3-month-old Jacqueline Vasquez was kidnapped outside a port-potty at a swap meet in Avondale, Arizona, on the morning of May 6, 2001.
According to investigators, Olivia Castaneda, then 18, arrived at the crowded swap meet with her daughters Jacqueline and two-year-old Niely. Before meeting-up with her mom, who had a booth there, Castaneda took Niely to use a portable restroom. But because the stall was too small, Castaneda left Jacqueline outside in her baby carrier. When she exited the stall, Jacqueline was gone.
At first, she thought maybe her mother had picked up Jacqueline but immediately panicked when she saw her sitting alone at her booth. The women scoured the area for about 20 minutes before calling 911.
Avondale Police sealed off the swap meet and searched all vehicles, but to no avail. Witnesses told investigators they noticed a woman loitering around the porta-potties. Police released two composite sketches of the person of interest, but the case remains open.
It's possible that Jacqueline was kidnapped by someone desperate for a baby. There's a good chance that she is still alive and unaware of her true identity. Jacqueline has a heart-shaped birthmark on her upper right arm. If you have information about this case, contact Avondale Police Department at 623-333-7001
Sofia Lucerno Juarez
Sofia Juarez vanished on the evening of Feb. 4, 2003, a day before her fifth birthday. Her case involved the first use of an Amber Alert in the state of Washington.
According to initial reports, Sofia, her mother, and other relatives were at their Kennewick, WA., home when the four-year-old somehow managed to exit the property without anyone noticing. The family thought that perhaps Sofia had followed her grandmother's partner, who also lived at the house and had gone to a convenience store earlier in the evening, but he told the family that he never saw Sofia. Fearing the worst, the girl's mother called 911.
Based on information from a witness, investigators believe Sofia was kidnapped as she walked westbound in the 100 block of E. 15th Avenue, just a short distance from the family's home. The witness learned about Sofia's disappearance on the news and contacted the police claiming to have seen a little girl matching Sofia's description being led away by a Hispanic boy between 11-14 years old. The witness told investigators that the girl was crying while the teen laughed as he walked her near an occupied van parked on the next street.
Although investigators had the witness information since 2003, they didn't release the details about the possible suspect or vehicle to the public until 2021. Sadly, Sofia's mother died of natural causes in 2009 and without ever knowing what happened to her daughter. The family believes she died of a broken heart.
In regards to a viral TikTok video by creator Aka y Alla who interviewed a 23-year-old woman in Culiacan, Mexico, whom many suspected looked like a grown Sofia, police say DNA test results rule her out.
The van was described as a light blue or gray 1970s or early 1980s full-sized panel type van with no side windows. The teen boy would now be between 29-32 years old. If you have information about Sofia, call Kennewick Police Department special investigator Al Wehner at 509-582-1331 or 1-509-585-4208.
Suzanne "Suzie" Escobedo
Suzie Escobedo lived with her husband Cris Escobedo and their four-month-old child in a trailer home near Seadrift, in Calhoun County, Texas. That is where the 25-year-old was last seen on August 2, 2018.
According to published reports, Cris Escobedo reported Suzie missing that evening. He told investigators and her family that when he got home from work around 7 p.m., his four-month-old daughter was there, but Suzie was nowhere to be found. According to investigators, her phone, purse and vehicle were left behind. A widespread search for the mother of two turned up empty. Suzie's family doesn't believe she ran away.
Suzie's sister went to the couple's trailer that evening and noticed there was blood on the carpet in their bedroom. The family believes that something happened to Suzie in the home. They share details about the case in a video titled Unidos por Suzie or United for Suzie. The Texas Rangers and Calhoun Sheriff's Department suspect foul play but have not named any person of interest in Suzie's disappearance.
In May 2021, Suzie's family suffered another tragedy when her 21-year-old brother passed away. The family says he became depressed and anxious when Suzie vanished.
In an effort to keep the case in the public eye, Suzie's family has set up a GofundMe account to raise money to pay for missing posters, t-shirts, billboards and a reward.
If you have information about the disappearance of Suzie Escobedo, contact Calhoun County Sheriff's Office at 1-361-553-4646
Reina Carolina Morales Rojas
Reina Carolina Rojas migrated to Boston from El Salvador in May of 2022. Six months later, on the evening of November 26, Reina mysteriously vanished after leaving her apartment in East Boston.
