National Hispanic Heritage Month: Henrietta Cruz Avila

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month I’m featuring a Hispanic missing person every day from September 15 to October 15. Today’s case is Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila, a seventeen-year-old missing from Santa Ana, California. This is a very old case, from 1960. 58 years ago.

Henrietta married a few months before her disappearance; it wasn’t at all unusual at that time for teenagers to marry. She had only known her husband, Merle Avila, for a month or so, and he was 24.

The circumstances of her disappearance are unclear, but I think it’s quite likely that Henrietta met with foul play around the time of her disappearance or shortly thereafter, and that her killer or someone acting on the killer’s behalf made attempts to make her family believe she was alive and well.

I cannot imagine why a girl who had run away would come back and leave some of her clothes — and underclothes at that — sitting in her parents’ driveway. But I can well imagine that a killer, trying to confuse the investigation, would do so. In fact, I know of a documented case where something similar happened: a woman whose daughter was supposedly abducted got mailed one of the little girl’s mittens. Nothing else was in the envelope. It turned out the mother had killed her daughter and mailed the mitten to herself.

Sadly, after so many years I doubt Henrietta’s disappearance can be solved. I wonder if the police have talked to Merle Avila at all over the years, or know where he is now or if he’s still alive.

9 thoughts on “National Hispanic Heritage Month: Henrietta Cruz Avila

  1. Patrick Kerrigan October 7, 2018 / 10:33 pm

    I checed her on Ancestry, and only found a birth record and marriage record. Geck was her mother’s maiden name. Also, the belt and undergarments had to be left by someone who knew where she l lived. So, it could point towards her husband. But, then it might have been something she left behind, and he did not want to face her family.

    I might look for stuff on her husband

    • Meaghan October 7, 2018 / 10:58 pm

      If those items had been simply left behind I think it would be very inappropriate for her husband to just give them back, especially in that way. I wouldn’t want Michael giving my parents my underwear if I took off.

  2. Patrick Kerrigan October 7, 2018 / 10:38 pm

    Also the marriage record # 22823, states that Merle Avila, was 26 years old. I will see what comes up in a further search on him. I wonder what maid her marry him.

    • Meaghan October 7, 2018 / 10:55 pm

      She can’t have been pregnant; they hadn’t known each other long enough for that.

  3. Patrick Kerrigan October 8, 2018 / 8:48 pm

    On another website the author said that Merle supposedly got remarried in 1961. She did seem to find a divorce record for them. I wonder if he got an annulment, using the story she left him, after a few months of marriage.

  4. Patrick Kerrigan October 9, 2018 / 5:35 pm

    I checked Ancestry and found a marriage record for Merle D. Avila (28) who married a Lucy F. Sanchez (20) on July 4, 1962, in LA County. So, it appears he had time to get a divorce. However, there are no California divorce records under his name. The only other record was the marriage record to Henrietta.

  5. whereaboutsstillunknown January 6, 2019 / 1:23 pm

    Merle was accused of kidnapping back in 1952 when he was 18.

    He died in 2012, still married to Lucy.

    He apparently used the middle initial D earlier in life. The marriage to Henrietta and the marriage to Lucy show a D. Later he uses an M, which appears to be for Martinez, his mother’s maiden name. The obituary refers to Lucy, his wife of 50 years, so it’s the same guy.

    • Jim January 23, 2019 / 3:05 am

      From that

      Charged are Merle M. Avila, 18, of 1115 W. Second St.; Raymond F. Rodriguez, 17, of 1402 W. Third St., and George R. Hegareda, 18, of 1209 W. Second St., all Santa Ana. The three youths had been cited to juvenile court only last Friday on charges of burglary Oct. 22 of Willowick Golf Course in Santa Ana.

      An early introduction to gang type behavior? Scary to think what she may have encountered.

      • Rasec March 13, 2019 / 9:55 am

        He seems to have been involved in a kidnapping case from 1952.

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