January 23, 2014 10:37:22 AM
ARTESIA -- Kenny Peoples sat in the living room of his Artesia home Wednesday afternoon wiping tears from his eyes. He didn't want his children to see him crying. His wife, Shondra Rice, has been missing since Monday morning and Peoples has yet to tell their two children their mother has disappeared.
Before talking about his wife, he tells his children, 10-year-old Kenya and 8-year-old Caleb, to leave the room.
"I know I have to tell them but I don't know how," Peoples said.
Peoples said Rice, who celebrated her 40th birthday on Jan. 5, left the couple's home Monday morning and told him she would "be right back." Three days later, no one has heard from her.
Her cell phone, which was turned off with calls going straight to voice mail Monday and Tuesday, has since been turned back on.
Despite numerous calls made by her husband, family, friends and law enforcement, the phone goes unanswered.
"I'm trying to stay positive but I'm real worried," Peoples said. "If you knew her, you would know she wouldn't just disappear. She wouldn't leave her kids."
Rice's mother, Linda Malone, described her daughter as a kind, giving person and a great mother.
"She would give you the shirt off of her back," Malone said. "And she loves those kids."
Rice visited her mother the day before she disappeared. Family members said Rice was worried about an upcoming elective surgery later this month but was in good spirits.
"She wanted the surgery. She was scared, but we don't think it would be enough for her to leave," said her sister, Tonya Malone. "We don't know what happened."
The Lowndes County Sheriff's Department is conducting the investigation. Investigator Ryan Rickert said his office is currently looking at Rice's credit card records and cell phone history for clues.
"We're still waiting on records to come back," Rickert said. "We're trying to track her through her credit cards and her cell phone."
Rickert added that Peoples is not considered a suspect in Rice's disappearance.
Rice has been entered into the National Crime Information Center as a missing person. Rice is described as a black female about 5-feet, 5- inches tall and weighing approximately 200 pounds. She was last seen wearing blue sweat pants and a red pullover T-shirt, according to scanner traffic. She is driving a beige GMC Envoy with the Mississippi license plate LTY 076.
Linda Malone said she is desperate to know what happened to her daughter.
"We just want to know she's safe," she said. "We can work out the rest. We just want to know she's safe."
Anyone with information regarding Rice's disappearance is asked to call 911 or the sheriff's department at 662-328-1136.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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