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

Los Angeles County Sheriff

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.

These Latinas Are Stomping Out Machismo And Leading The Fight For Environmental Justice Across The Nation

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These Latinas Are Stomping Out Machismo And Leading The Fight For Environmental Justice Across The Nation

Twitter / @guidogir

Climate change is real, and it’s increasingly impacting our earth and our lives. The planet is warming at a faster rate than ever before. Sea levels are rising. Natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires to droughts, are occurring all over the world, prompting climate refugees to flee their homes and governments to spend billions of dollars in recovery.

The historic changes happening to our planet has politicians rallying around a Green New Deal. While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has become the face of this policy, she’s not alone in her congressional fight to instill earth-saving legislation that fights climate change, creates economic opportunity and reduces environmental racism. Latina politicians like Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ environmental task force, is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and has fought throughout her career for low-income, Black and brown polluted communities, as well as Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), the newly-elected congresswoman who, before taking office, worked in environmental justice while heading both the Zoo Miami Foundation and the Coral Restoration Foundation, among others, are tackling problems head-on in government.

But these women stand on the shoulders of everyday Latinas who are doing the work on the ground, those raising awareness, conducting academic research, advocating in their communities and planting trees across the nation. On Earth Day, we are celebrating some of the Latinas fighting for environmental justice across the country.

1. Belinda Faustinos

Belinda Faustinos has worked in environmentalism and conservation for 40 years. The executive director of Nature for All, a coalition of 12 organizations that promotes park access in Los Angeles, she also led efforts that prompted then-President Barack Obama to declare the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument in 2014. Oftentimes the only Latina working toward environmental justice at the start of her career, she is sometimes referred to as “la abuelita of Latinas in environmentalism.”

2. Elizabeth Yeampierre

In New York, Elizabeth Yeampierre is an attorney and climate justice leader. The co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance and the executive director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latinx community-based organization, Yeampierre has organized for sustainable environmental justice and facilitated with the community to create climate adaptation and community resiliency in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.

3. Ana Parras

Ana Parras is the co-director and administer at the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.). Under her leadership, the organization provides community members in the Lone Star State with the tools needed to create sustainable, environmentally healthy communities. They do this through educating individuals on health concerns, the effects of environmental pollution and applicable environmental laws and offering the community opportunities to build effective publics together.

4. Jennifer Ramírez

In California, Jennifer Ramírez is a community organizer at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. Through the nonprofit, she addresses the city’s park inequities by creating green spaces, like urban parks and community gardens, with those who live in the communities. The young activist wants to create a sustainable planet where youth of today and tomorrow can thrive.

5. Dr. Hilda Lloréns

Dr. Hilda Lloréns is a cultural anthropologist and a decolonial scholar at the University of Rhode Island. The Puerto Rican professor’s research looks at how racial and gender inequality manifest itself in cultural production, nation building, access to environmental resources and exposure to environmental degradation. Most recently, Dr. Lloréns’s research has tackled environmental issues impacting Puerto Rico, especially as it relates to the causes and impacts of Hurricane Maria.

6. Génesis Abreu

Génesis Abreu is a community organizer, educator and researcher working at the intersection of environmental, climate, gender and language justice. The Salvadoran-Dominican activist is currently an organizer with We Act, a Harlem-based org empowering and organizing low-income people of color to build healthy communities and participate in the creation of just policies and practices of health and environmental protection. At We Act, Abreu, who previously received a research grant from the Fulbright Program to study the impacts of climate change on the agricultural practices of indigenous Quechua communities in Peru, recruits Spanish-speaking residents of Upper Manhattan.

7. Marilyn Duran

Marilyn Duran is a community organizer at People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODER). The San Francisco-based grassroots organization creates people-powered solutions to the environmental and economic inequities facing low-income Latinx immigrants in the city. The Nicaragüense activist has represented PODER at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in 2006, on the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice’s Youth Leadership Campaign in 2009, as a Reel Justice Fellow learning about media production and storytelling in 2013 and as a Climate Justice Alliance Fellow in 2015.

Read: Here’s How You Can Easily Be More Green And Save Big

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