Angel Antonio Torres has been missing since May 1999.

Angel Antonio Torres has been missing since May 1999.

AUGUSTA — It’s been nearly 17 years since Ramona Torres’ son, Angel, was last seen in the Biddeford area.

Angel Antonio Torres, known to friends as “Tony,” was a college student when he was reported missing on May 24, 1999. According to the Maine State Police missing persons listing online, foul play is suspected.

Romana Torres still cries when she thinks about her missing son.

“It’s very hard,” the Denmark, Maine, resident said in a phone interview this morning. “Some days are better than others.”

At a press conference in Augusta Tuesday, Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, and state Rep. Karl Ward, R-Dedham, met with Torres and other family members of unsolved missing person and homicide cases to discuss the next steps toward solving such cases.

Last year, Valentino sponsored legislation that created a new unsolved homicide unit. The Attorney General’s office has hired two detectives for the unit, and is working to fill a victim’s advocate position as well as establish new policies to govern the unit’s operation.

“We met with families today to listen and to learn. What we heard was clear: We made progress last year with the ‘cold case squad’ bill and we’re in a better position now than we were last year,” said Valentino in a written statement. “The Attorney General’s Office has worked hard to create and staff this new unit, but the families of victims still have unmet needs.”

Valentino has announced she will submit legislation that would address two concerns brought up by families of those with unsolved cases, according to the press release.

One bill she is proposing would allow for the release of information that would not be damaging to an ongoing criminal investigation. Many of the families would like to enlist private investigators or media outlets to advance their cases, but don’t have access to information in sealed cold-case files.

Valentino is also proposing another bill that would examine the current two-year statute of limitations for civil lawsuits to be filed related to an unsolved homicide. This would give families more time to build a case, according to the press release.

Torres said that last summer, a media company wanted to feature her son’s story on a documentary regarding unsolved cases. It never came to fruition, because the private investigators hired did not have access to the information they needed, she said.

This was discouraging to Torres, who was hoping the investigator’s work could answer some questions regarding her son’s disappearance. Torres said there’s been a lack of communication from police over the years.

At this point, she believes Angel is dead, but she would like his remains to be found so the family can give him a proper burial.

Torres believes Valentino and Ward are working hard to address the concerns of her family and others in similar situations. She hopes they can move forward with legislation that will help them get the answers they deserve.

“It’s a broken system,” she said. “We are trying to fix it.”

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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