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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.

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