Martha Ryce, who helped her family advocate for missing children and crime victims after the murder of her 9-year-old brother Jimmy, has died at age 35.
Ryce took her own life in Atlanta on Dec. 30. Her death is another tragic blow for a family already beset by heartbreak.
The family was living in the Redland when Jimmy disappeared Sept. 11, 1995, near his school-bus stop. The Ryces and volunteers spent three months frantically searching before Miami-Dade police found his dismembered remains in a nearby avocado grove.
A 28-year-old farmhand, Juan Carlos Chavez, was convicted of raping and shooting the boy.
Then in January 2009, Claudine Ryce Jimmys mother and Marthas stepmother died of an apparent heart attack.
She and her husband, labor lawyer Don Ryce, created a foundation in her sons name, helping schools develop stranger-danger programs, donating tracking bloodhounds to police departments, supporting the parents of abducted children, and pushing for anti-predator legislation.
The 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act allows the state to indefinitely detain violent sexual predators who have finished their sentences under civil law until they can prove they are rehabilitated.
Like her stepmother, Martha Ryce wanted to see Chavez brought to justice for Jimmys murder. Chavez is still on Death Row awaiting appeals.
It weighed heavily on her recently, Don Ryce said of his daughter.
Martha Ryce was born March 15, 1977. She was 18 when Jimmy was kidnapped. She was a tremendous source of strength during the difficult time, Don Ryce said Monday, adding: She was a special woman.
She appeared on the familys behalf for Florida Missing Childrens Day, and later helped the U.S. Department of Justice make a video and informational booklet designed at helping siblings of abducted children cope with the tragedies.
The 2007 project, titled Why Me? discussed everything from dealing with the media to law enforcement in the house to coping on holidays.
Our family went through a dizzying rollercoaster ride of emotions with the media, law enforcement, family, friends and the community all helping us to search for him, Martha Ryce wrote in the booklet.
Helping write this guide and connecting with other siblings who have gone through the same thing helped me tremendously. I felt normal and as if an enormous weight had been lifted off me.
Ryce went on to study in Chile as part of an exchange program, and later graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. She worked at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta and most recently worked at a spa in Miami before moving back last month to Georgia, friends said.
They recalled Ryce as an avid runner with a fondness for animals, chocolate and dancing.
She was very sweet, very nice and kind, said Genevieve Etkin of Atlanta. She genuinely cared about what was going in your life and that always came across.