National Hispanic Heritage Month: Gabriela Gonzalez

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 Gabriela Leticia Gonzalez, a fourteen-year-old girl who disappeared from San Diego, California on April 5, 2002. That day she skipped school for the third day in a row and took off to visit her boyfriend, Juan Vera.

Although she was written off as a runaway at first, so many years have passed that the cops are wondering if something bad happened to Gabriela. She’d be 31 now and has been missing longer than she had been alive.

Vera, who was abusive and has gang affiliations, is a possible suspect. Police looked for Gabriela’s body in the Otay River, but turned up nothing. Last I heard, Vera was in prison, but that was quite awhile ago. I’m not sure what he’s up to nowadays.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: David Ortiz

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 David Jacquez Ortiz Jr., an 18-year-old who disappeared from Silver City, New Mexico on October 31, 2010. He went out to go trick-or-treating and never returned.

Ortiz is missing under unclear circumstances, but his family is convinced he met with foul play. They said he had plans for the future and they don’t believe he would have left on his own. The most recent press I can find on him is this 2016 anniversary article.

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.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Jose Mendez Gonzalez

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 Jose Mendez Gonzalez, one of FIVE men named Jose Gonzalez currently listed on the Charley Project. This Jose was 34 when he disappeared on January 28, 2009, from Porterville, a small city in central California.

Unfortunately I don’t really know anything about the disappearance of Jose Mendez Gonzalez; it’s one of my “few details are available” cases, added in 2009 and not updated since then. The fact that his name is such a common one would make finding anything else out all that much harder.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Karen Rosalba Grajeda

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 Karen Rosalba Grajeda, a 7-year-old girl who disappeared from Tucson, Arizona on January 11, 1996.

She was roller-skating with her sister and some other children in the courtyard of her apartment complex when she left to drop her roller skates back off home. It’s not clear whether she ever arrived at her house, but by the time Karen’s mom called the girls in for dinner, Karen was nowhere to be found.

She is believed to have been kidnapped by a non-relative, and some suspects have been named, but no charges were ever filed against anyone. There’s speculation, as noted in her casefile, that Karen’s abduction is connected to the unsolved rape and murder of six-year-old Esther Lizette Galaz. Certainly the cases are very similar, but until Lizette’s murder is solved or Karen is found, any speculation has to remain only that.

I wonder how thoroughly the other residents in the complex (which had over 400 apartments) were checked. In March 1996, Albert Aguilar Ramirez, a resident of the complex who had a criminal for sexual abuse, murdered his elderly neighbor. The cops said they had “no reason to believe” Ramirez was involved in Karen’s disappearance, though. A fellow resident with a history of child molestation would be an obvious suspect in Karen’s case, and my guess is the police had investigated him and ruled him out earlier, right after Karen’s abduction and before he killed the neighbor.

I highly doubt Karen is still alive. There are so many places to hide a body in the desert.

I’ve never done this before

So the other day I added the case of Jaret Jerome Senegal, a 30-year-old man who disappeared from Crowley, Louisiana on November 7, 2000.

He’s not listed anywhere else except the Louisiana Repository for Unidentified & Missing People. That database did not have a photo of him. This recent article on Louisiana missing persons mentions Senegal, but it didn’t have a photo either.

I did all my usual digging and the only remotely usable photo I could find was one of Jaret at the age of about six years old, part of a group photo published in a 1976 newspaper. There was one other photo, also published in a newspaper, of Jaret with his boxing club as a teenager, but it was of such poor quality that all you could see was a Jaret-shaped black silhouette. Clearly, not usable.

I felt pretty unhappy about having to use the 1976 photo, but then again the only available photos of Ivon and Inisha Fowler are of them as infants, so there you go.

I’m hoping that now that Jaret is on Charley, that might kick-start something and someone can find a more recent photo of him.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Mauricio Ortiz

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 Mauricio Alfonso Ortiz, a 47-year-old who was last seen at his workplace, a bar in Corpus Christi, Texas on October 7, 2006.

I’m a bit confused by what happened there: although Ortiz is said to be a reliable worker, when he dropped out of sight it appears no one raised the alarm for a solid MONTH. His family apparently had no idea he was missing until November 8, when Ortiz’s landlord got in touch and asked them to clean out his apartment.

Perhaps Ortiz had a vacation coming, or perhaps he hadn’t worked at the bar for very long, and that’s why his boss and co-workers were unconcerned when he suddenly stopped showing up.

His car was found across the street from the courthouse on November 18, with “unspecified indications of foul play” inside it. Strangely, the car had been only parked there for about two weeks, leaving a time gap of about three weeks when it was unaccounted for; where was the car during that time period?

Lots of pieces missing here. Does anyone know whether Ortiz made it back to his apartment on October 15 after his shift? What did his apartment look like, were those “indications of foul play” present there as well?