‘I’m right here’,” Kimberly recalled.
That was four years ago: "It was very extremely hard. It was very hard,” Kimberly told MTN News. She then took her efforts to social media.
“It wasn’t until I got on Facebook and started posting, and making sure everyone around in the town -- and people that I know, know. And people that care and love for her knew, and they were able to share that.”
Ashley’s whereabouts are still unknown and as the search continues - the family is still looking for answers. But now a new form of media is sharing Ashley’s story -- to anyone that will listen.
“I hope at the end of the day, there is more coverage of her story,” said podcast host Payne Lindsey. “I hope that the podcast keeps her story in the spotlight, and encourages other people to talk about it," Lindsey told MTN News.
Lindsey says he wants to solve Ashley’s case and draw attention to the thousands of other Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) in America.
National attention has been brought to Ashley’s story in recent years and Kimberly says after all this time, she hopes to eventually gain some closure.
“To have Ashley would be to have my life back. I know it wouldn’t be back to normal, but it would be a piece of me that is not lost looking for her. My family and I — we have changed throughout these past four years, just losing who we are because of such a hard part we have to deal with -- somebody so big in our family, Ashley -- a piece of our heart is missing. To have that answered, and to be able to know, to have Ashley back it would mean the world to us," said Kimberly.
The investigation into Ashley's disappearance continues, and the FBI asks anyone with information to contact the Salt Lake City FBI office at 801-579-1400 or 1-800-CALL-FBI. Tips in the case can also be submitted online here.