Fierce

Father Fears Safety Of Missing Latina Teen Who Was Last Seen With Her Homicide Suspect Mother

A Latina teenager from Redondo Beach, Calif., a beach town edging Los Angeles, has gone missing, and authorities believe she could be with two homicide suspects, KTLA reports.

Alora Benitez, 15, was last seen on Wednesday morning in Torrance with her mother and a man, both suspects in the killing of Jeffrey Appel in Carson on Tuesday.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Appel, 32, was found dead in a car in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive. An autopsy report noted that the man, from Las Vegas, died from gunshot wounds to the neck and torso. His death has been ruled a homicide, with Benitez’s mom, Maricela Mercado, 40, and her ex-husband Roman Cerratos, 39, as the main suspects.

Local police issued an Amber Alert Wednesday when they learned the girl, who is 5 feet and 2 inches tall and about 100 pounds, was last seen with the suspects.

A BMW belonging to the suspects was found in the border town of San Ysidro, though the girl, her mother and the man were not found.

Julian Benitez Jr., the girl’s father, described his daughter as “my air and my life.”

“I just need her back,” Benitez, who hosted an Easter Sunday vigil in Windsor Hills, said. “I need her back in my arms.”

During the vigil, families and friends gathered to pray for the girl’s safe return. Her dad also sent the girl a direct message.

“Alora, if you’re listening, if you see any of this: Make a run for it. Call 911. Get to a phone. Ask for help. Go where there’s a lot of people,” the father said.

Authorities are urging anyone with any information on the child’s whereabouts to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. They can also send tips anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

While Alora’s case is horrifying, it’s unfortunately not unique.

In the US alone, an estimated 460,000 children go missing every year. A majority of these youth are of color. According to Robert Lowery, vice president for the Missing Children Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, about 35 percent of them are Black and another 20 percent are Latinx, CNN reports. Unfortunately, while these young people were abducted, ran away and/or forced into sex trafficking in our own backyards, news of their disappearances hardly make local news, let alone national or international headlines.

Below, we highlight a sample of the countless Latina girls who are missing, some who have disappeared as recently as this month and others whose cases have remained cold for decades.

Sofia Juarez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Sofia Juarez went missing on February 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday. Her disappearance, which remains unsolved, triggered Washington’s first-ever Amber alert. A 10-year-old relative reported seeing the young girl walking down the driveway with a man dressed in a black sweatshirt, black pants and sneakers. Officers considered her grandmother’s boyfriend Jose Lopez Torres, a neighbor with a record of minor sex offenses Kevin Ireland and the girl’s father as possible suspects, but no arrests have been made. Sofia’s mother died in 2009, but her family vowed to continue their search for the girl.

Haley Romero-Menendez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Haley Romero-Menendez was last seen in her Northwest Washington, DC neighborhood on Tuesday, March 12. The Metropolitan Police Department is currently asking for the public’s help in finding the “critically missing” 16-year-old Latina. Standing at 5’5” and 130 pounds, she was last seen wearing a green hoodie and blue jeans.

Reyna Alvarado-Carrera

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Reyna Alvarado-Carrera was last seen in her Norcross, Georgia home in 2005 at the age of 13. Few details are known, but authorities believe she was abducted by a non-relative male named Jose Carlos Gatica Luna who was 34 years old at the time of the disappearance. The girl, who went by Gaby, is now 27 years old.

Sulay Andino

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Manhattan Latina Sulay Andino was last seen on March 20, 2018 at the age of 16. Standing at 5’5″ tall and 145 pounds, the girl, now 17, is believed to be in the Bronx, though there are few details around her disappearance, including what she was last wearing, who last saw her and what she was last seen doing.

Diana Alvarez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Diana Belinda Alvarez has been missing since May 29, 2016. The girl, then 9 years old, was last seen in her Fort Myers, Fla. home wearing a short-sleeved shirt and blue shorts. Jorge Guerrero, who is currently incarcerated on possession of child pornography charges, is the prime suspect in the now-11-year-old girl’s disappearance. The girl’s mother, Rita, visited Guerrero in jail in July 2016, where the man told her that her daughter was alive but did not tell her where she was.

Henrietta Avila

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila went missing the summer of 1960, when she was 17 years old. She was last seen in Garden Grove, Calif., where she lived with her husband who she had dated for a month before they wed. News reports refer to the marriage as “no overwhelming success.” The summer of her disappearance, Henrietta’s parents contacted her husband, Merle, to ask where she was. He stated she had packed her bags and left him. A mysterious telegram signed “Henrietta” was sent to the family after the conversation and a collect call was made from someone claiming to be her, though they hung up as soon as her mother took the call. Henrietta’s parents hired a private investigator and offered a $1,000 reward for information on her remains, as they believed she was killed, but she, now 76, remains missing.

Alissa Albizu

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Alissa Albizu disappeared from her home in Philadelphia the night of October 16, 2015. Officials have classified her case as an “endangered runaway.” Last seen at age 13, when she was 5’2”, 112 pounds and wearing a red shirt and blue pants, Alissa, who has a tattoo on her right hand, is currently 16 years old.