The 41-year-old mother of two and former police officer in El Salvador, is seen on surveillance video exiting her building and standing on the sidewalk talking on the phone. According to Boston police, Reina was picked-up by a car service and dropped off five miles away near 7 Alston St. in Somerville. It's not clear why she went there, but she hasn't been heard from ever since.
Alicia Morales, Reina's sister in El Salvador, knew something was wrong when her calls to Reina's phone on November 27 went straight to voice mail. She contacted the building's landlord, Francisco Magana. He filed a missing person report on November 28, but investigators didn't issue a public notice about Reina's disappearance until January 12, 2023. Since Boston PD has acknowledged the
According to the FBI, Reina had two cell phones which were turned off just after midnight on November 27, 2022. Reina was last seen wearing black leggings, a black top, a gray hooded sweater and dark-colored sandals or slides. Reina likes to wear wigs.
If you have information on the disappearance of Reina Rojas, contact Det. Michael Byrnes, Boston PD at 1-857-274-4300 or FBI VICAP, 1-800-634-4097
Franchesca "Cheka" Alvarado
Franchesca "Cheka" Alvarado was a 22-year-old single mom living in Philadelphia. She was last seen outside the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, on March 17, 2012.
That day, Franchesca secured a babysitter and went to Atlantic City with an older male, an acquaintance named Tracy Williams, to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Williams returned to Philadelphia the next day, but Franchesca did not. Franchesca's sister, Francis, went to her apartment and spoke with her roomate, who reportedly stated that Franchesca was away and would return in two weeks. At that point the family knew something was wrong.
They filed a missing person's report, and when investigators asked Williams what happened, he reportedly stated that Franchesca told him she would find her own way home, and that he never saw her after that. It would be 18 long months before a break in the case. In August 2013, a fisherman found a foot inside an Adida's high-top sneaker 26 miles away in Corson's Inlet State Park in Ocean City, NJ. When the Alvarado siblings saw the sneaker on the news, they knew it belonged to their baby sister. Months later, Franchesca's femur and tibia also washed ashore.
Although Franchesca is confirmed dead, what happened to her remains a mystery. There's no official cause of death. Both Williams and the roommate have been questioned. As of 2023, there are no updates and no suspects. Her family laid her partial remains to rest. Franchesca's daughter is now 14-years-old.
If you know what happened to Franchesca Alvarado, contact New Jersey State Police at 609-882-2000 ext. 3353
Pauline Diaz, 63, was last seen leaving the HEB grocery store where she worked in San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 7, 2010.
Surveillance video shows Pauline walking out of the store and briefly speaking to a female before driving away. She has not been seen or heard from since. According to investigators, Pauline was going to the home of her estranged husband, Pedro "Pete" Ruiz, to pick a up a lawn mower. Her truck was found abandoned along Highway 181, just down the street from his home. Ruiz acknowledged seeing Pauline that day but not much else.
According to published reports, Pauline was preparing to file for divorce and some believe that was the tipping point. From the start, investigators focused on Ruiz. A search of his home turned up no results. But he remains the only person of interest in Pauline Diaz's disappearance.
If you have information on Pauline's disappearance, contact Bexar County Criminal Investigations Division at: 210-335-6070.
Liliana and Daniella Moreno
Liliana Moreno, 41, and her daughter Daniella, 8, vanished in Doral, Florida, on May 30, 2016.
The mother and daughter were last seen near a Home Depot in Okeechobee Road in Hialeah. Gustavo Castano, Liliana's ex and Daniela's father, is a person of interest in the case. According to investigators, Castano went to pick them up, and he and Moreno got into an argument. Castano claims that he dropped the mother and daughter off on Turnpike Avenue.
Although investigators have questioned Castano, they don't have enough information to make an arrest.
The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to their whereabouts. If you can help, call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 305-471-TIPS or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Karla Rodriguez, 7, vanished while leaving a neighbor's yard a block from her family's home in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 20, 1999.
According to published reports, Karla began making her way home around 7 p.m., after her friend's father told her it was too late for a 7-year-old to be playing outside.
When Ramon Rodriguez arrived home from work around 5 p.m., he noticed his daughter and her bike weren't there but figured she was at a friend's house. Rodriguez left again to drop off the family's car with Karla's mother Elia Zepeda. He returned around 10 p.m. and went to bed. The next day, Zepeda, went to Karla's school to see if she had made it to class. The principal called 911 after realizing the little girl was indeed missing.
