The family of a 24-year-old Washington state woman is desperately seeking answers to her disappearance three months ago — a disappearance that may be linked to her gang-member boyfriend’s three-day crime spree that ended when he was captured after a shootout in southern Oregon.
Investigators say Aurelio Escobar, 26, has refused to answer questions about where Jennifer Caridad might be, NewsNation reports.
Jennifer left her family home in Sunnyside, Washington — about 35 miles east of Yakima — on August 8 to pick up her boyfriend, telling her brother she’d be back later. But she wasn’t.
“The first thing I thought (was) ‘What happened to her? Where is she?’” Marco Caridad told NewsNation. “I thought, ‘oh, she’s probably somewhere,’ so I messaged her: ‘Where are you? Are you OK?’ I didn’t get a response.”
The following day, the family’s SUV — with blood and some of Jennifer’s clothing inside — was found at Berglund Lake in Yakima.
Family members didn’t care for Escobar — even less so when investigators told them he was a documented gang member. Police also said that Escobar is suspected of shooting a man and stealing his car at Berglund Lake and then stealing other vehicles — or at least trying to — in several more towns from Yakima to Medford, Oregon.
Medford police spotted Escobar on August 11, driving a silver Volkswagen CC stolen during an armed carjacking in Canyonville, KDRV reported. After a nearly 40 minute chase, police stopped the car with a pit maneuver, but when officers ordered the driver out, he rolled down his window and opened fire. The officers returned fire and hit the suspect in the arm, shoulder, and head, then administered first aid until paramedics arrived.
Escobar was taken to a hospital for treatment and then arrested on multiple charges, including a fugitive warrant from Yakima. A grand jury later determined the officers’ use of force was justified.
Meanwhile, in Sunnyside, police say they are working with other agencies to find out what happened to Jennifer Caridad and say drone and dive searches around Berglund Lake have found nothing so far.
“We just want to know what happened to her, if she’s dead or not, we want to have peace,” Marco Caridad told NewsNation.
“When I go to sleep, I ask God, ‘Take care of my daughter,’” her father, Enrique Caridad, said. “I can’t do anything, but you can. That’s all I ask him. Why my daughter?”
The family SUV is still with police, three months later. As for the blood found in the vehicle, investigators say they’re waiting on test results to determine if it belonged to Jennifer — which they say could take as long as eight months.
Escobar, who is a Norteño gang member, remains in jail in Oregon, Yakima police Capt. Jay Seely told the Yakima Herald.
In addition to the fugitive warrant, Escobar has been charged with three counts of attempted murder, unlawful use of a weapon, felon in possession of a firearm, attempting to elude police by vehicle, reckless endangering, reckless driving, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He’s being held on $1.25 million bond, according to jail records.
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[Featured image: Jennifer Caridad/Facebook]