As authorities continue to search for missing North Carolina teen, Hania Aguilar, the father of Elizabeth Smart, a girl who returned home months after being abducted from her own bedroom, is hoping his experience and insight can help lead to Hania’s safe return.
“I think that its horrendous. For any parent to lose their child, you know, it’s the last thing that you want to have happen, and trying to recover them is very difficult,” Elizabeth’s father, Ed Smart, said, according to CBS17.
Smart is an advocate for missing children after Elizabeth disappeared in 2002. He’s familiar with the pain 13-year-old Hania’s loved ones are going through, but he is also living proof that there is chance the young girl can be found and returned home safely.
“When Elizabeth went missing, I mean, we felt that she was out there and we felt that we needed the engagement of the community in order to find her,” Smart explained.
Smart said that it will take a group effort to find Hania. He also stressed the urgency in keeping Hania’s photo and story in the public eye.
“One person can’t do it alone. All of us together can make a huge difference in helping find Hania…..Really the best advice was to keep Elizabeth’s picture out there. Work in the community on children’s issues. Try to find any vehicle to keep her picture out there.”
“Our prayers certainly with the Aguilar family, and we pray and hope that things will come to a quick close for them in a very good way,” Smart added.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Hania vanished November 5 from her own driveway at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park in Lumberton. She walked outside at around 6:58 a.m. to start her aunt’s SUV up, when an unknown man wearing all black clothing and a yellow bandana over his face approached her and forced her into the vehicle before driving it away.
Police found the vehicle abandoned a few days later, off of Quincey Drive in Lumberton after someone spotted it abandoned and called 911. The FBI’s evidence response team is processing the vehicle for evidence.
Meanwhile, authorities are asking anyone in the area with surveillance cameras to look closely for anything that may be of interest in the case. Investigators are still looking for a man wearing a hoodie, a light shirt, and light shoes walking toward the Rosewood Mobile Home Park on the same morning and around the time the young girl was kidnapped.
Investigators said that the man is not considered a suspect at this time, but he’s someone authorities would like to speak with in case he saw anything or anyone that morning.
“He’s just someone we want to speak with,” FBI supervisory senior resident agent, C Andrew de la Rocha, said.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that Hania is described as a Hispanic female with black hair and brown eyes. She stand 5-feet tall and weighs around 126 pounds. She was last seen wearing a blue shirt with flower prints and blue jeans.
McNeil said that authorities are desperately seeking the public’s help in finding the missing girl.
“We urgently need the public’s help. We need them more now than ever to find Hania and bring her back.”
In addition to the $25,000 reward offered by the FBI for information that leads to Hania, Gov. Roy Cooper has offered a $5,000 reward for information that leads to her whereabouts.
Anyone with any information is urged to contact the special tip line set up solely for Hania, at 910-272-5871.
[Feature Photo: Hania Aguilar/Handout]