A local mother who spent 31 years searching for her son in one of Colorado Springs' most famous missing person cases has died without answers.
Bernice Abeyta, 73, lost her battle with gallbladder cancer Sunday. She had spent her life searching for her son, Christopher, who was snatched from his crib in 1986 when he was 7 months old.
He has never been found.
His disappearance left "a hole in her heart that was never filled," family wrote Monday on a Facebook page that shares information about Christopher's disappearance. "She never stopped searching for her son."
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to a GoFundMe account created to help fund the family's search for Christopher. The account was created in 2014 but has continued to receive more than $5,000 in donations over the years.
Bernice Abeyta was known for traveling the U.S. vetting tips that came in about her son. Family previously recounted instances in which the dedicated mother reached a person thought to be her son before police arrived. It was not Christopher, family said.
Christopher's father, Gil Abeyta survives to continue the search, along with six siblings.
After years without a suspect in the kidnapping, police said this year a person of interest has been identified.
Colorado Springs Police Lt. Howard Black said a detective who took the stand in a civil hearing did say a person of interest had been identified. Black declined to name the person.
There remains a $100,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest. An age progression photo being circulated shows what Christopher would look like today at age 31.
Family long suspected Gil Abeyta's mistress was responsible for the youngest child of seven's disappearance. Emma Bradshaw later sued the family for defamation and was awarded $155,000 in damages in 2015.
Bernice also was heavily vetted after she failed two polygraph tests following her son's disappearance. She said prescription drugs were to blame.
She didn't let the allegations stop her from searching, family said on Facebook.
In a post from January, the family spoke directly to Christopher, who they hoped in recent years would find them. Directions for those thinking they may be the missing sibling said DNA for both his parents is on file and will match "if you are our Chris," the post said.
Gil Abeyta's DNA is 32 percent Native American and 55 percent European. Bernice Abeyta's is Scandinavian and British, the post said.
Despite the family's tragedy and the toll searching for Christopher took on her, Bernice Abeyta never failed to put positivity back into the world, the family said in announcing her death.
"The beauty of Bernice was she displayed such love for those around her despite the pain she carried every day," the post said. "She was a loving, kind, courageous woman and will be missed terribly."
The family did not immediately respond to The Gazette's requests for comment.
A celebration of life memorial for Bernice is scheduled for Feb. 18, according to Gazette news partners KKTV. Details about the service were not immediately available.
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