After six years, Rita Janelle Papakee is still missing

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MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT, Iowa (KCRG) -Saturday marked six years since Rita Janelle Papakee went missing.

Papakee, at the time 41-years-old and a mother of four, was last seen leaving the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel near Tama on January 16, 2015 and has not been heard from since.

Her family reported her missing to the Meskwaki Nation Police in Tama on February 18, 2015 after she did not pick up her paycheck.

After her disappearance, police initially believed she may have gone to Des Moines or the Cedar Rapids area, but this has never been confirmed.

It has been reported that Papakee was an alcoholic, had a history of drug abuse and “sometimes dropped out of sight for as long as a couple of months at at time,” but that “she never completely lost touch with her four children and she has never been gone for this long,” and that “her mother said she’s heard rumors that she was the victim of sex trafficking.”

Papakee was 41-years-old at the time of her disappearance and is described as a 5′3 tall, Native American, weighed between 145 and 200 pounds, and had long brown hair and brown eyes.

Reward increased for information leading to missing woman, Rita Papakee.
Reward increased for information leading to missing woman, Rita Papakee.(Meskwaki Nation)

In July 2020, the reward for information leading to her whereabouts was increased to $75,000.

Reward increased for information leading to missing woman, Rita Papakee.
Reward increased for information leading to missing woman, Rita Papakee.(Meskwaki Nation)

Papakee was a registered member of the Meskwaki Indian Nation and her disappearance has been another example of the startling statistics and issues surrounding missing and murdered Indigenous women in North America.

An undated photo of Rita Papakee, featured on a missing person flyer pictured on July 12, 2020.
An undated photo of Rita Papakee, featured on a missing person flyer pictured on July 12, 2020.(Mary Green/KCRG)

The investigation is still ongoing. Numerous extensive searches of areas in Iowa have taken place in the course of the investigation into her disappearance and DNA samples have been submitted and tested as well.

Anyone with information on where Papakee might be or have information leading directly to her whereabouts, please contact Det. Kimberly Schwartz at the Meskwaki Nation Police Department at (641) 484-4844, the Tip Line at (641) 484-5400, or the Tama County Dispatch at (641) 484-3760.

(Courtesy: Meskwaki Nation)
(Courtesy: Meskwaki Nation)(KCRG)

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