The sister of Maricela Garcia, the California woman who disappeared while shopping with her at a Los Angeles area Goodwill Store, is desperately pleading with Los Angeles police to investigate the case detectives labeled “voluntary missing.” A smashed cell phone, a torn necklace and a tracking dog’s reaction convinced her family that the 26-year-old woman was kidnapped.
Sarah Garcia last saw her Maricela, 26, when she told her she was going outside of the store, where she was shopping for a costumer for a vintage party, to smoke a cigarette. That was January 12, 2017 — a rainy, dark Thursday night in Reseda, California.
Exactly two weeks later, Sarah retraced what a tracking dog indicated was her sister’s path behind the Goodwill store, into a Catholic church and across a busy street where her scent ended at a dumpster.
“They are still calling it ‘voluntary missing,’ as if she’s a runaway because she’s an adult, which I think is BS,” Sarah Garcia told Alan Duke, co-host of Crime Stories with Nancy Grace. “I called the detective today and asked her what has she done in the last two weeks and she couldn’t say anything because she hasn’t done anything.”
Sarah turned over a smashed cell phone she found behind the Goodwill store. She believes the phone, which was missing its battery and SIM card, belonged to Maricela, but she is hoping police will work to confirm it.
The LAPD decision to not investigate the disappearance as a criminal case frustrates her family. Detectives told her “she could be a runaway, there’s no foul play,” Sarah said, “but when is there going to be foul play? When her body turns up dead? Not solving a crime is a crime itself.”
She pointed to the case of Laura Lynne Stacy, who was reported missing by her Hollywood Hills roommate on the previous Sunday. Although there was no evidence of foul play, the LAPD dispatch detectives 70 miles away to Lancaster, California, where the Denver, Colorado, woman’s car was found on Tuesday. The detectives found the woman wandering a street there Wednesday morning.
“Because my last name is Garcia, on paper, I believe that changes everything,” Sarah said. “It just seems that they’re just twiddling their thumbs, not doing anything about the situation, yet some blond-haired but-eyed girl goes missing and three days, boom, they have her.”
In her heart, Sarah is hoping the LAPD is right — that her sister did voluntarily disappear and was not kidnapped. “That’s what I really hope the it is, but I don’t think she would just leave me alone. Logically, it doesn’t make sense. Who leaves their little sister alone in, no offense, the ghetto?”
Without police help, Maricela’s family is trying to find any security camera video that might hold digital images of what happened to the woman. They are waiting for a decision from lawyers for Kaiser Permanente, owners of the last building where the tracking dog indicated Maricela walked near. A torn choker necklace the family believes Maricela was wearing that night was found in the Kaiser Permanente parking lot.
Nancy Grace and Alan Duke focus on the case in Friday’s “Crime Stories” episode.
[Feature Photo Courtesy of Misti Patten]