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Mother's search for daughter continues

(ran PC edition)

Jeanine Rodriguez Hicks remembers exactly what she was doing at 4 p.m., Oct. 31, 1985.

She was waiting for her estranged husband, G.R. Rodriguez, who shared custody of their 2-year-old daughter, to return her that afternoon.

She's still waiting.

Instead of seeing Rodriguez's car pull into her driveway with Jeanice, she said, she saw his parents' car pull up about 6 p.m.

They were alone.

Hicks said they handed her a letter from Rodriguez that read, "By the time you read this I'll be out of state."

That was the last Hicks heard from Rodriguez. She said a few days later he called her mother collect to say the baby was fine. A telephone bill received 27 days later indicated the call was placed from a small town in Georgia, Hicks said.

Rodriguez's father, Gregorio Rodriguez, said he does not remember delivering a letter to Hicks the day his son left, nor does he know where his son is.

"We have suffered, we have gone through hell," said Rodriguez, who says his son fled with the baby because he was treated unfairly by law enforcement and by the court system and because, at the time, Hicks was an unfit mother.

According to the elder Rodriguez, who lives in Odessa in Pasco County, Hicks was given custody of Jeanice in a hearing during which neither his son nor his son's lawyer was present. He said Rodriguez fled after learning of the court's decision.

"What they did was against the law," Rodriguez said. "They made a bad man out of a good man."

Hicks, who lives in Citrus Park, contends there was a mixup in communication and the hearing was to have been rescheduled.

Over the years, Hicks, 36, has stayed in touch with various FBI agents assigned to the case while also following up on any leads that have come her way, though they haven't panned out.

Hicks fears time may be running out. She believes if she does not find Jeanice, or at least get a solid lead, while her daughter is still in school, her chances of succeeding will be greatly diminished. She wants to find her daughter so they can at least know one another.

Hicks asks anyone with pictures of Rodriguez between the ages of 13 and 18 to send them so she can give them to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Officials there can use the parents' photos to give them an idea of how Jeanice might look now.

Hicks said the photos can be sent to P.O. Box 574, Odessa FL 33556.

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