The last words Robin Burton spoke to her mother were to offer her a warning; if her mother left home again – this time abandoning her grandmother – Burton would never speak to her again.
That conversation took place in December 1994. Burton’s mother, Cloudia Leslie Wells, was taking care of her mother, the woman who had raised Burton. In January 1995, Burton’s grandmother was found alone at the Maryville home she shared with Wells. It was estimated that she had been alone for two days, unable to care for herself.
Burton, who was 23 at the time, made the threat before she found out that her mom is paranoid schizophrenic. The hate and resentment Burton felt toward her mom turned to love after Burton found out about her mom’s mental illness and did some research on the topic, Burton said.
Wells gave birth to Burton when she was 17. Two years later, Wells’ parents adopted Burton and raised her in Collinsville – although Burton’s grandfather died when she was 8 years old.
A pattern soon developed between the family and Wells. She would leave for a year or two at a time, never telling anyone where she was going. The family would find a car that she owned or had borrowed at Lambert International Airport. When Wells returned to her parents and daughter, she would act as though nothing had happened, Burton said.
While home, Wells sometimes underwent shock therapy in an attempt to treat her illness, Burton said. Wells would typically return home around Christmas and leave in February, just before Burton’s birthday.
When Burton was young, the family could always get in contact with a man in Arizona named Adrian Morgan, who would let them know Wells was safe. After Morgan passed away, the family was left without that support.
Wells’ history of leaving and returning meant that the family did not immediately report her missing in 1995. In fact, the family first filed a report more than 10 years later.
Although Burton reported her mom missing to the Maryville Police, because that is where she last saw her, Wells is listed nationally as missing from San Diego. The Maryville Police department took Burton’s statement, but never filed a missing person report, Burton said, because they did not have enough information.
Burton found years later that her mother was not reported missing from Maryville when she was contacted by an online talk show to do a show about her mother. When asked, she could not produce a National Crime Information Center number for her mom. The NCIC is part of the FBI and numbers are assigned to cases entered into the system.
The family then found someone with the name Leslie Cloudia Wells listed on NamUs, the National Missing Person’s Database. Despite the first and last name being transposed, and no picture of the woman on the website, the family was confident it was Wells. After contacting the San Diego Police, who had reported Wells missing, the family was able to view a picture and confirm it was her.
Wells official missing person report indicates that she was last seen in 1998 leaving a YWCA to go to the Veteran’s Administration hospital to get medicine. She had two dollars and bus tokens on her person when she was last seen.
When Burton was 7 years old, she was taken out of her elementary school classroom by military police looking for her mother, who had gone AWOL from the Army. Wells, however, did not enlist in the Army as herself. The person the MPs thought they were looking for was Janet, Wells sister, whose name she had used to sign up for the Army. Therefore, Wells destination when she left that San Diego YWCA may not have been the VA hospital.
In 2010, Burton and an aunt had given up hope that they would find Wells alive. Over Thanksgiving, plans were made to have a memorial service in the spring. Not ready to give up, Burton continued the search when she returned home. A few months later, while searching for her mother on the internet, she found signs that Wells may have lived in Columbia, Mo. in 1998.
The Columbia Police Department told Burton that her mother had electricity in her name for six months. Burton was later able to determine that Wells, who worked at a toaster factory in Columbia, had made her way to Missouri after leaving San Diego in 1998.
Last known location
Wells, who grew up in State Park Place, was last reported in a recreation vehicle park in Gulf Shores, Ala. in 2001. She was registered under the name Cloudia Carrick, Burton said.
Carrick is one of several last names Wells uses, including Capp and Abbott. Known to her family as Leslie, Wells has been known to use that as her first name, as well as Elizabeth, Liz, Maria, Leslie, Candy and Candace, Burton said.
Carrick is the surname of one of Wells at least four husbands, although Burton said she could find no record of the marriage. An old friend of her mother’s said Wells never returned the marriage license, so she was never legally married to Art Carrick.
Burton stops here to say again that she hopes people do not judge her mother too harshly.
“She is very, very sick,” Burton said. “She is also very intelligent.”
A team of volunteer investigators have come on board with Burton’s search in the past few years. They have traced Wells to locations all over the country.
Wells married a man named Kenneth Capp in Texas. When Burton contacted him, he said Wells had left one day without a trace.
“I just thought she got tired of raising my daughters,” Burton said Capp told her.
A person named Maria Garcia, of Kansas City, died of cancer in 2005. Wells had re-arranged some numbers in her Social Security Number so that it now matched Garcia’s SSN. Burton was contacted when Garcia died and told it was her mother, only to later find out it was a mistake.
Burton said a person who is well known in the missing person world invited her to be a guest on her online talk show, but cancelled the day before because she had found Wells. The host wove an elaborate tell about her mother’s location and why she could not disclose it, except to the police, Burton said. The whole thing turned out to be a cruel hoax, Burton said.
After many dead ends, Nashville, Tenn. psychic Gale Carrier has volunteered to help.
“What do I have to lose, I’ve already been told that she’s dead, I’ve been told she is places she is not,” Burton said.
Carrier believes Wells is in Arizona, does not hear well and mumbles. A place named Hernandez means something in the case, Carrier said, and Wells spends her time with groups of people, possibly moving between California and Arizona.
A man with a military background, from Illinois or Missouri, Carrier said, will have information that will lead Burton to her mother. One of the investigators working with Burton lives in Chicago and has a military background.
Although it has been eight years of heartache, Burton still attacks the search for her mother with enthusiasm, regularly updating a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cloudialesliew?fref=ts) she created to aid in the search. Burton moved back to the Collinsville area from Alabama in 2011 after it appeared her mother may have been spending time near her home town.
Now hoping to raise enough money to travel to Arizona to pursue Carrier’s lead, Burton started a gofundme campaign (http://www.gofundme.com/fyol9w). If she only gets enough money to create a few flyers, Burton said she will not be upset.
“Even if I don’t get the money, that’s OK, it’s just not my time,” Burton said. “When it is, it will come. I’m not going to give up, I’m not going to quit searching.”
Cloudia Leslie Wells was born on Aug. 10, 1953. She is 61 years old.