It’s been nine months since 19-year-old Ruthey Smith went missing in Los Angeles, leaving her family in Long Beach searching each day for any little bit of information that may bring her back home.
Smith, a North Long Beach resident, had been working in prostitution for some time as a way to make it out on her own and provide for her daughter, her family says, when she went missing on March 2. She was last seen in the area of Figueroa and 70th streets, an area in South Los Angeles commonly targeted by authorities for its human trafficking and prostitution operations.
Smith was born in San Pedro and raised in Long Beach, where she was homeschooled out of Jordan High School, her family said. Growing up, she was a huge One Direction fan and ally for the LGBTQ community, her family recalled.
When she became a teen mom at 16, “everything was focused on her daughter,” Smith’s aunt, 33-year-old Amanda Lourenco, told the Post. “Her whole world revolved around her.”
But Smith needed financial help, Lourenco said, which led her to a new group of friends that introduced her to sex work. Lourenco said Smith was soon going out to work along Long Beach Boulevard in North Long Beach, where residents say prostitution is prevalent.
On Christmas Day in 2021, Smith showed up late and “messed up” to her family’s home, where she admitted to working in prostitution, Lourenco said.
Eventually, her family held an intervention for Smith and turned to Gems Uncovered, a nonprofit in Long Beach that provides prevention and aftercare to all individuals who have been affected by sexual exploitation.
“She didn’t get help in time,” according to Lourenco, who described her niece as a “teenager that ended up on the wrong road.”
Days before going missing, Smith told her parents that she didn’t want to go out to work anymore and that she had a feeling she would be abducted, but she went anyway, Lourenco said.
With her family fearing the worst when Smith didn’t come home, they went to the Los Angeles Police Department, who, according to Lourenco, refused to take a police report for a week. (The LAPD did not respond to a request for comment.)
So the family turned to the Long Beach Police Department, who, months later, confirmed to them that Smith may have been abducted.
Although it’s been months since Smith’s family was last given any sort of information about her whereabouts, they refuse to give up on their search.
Lourenco often drives along Long Beach Boulevard in North Long Beach, hoping to see her niece again.
During the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade, Smith’s family handed out dozens of flyers with information about her disappearance.
They’ve also set up a GoFundMe to raise money to hire a private investigator in hopes they can help find Smith.
Smith is 5 feet 6 inches, weighs about 125 pounds and has multiple tattoos. She was last seen wearing a light colored jacket, black sandals and a black purse. She also goes by the names Winter or Grayson, her family said.
Police ask anyone with information to call Detective Gabriel Garrido with the LBPD Missing Persons Detail at 562-570-7246 or Police Dispatch at 562-435-6711. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or lacrimestoppers.org.