Police Have New Lead In 2003 Disappearance Of 4-Year-Old Sofia Juarez
Police have released a new suspect description in the missing case of Sofia Juarez, who is believed to have been abducted near her home.
The very first child ever listed as an active Amber Alert for Washington state still has not been found, but authorities are now releasing brand new suspect information. On February 3, 2003, and only one day before her fifth birthday, Sofia Juarez disappeared from her home in Kennewick, Washington.
On the night she vanished, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the young girl was at home playing with family. Sofia reportedly had younger aunts and uncles who were with her inside the house. At one point, Sofia’s grandmother’s boyfriend asked the kids if they wanted to go to the store with him, but reportedly they all said no. The male left alone, NCMEC said on their blog post.
“Police believe that Sofia changed her mind at the last minute and started making her way to the store on foot. Sofia never made it to the store,” according to NCMEC’s post. Kennewick Police said they believe Sofia was abducted sometime between 8 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. on the westbound side in the 100 block of East 15th Avenue toward South Washington Street.
Investigators said a key witness saw a child matching Sofia’s description walking down a sidewalk near those same crossroads. “The observation corresponds to the approximate time that Sofia would have arrived on foot in that area,” police added.
The witness told authorities a person approached the child and led her away toward an occupied van. “Sofia cried as the person laughed,” the witness told authorities. For years, one of the only clues released to the public was information about the van. The description of the vehicle only generated 24 tips at the time.
More recently in 2021, a video on Tiktok received a lot of attention and more than 50 tips. Police said many thought the woman in the video, who was interviewed randomly in Mexico, claimed she had been held against her will and was trying to reunite with her family. Some thought the female could be Sofia because the ages now match up.
According to reports, it was later revealed the woman seen on video was attending a rehab facility in the area and her family was identified. They said their loved one is not Sofia and they are requesting privacy.
After Sofia’s disappearance, “hundreds” of neighbors of the family came out to assist with the search. It is one of those cases in Kennewick where NCMEC said everyone remembers exactly “where they were and what they were doing” when Sofia vanished.
In early 2021, Kam-Way Transportation Homeward Bound Trucks added Sofia’s name and information on the side of their trucks that travel across America. NCMEC said Kam-Way is a tremendous supporter of missing children and they have featured “dozens” of missing kids on their vehicles over the years.
Sofia’s aunt, Victoria Juarez told NCMEC it is comforting for her family to see so many have not lost hope to find their loved one. Although Sofia’s mother died, Sofia’s loved ones are carrying on her memory. Many of Sofia’s belongings have been passed along to the smaller children of the family so they can have a piece of their family member with them.
Victoria said, “It's hard to explain to little kids, you know, that the little girl in the picture at grandma's house is your cousin.” Victoria adds, “…we deserve answers.”
As for the suspect, the Kennewick Police believe the person is a Hispanic male and was juvenile at the time. The suspect may have been between the ages of 11 - 14 years old (would now be around 29-32 years old). He has a light complexion, was “chubby” at the time and had a “babyface.” It’s possible the male had a “mark on a cheek.” The suspect’s hair was short and wavy and it appeared he had “big hands for a person his age.” The suspect’s hair was wavy and greasy, police add.
“Suspect Vehicle: Light blue or silver (or gray) older 1970’s to early 1980’s type full-sized panel van with no side windows. Had appearances of possibly being a work-type van, the type that contractors or painters may have used. This is not to imply that it would have been a contractor or painter’s van,” police add.