Agueda Arias

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Agueda Arias disappeared from Longview, Washington at age three on November 16, 2001. The girl was last seen with her mom, Guadalupe Barajas Castro, shopping with an adult male friend. The vehicle the mother, who was pregnant at the time, was driving was found abandoned in California. Neither she nor her mother was seen again in a case authorities have said had “suspicious circumstances.” She would be 20 years old today.

Manuela Carina Caz Choc

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Manuela Carina Caz Choc, 16, was last seen June 10, 2018 in Culpeper, Virginia. The girl is believed to be with a man, named Oscar Quinich Tut, who was posing as her biological father. Manuela, now 17, was 5’0″ tall and 92 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She also had gold caps on three of her front teeth with a half moon shape in the middle and a skin condition causing discoloration on both her arms and back.

Aileen Rivera

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Aileen Rivera was last seen in Warminster, Pennsylvania on March 10, 2019. Reading police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating the missing 15-year-old. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall and about 120 pounds.

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Are The Women Fighting To Find The Stolen Children During The Argentine Dictatorship

Things That Matter

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Are The Women Fighting To Find The Stolen Children During The Argentine Dictatorship

Sundance Institute

During the 1970s a group of desperate Argentinian mothers began protesting government officials and holding them accountable for the human rights violations that had been committed in the military junta  known as the Dirty War. The determined women violated the government’s law against mass assembly and risked the ire of Argentina’s military dictatorship to expose the government’s human rights violations. The biggest part of their fight however had been to expose the kidnapping of over 30,000 individuals known today as “Desaparecidos” or “the disappeared.”

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (or, the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo) is a movement of Argentine mothers who campaigned to find out what happened to their children who had “disappeared” during the 1976 government takeover.

The mothers’ tragic stories began in 1976. At the time the Argentine military had toppled the presidency of Isabel Perón. According to History.com, “it was part of a larger series of political coups called Operation Condor, a campaign sponsored and supported by the United States.” The new military dictatorship resulted in the Dirty War, which was ultimately a fight against the Argentinian people. It opened doors to a period of state-sponsored torture and terrorism and saw the government turn against Argentina’s citizens, targeting those suspected of being aligned with leftist, socialist or social justice. As part of the rule of terror, the government kidnapped and killed an estimated 30,000 people. They also made great efforts to cover up the dead and missing people.

But the family members and friends of the missing victims fought for the truth.

The mothers and relatives of people who went missing during the war searched for their loved ones and began to stage protests at the Plaza de Mayo in the 1980s. 

According to History.com “Some of the mothers of the disappeared were grandmothers who had seen their daughters whisked away and presumably killed and their grandchildren given away to other families. Even after the Dirty War ended in 1983, the Grandmothers of the Plaza Mayo have searched for answers and worked to identify children who grew up without any knowledge of their true parents.”

Today the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have verified the identities of 128 stolen children, thanks to DNA identification techniques but the fight of these mothers and grandmothers lives on. Sadly, thousands of Argentinian children remain missing.

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo is a 1985 Argentine documentary film that highlights the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

At the time of its release, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and in 2013, received an update on “Abuelas: Grandmothers on a Mission” which highlights the work of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina.

The Police’s Reaction To The Black Lives Matter Protests For George Floyd Vs. Anti-Quarantine Demonstrators Says A Lot

Things That Matter

The Police’s Reaction To The Black Lives Matter Protests For George Floyd Vs. Anti-Quarantine Demonstrators Says A Lot

Stephen Maturen / Stringer

Derek Chauvin (a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department) pinned George Floyd to the ground by kneeling on his neck for seven minutes.

For the first three minutes of being restrained Floyd (a 46-year-old Black man) pled for his life begging Chauvin to remove his knee because he couldn’t breathe. After four minutes Floyd stopped moving, and bystanders capturing video of the request determined that he was unresponsive. The aftermath of his death after sparked explosive protests and reminders, yet again, that Black people are not safe in this country and continue to. be subjected to inequality.

On Tuesday morning, video of the incident that took place on a sidewalk in Minneapolis surfaced online fueling anger and protests.

There’s so much in the video that is distressing, but hearing Floyd begging the officer to let up and repeating “I can’t breathe” is only a small part that has once fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. After all, we’ve heard those words before. In 2014, Eric Garner, uttered the same ones while dying under police brutality in New York.

At the time of his death, Floyd had been facing arrest. The officers involved in the incident had been called to the scene due to a “forgery in progress” in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. Note, forgery while a serious crime is a non-violent one.

Darnella Frazier is the woman who captured the video on her phone and posted the footage on Facebook for the world to see.

On Tuesday, May 26, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced that the officers involved had been placed on leave. Later on in the day, four responding officers were fired and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the incident was being reviewed.

Reactions to the protests show another glaring reminder of the treatment of Black people in the United States vs. white.

Reactions to anti-mask protests and demonstrations against government stay-at-home orders in the past few weeks have been met with stoic reactions.

You’ve seen the images. In the face of demonstrators furious about the safety restrictions implemented to combat COVID-19, police officers and government officials have responded primarily with nonviolence. We’ve seen no stun grenades or tear gas.

But the crowds of Black protestors rallying for “Justice for George” have been met with riot gear and chemical agents. According to reports around 8:00 pm of the protests police in riot gear fired sandbag rounds, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.

Once again, Black people are being forced to fight for their lives while non-Black people of color get off easy while saying or doing little from the sidelines.