,Investigators found Karla's bike near her home. Bloodhounds traced her scent to a nearby apartment complex on the 1700 block of Santa Paula Drive, near Oakey and Las Vegas boulevards, about a half-mile from her home. According to a cold-case detective, no items of evidence or value were ever recovered from the complex.
Karla had a medical scar on her abdomen, a small mole above her right eyebrow and spoke limited English.
If you have information about Karla’s disappearance, call the Las Vegas FBI office at 702-385-1281 or Metro homicide detectives at 702-828-3521. Anonymous tips may be left with Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.
Earlier this year, a reporter for the Victoria Advocate newspaper in Victoria, Texas, contacted me to talk about my work investigating missing person cases. He specifically wanted to focus on the disappearance of Antonio Vela Jr., a music producer from Victoria who mysteriously vanished after leaving a bar on June 15, 2017, and whose disappearance I've been covering ever since.
The Victoria Advocate has followed the case from the beginning. Kit MacAvoy, the reporter who reached out, wanted to highlight how Antonio's family is turning to independent journalists and podcasts to reach a wider audience and hopefully generate new leads.
MacAvoy asked why I chose to cover Antonio's case. As I explained on The Vanished Podcast, thousands of people are reported missing in the United States yearly, but only some receive national media attention. People of color, especially men, are less likely to get coverage, and all too often, the focus is on whether they have a criminal background or a history of running away. Missing black and brown people rarely make the news let alone become household names. Think about it. How many missing black or brown people can you name without searching on google? Even more troubling, according to a 2019 study by The College of William and Mary, cases involving missing people of color are less likely to be solved.
Our news industry needs to improve how it covers missing persons in underrepresented communities. It's long overdue. I often hear from families, like the Velas, who feel frustrated, confused, and with nowhere to turn to get their loved one's case in the public eye. That's why the Velas and other families are turning to independent journalists and podcasts to help get the word out.
Click here to read the full article in The Victoria Advocate. I hope conversations like the one I had with MacAvoy take place in newsrooms across the country. It shouldn't just be us reporters, the boots on the ground, who should push to cover missing persons in vulnerable communities. It takes everyone behind the scenes, producers, executive producers, assignment editors, and news directors. They decide what you, the viewers, see on the news. While the media can't cover every missing person story, there are plenty of black and brown people whose disappearances stand out and desperately need media exposure.
In the case ofAntonio Vela Jr., whatever happened the night he vanished, he still has a family who loves and misses him. And, like every other family waiting for their missing loved one to come home, the Velas deserve answers and justice.
EXCLUSIVE: Suspect in 1976 gruesome killing of pregnant teen ‘Beth Doe' released on bail pending trial
Luis Colon woke up to a text message from a Pennsylvania State Police trooper that left him speechless. The alleged killer of his sister Evelyn Colon is out on bail.
"The trooper text me saying that recent changes to Pennsylvania's bail law required a bail amount to be specified, and I guess he was able to post the $250,000," said Colon.
Luis Anthony Sierra, 64, of Ozone Park, New York, was arrested in April 2021 for the 1976 killing of 15-year-old Evelyn Colon of Jersey City, New Jersey. The teen's dismembered remains and her unborn child were found stuffed in suitcases dumped along the Lehigh River in Carbon County five days before Christmas. No one knew her identity until DNA revealed it in March of 2021.
Follow-up interviews with Evelyn's family led investigators to Sierra, her then 19-year-old boyfriend, who she had moved in with a few weeks before giving birth, according to her family. Sierra, a retired bus driver, was extradited to Pennsylvania and held at the Carbon County Correctional Facility without bail due to the nature of the charges.
I spoke with Colon by phone. He stated that he and his family found out about Sierra's release this morning.
"I just can't believe this. No one called me or my family to tell us or to explain these changes in the bail law in Pennsylvania. We literally just found out that he's out and back with his family."
According to the website goldsteinmehta.com, the changes come after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided the case of Commonwealth v. Talley, "holding that prosecutors must introduce real evidence that a defendant is a danger to the community and no conditions of release can prevent that danger in order to revoke bail."
