16-year-old described as shy, artistic, caring
WINSTED â€” Friends and family members of missing Winsted 16-year-old girl Rhiannon Smith described the youngster as a smart, artistic and caring young high-schooler who could be shy and quirky. She also had problems at times being teased and harassed by her peers.
â€œRhiannon has an amazing imagination, and had a lot of trouble separating imagination from reality, which really worries us,â€ said her grandmother, Dale Smith. â€œShe is so artistically talented, a wonderful singer, writer and artist. She is a beautiful person. She marches to the beat of a different drum, and she always will. We will always love her for that.â€
Rhiannon reportedly has an exceptional personality, especially considering all that she has gone through in her life. Her parents separated right after she was born, and her mother, Susan B. Dean, with whom Rhiannon was very close, died when Rhiannon was 10 years old, on Aug. 31, 2004.
Rhiannon went to live with her stepfather for a short time, attending middle school in Torrington before moving in full time with her maternal grandmother and step-grandfather, Brian Brunell, in Winsted.
â€œRhiannon dreaded going to school. She was tormented by kids in Torrington and even more at The Gilbert School. We didnâ€™t know to what extreme it was, but she was bullied by other kids constantly,â€ Smith said. Rhiannon is fairly shy, but made friends online with ease and felt comfortable being who she wanted to be behind a computer screen, Smith said.
Smith explained, â€œRhiannon was tormented in school by bullies or people making fun of her, but now she is being tormented and bullied by the silence.â€
With Winchester police treating Rhiannonâ€™s case as one of a runaway, the AMBER Alert system has not been used, while state and federal investigators have passed on the case, saying there is no conclusive evidence Rhiannon has left Winsted. Police have acknowledged that Rhiannon â€œappears to be suffering from some delusionary thoughts and that she references vampires and being a wolf in some of her e-mail messages.â€
An ongoing Winsted Journal investigation has uncovered numerous acquaintances of Rhiannon, many of whom have yet to be found and identified. Based on an examination of Rhiannonâ€™s e-mails, some friends acknowledge Rhiannon may be with Jeffrey Woods of Alabama â€” the online friend nicknamed â€œMax.â€
Interviewed by The Winsted Journal, Joey Schneider and his best friend, Shawn Ferree, both agreed Rhiannon may very well be with Woods.
Ferree explained, â€œJoey and I met Rhiannon online through our group, the â€˜Kura Killers,â€™ which is a volunteer group we started on the side to help people out who were being bullied online, had people hacking into their accounts or needed help in life. Rhiannon contacted us seeking help for Woods.
â€œWoods had been staying with Rhiannonâ€™s family in Connecticut but had to leave and had nowhere to go, so Rhiannon introduced us to Woods in hopes we could set him up with a place to live, and we did, we helped him for as long as we could in Florida before he went back to Alabama and we had heard he had died from Rhiannon.â€
Police have since confirmed that Jeffrey Woods is not dead.
Ferree continued, â€œJeff and Rhiannon were lovers, and now that I know he is alive I think they wanted to run away and start a life together. Whether or not Jeffâ€™s intentions were known to Rhiannon I donâ€™t know, but I believe Rhiannon is with Jeff.â€
Ferree described Woods as being close to 6 feet tall, muscular, with blond hair and part Native American. His parents adopted him in Alabama but kicked him out of their home when he was 18.
Said Ferree, â€œWhen he was in Florida with us, his Native American ID card was close to expiring. I donâ€™t know if he got it renewed.â€
Accepted into The Hartford Academy of Performing Arts in ninth grade for her talent in dancing, music, writing and drawing, Rhiannon had flourished artistically in recent years. Beyond her artistic talents, she is an extremely giving and protective person, her grandmother said Sunday afternoon.
â€œRhiannon is such a special girl, so protective of the people she loves. In the winter time she would always watch out for people walking on the frozen lake and would run out and try to save anyone who got into trouble or would warn people if she thought the ice wasnâ€™t safe. Sheâ€™s amazing. She wouldnâ€™t hurt a fly. Even though she is terrified of and hates bugs, whenever she would find one sheâ€™d capture it in a jar and leave it outside her bedroom door for Papa to put outside.â€
In diaries and various journals and notes, Rhiannon would write about herself: â€œI love all animals, I love to read, I love to sing, I love to dance, I hate being the same as everyone else, I LOVE Halloween, I love nature, I love to draw.â€ Her room is covered with posters, figures, pictures and decorations of wolves and other animals. In one of her requests in a letter to Santa a few years ago, she asks for â€œa book on REAL magic so I can stop war because it is killing a lot of people and I want to stop all the pain, like Goddess Athena.â€