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Aug 31, 2011

Memorial service for missing Rash Siblings

Benjamin & Onelia Rash

Two children of school age disappeared mysteriously a year ago in the south when they left the safety of their homes to sell fruit to raise money for school supplies. The pain over the missing siblings, Benjamin and Onelia Rash, is still fresh in the minds of their family and community in San Marcos, Toledo. News Five’s Isani Cayetano covered their story last year and was back in the area on Tuesday when a service was held on the anniversary of their disappearance.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The mysterious disappearance of a brother and sister duo on the outskirts of Punta Gorda Town a year ago remains unexplained amidst the many theories that have been formulated in the wake of their departure.  What was, for eleven year old Benjamin and his sister Onelia, to have been a routine trip selling craboos and lime instead turned out to be a massive manhunt, complete with a lynch mob torching a million dollar investment.  The burning down of the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary, belonging to Vincent and Cherie Rose, was the result of a militia acting on the advice of a fortune teller who predicted that the children had been abducted and used as feed for the crocs.

Domingo Rash

On the morning of August thirtieth the pair caught a bus here at the junction of the Southern Highway near the entrance to San Marcos Village.  The last person to see them was their uncle Domingo Rash.

Domingo Rash, Uncle of Missing Children [File: September 7th, 2010]

“When I reach the junction of San Marcos Village we all boarded the Cocs bus from San Antonio together.  We went ahead, were on our way, while reaching Cattle Landing the two children onboard the bus [near] the area where the mechanic man has piled the vehicles there.  They had onboard the bus just about five meters from that area.  I had get off of the bus also.  I see when those pickney, those two children went and they made their way to sell what they have to sell.”

The exact location where they were last seen together in this satellite community a few minutes outside of town is being enshrined in their honor.  A year has passed, no stones have been unturned, yet they remain at large.

Pedro Rash, Father of Missing Children

Pedro Rash

“I dont know what exactly happened, you know, but to my idea, to my knowledge maybe someone told them [that they would] give them a ride or to go for a couple days or hours along somewhere, you know.  But, at the end of the day, maybe it was a wrong idea, you know.”

Whatever the proposition was, whether or not they were forcibly taken, was indeed a bad one.  It’s a tough loss for the family, especially their mother Louisa who is still visibly distraught from the incident.  On her face lies the bare emotion as she stares pensively towards the unknown.  Coming to terms with what has happened proves equally difficult for both parents.

Pedro Rash

“I know its the devils work.  We cant help that.  That is what the bible tells us.  Its the last days, you know, critical times you know.  Its the last days because theres too much evil, you know, bad mind.  We have to expect this, according to the bible, thats what the bible says, you know, we have to expect this.  But I think I am in a test because I mostly concentrate on the bible, that maybe Satan is around, you know, to try to discourage me.”

The challenge they currently face has only strengthened their resolve.  The family has since been reduced to six members but it remains deeply rooted in spirituality.

Isani Cayetano

“A small gathering, representing the wider Mayan community, has congregated at the site where siblings Benjamin and Onelia Rash were last seen a year ago to date.  The pair had set out to Cattle Landing and Hopeville to sell local produce.  Despite all subsequent efforts to locate them they have not been seen or heard from since.”

It’s a somber memorial, a collection of friends, family and well-wishers assembled to celebrate the lives of the missing children who ventured twelve miles outside of San Marcos in an attempt to earn a few dollars in preparation for the 2010 school year.  Today their uniforms are propped before a monument being unveiled in their honor.  The shrine mirrors a permanent tabernacle within their thatch abode back in the village.

Pedro Rash

“The older one he knows exactly what happened because I have one of my sons who is seventeen years [old] but the [other] three, well they dont know much, especially the young one that is two years [old].  He doesnt know where they are.  All that he can say is that they are on the table, you know.  I have pictures [of them on the table] thats the only thing he knows where they are but he doesnt know exactly where they are til maybe later on when they get bigger I will tell them, you know.”

Louisa Rash

A year ago Louisa made an impassioned plea for the safe return of her children.  It still resonates loudly among members of the community who remain optimistic that Ben and Onelia are still alive.

Louisa Rash, Mother of Missing Children [File: September 7th, 2010]

“I want them to come back home because Im not feeling good without them.  If anybody saw them or where they are they could please call the police and send them back home.”

Following the events that occurred in the aftermath of the children’s disappearance ACES has since been abandoned.  Its owners, the Roses, have transferred their crocodile rescue operations to San Pedro and a reward of over twelve thousand dollars has been posted for information on Ben and Onelia‘s whereabouts. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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