Therefore, the practice of "simply asserting that a defendant committed a serious crime and should be held without bail is no longer acceptable, " according to the website.
In Sierra's case, court records show that a hearing took place on June 8 at which time bail was set at $250,000, which he posted on June 15.
"This isn't some minor crime he's accused of doing. He's accused of killing my sister, and he gets to go home until the trial? Now there's a dangerous man out there free like nothing. Someone needs to explain this to us," Colon said.
Sierra is charged with one count of criminal homicide. A trial date has not been set.
New Castle County Police: "Janteyl Johnson case remains a very active missing person investigation, and we need the public's help to find her."
I sat down with Detective Roberto Herrera for an exclusive interview about Janteyl Johnson's case. Herrera heads the missing persons division for the New Castle County Police Department in Delaware.
We know Janteyl, then 15 and five months pregnant, was in contact with several older men when she vanished on Feb. 3, 2010. Investigators believe she may have left with one of those men. I asked Detective Herrera about those individuals and if any are considered suspects in her disappearance.
Janteyl's family doesn't believe she left on her own. They feel she was taken against her will and are holding out hope that she and her child will be found alive.
Janteyl could be anywhere, perhaps even out of state. If you see Janteyl or know where she is, please call 911 or Detective Herrera at 302-395-2784.
EXCLUSIVE: Surveillance video shows missing Delaware teen Janteyl Johnson buying candy an hour before she vanished
On the afternoon of Feb. 3, 2010, security camera footage from what used to be a PathMark grocery store in Newark, Delaware, shows Janteyl Johnson, 15, walking in to buy candy. She's wearing a puffer jacket, blue jeans, and sneakers. Her braids are tied back in a ponytail.
Janteyl, five months pregnant at the time, pays at a self-checkout register. As she exits the store at 12:31 p.m., she's talking on her cell phone and stops to scratch her leg, then continues walking. The two-and-a-half-minute footage is the last confirmed sighting of the teen. An hour later, Janteyl vanished from her family's apartment and has not been seen or heard from ever since.
Watching Janteyl buying a bag of candy is a reminder that she was just a child, and no one has been held accountable for her disappearance.
"I can tell you that it's not normal what happened to her," said Detective Roberto Herrera, in an exclusive interview.
Herrera, a 19-year-veteran of the New Castle County Police Department, made Janteyl's case a priority when he took over the missing persons division in 2018.
"She was 15. She was pregnant, five months pregnant, so it’s a case that catches anyone’s attention right away.”
A missing pregnant child should've made headlines, but Janteyl didn't get wall-to-wall media coverage. She didn't become a household name. There was no social media frenzy over her disappearance. She was barely mentioned in the news.
I first reported on Janteyl's disappearance in 2010 for a news station I worked for at the time. I interviewed her mother, twice, but because Janteyl was classified as a runaway, there was no further interest in covering her case. Some Delaware newspapers mentioned Janteyl at the time, but as far as extensive media coverage goes, there was none. A few online outlets have recently written about Janteyl, and some podcasts have featured her story.
But what if from the start, Janteyl's disappearance had generated the type of media coverage that Gabby Petito or Lacy Peterson received? Perhaps she would've been found, and whoever's responsible for her disappearance would've been held accountable by now.
Janteyl's case serves as an example of how when a black or brown person is missing there isn't always an urgency to cover their case. There are plenty of examples to prove that point.
What we know is that Janteyl was talking to several older men the day she vanished, including the alleged father of her unborn child. Her family says he was the last person who called Janteyl and that her cell phone later pinged near his relative's home. Det. Herrera didn't confirm that information and has not named any suspects in the case.
“At the end of 2019 we put up a billboard in Delaware with her picture, and we also put her picture and information on a deck of playing cards and distributed them in jails in Delaware prisons," said Herrera, "and we actually got a good lead that I cannot go into detail at this point.”
Herrera wants Janteyl's family to know that she hasn't been forgotten. He feels this case can be solved, and is asking for the public's help.
"Like any other missing person, it's going to take somebody coming forward and provide us with more information. I’m hoping that we can get more with time and we can solve this to give some peace of mind to the family.”
NOW MORE THAN EVER, IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION ABOUT JANTEYL'S DISAPPEARANCE, PLEASE CALL NEW CASTLE COUNTY POLICE AT 302-395-2784.
Claudia Rivero Investigative Reporter/Producer