Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series this month spotlighting missing Black women in America.
In 2016, Lashaya Stine was a 16-year-old honors student at George Washington High School in Aurora, Colorado.
With dreams of becoming a nurse, the teen worked hard and earned a coveted internship at the University of Colorado Hospital. She was learning to drive, and she and her mom had been spending time together shopping for prom dresses — momentous milestones of that age.
Stine also had reason to believe more promise was ahead: She was scheduled to interview for a job on July 16. But one day before, in the dark middle of the night, Stine vanished and has not been heard from again.
Her disappearance has shattered her family.
“I’d give anything to just hear her voice,” Stine’s mother, Sabrina Jones, told the Denver Post in 2019. “I need that so, so badly.”
Investigators have pieced together a brief timeline of that morning. Around 2 a.m., Stine left her family’s home in the Denver suburb to meet an unknown person. The teen had chided her younger brothers for staying up so late before she quietly slipped out of the house. At 2:23 a.m., a security camera recorded Stine near a bus stop on north Peoria Street in Aurora.
Investigators will never give up on this case. We are hopeful that someone in our community has knowledge about this incident that they will share. The reward is up to $15,000. #FindLashaya
You can contact the Crimes Against Children Tip-Line at 303-739-6164 or @CrimeStoppersCO. https://t.co/uOBJBVBD8q
— Aurora Police Dept (@AuroraPD) July 15, 2022
Stine did not take anything with her: no clothes or money, no phone charger, or other personal possessions.
If she had been planning to run away, Jones said her daughter would likely have packed a bag because she tended to be a “diva,” the mother told the Denver Post.
But Stine had no history of running away or getting into any trouble.
Jones has one theory that haunts her: She believes her daughter may have been abducted by sex traffickers.
There have been reported sightings in Aurora of someone matching Stine’s description, including reports that this person was being drugged and forced to work as a prostitute, but investigators have not been able to verify the tips. Sightings have also been reported in Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas; New Mexico; and Arizona, according to the Charley Project.
Police have not settled on only one explanation for why Stine went missing, although they say sex trafficking is possible. Investigators do not believe she ran away, in part because she has not been in contact with any family and friends.
Over the past six-and-a-half years, the toll of her daughter’s disappearance has taken a toll on Jones. Some days she does not feel like she can go on, other days she can’t sleep or eat. She developed a heart condition, possibly induced by stress, and has lost a substantial amount of weight.
“When a child dies and you know, you can start to heal,” Jones told the Post. “But when you don’t know where she is and what she’s going through, you’re in a gray area. To me, that’s worse than death. What if we never know?”
In a tweet, the Aurora Police Department said it “will never give up on this case. We are hopeful that someone in our community has knowledge about this incident that they will share.”
At the time she disappeared, Stine had brown eyes and long black hair, which she usually wore in a bun. She was 5-foot-6 and weighed about 150 pounds. There is a quarter-sized round scar on her chest.
Stine was last seen wearing a black V-neck T-shirt, black stonewash jeans, silver hoop earrings, and a silver watch on her left arm, according to the FBI.
A reward of up to $15,000 is being offered for information that leads to solving the case, CBS Colorado reports.
As the agonizing search continues, Jones, her son Shaeron Stine and other family members have tattooed the phrase “#Find Lashaya” on their bodies.
Shaeron Stine, one of Lashaya’s five brothers, vowed to never stop searching for his sister.
“We’re going to keep looking and do what we have to do to keep this going,” Shaeron Stine told the newspaper.
Jones echoed that commitment and shared a message for her beloved daughter: “I’m so sorry, baby. I know you’re scared.”
To report information, call the Aurora Police Department at 303-627-3100 or the Colorado Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast.
Join Nancy Grace for her new online video series designed to help you protect what you love most — your children.
[Feature Photo via U.S. Dep’t of Justice/FBI Denver]