People magazine features the 2003 Tri-Cities, WA kidnapping

The 2003 kidnapping of a Kennewick girl continues to garner attention with People magazine’s cover of The Cold Case.

Sofia Juarez went missing a day before her 5th birthday after receiving a dollar from her mother and following another adult out of the family home in Kennewick.

Eighteen years later, as local investigators struggled to get fresh news on the girl’s disappearance, information began to flow into the department about a TikTok video filmed in Mexico showing a woman with surprisingly similar facial features.

The woman tells the social media personality who interviewed her that she was kidnapped as a young child and doesn’t like birthdays.

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This side-by-side photo shows the woman featured in a TikTok video police are currently investigating as a possible lead in the search for Sofia Juarez, who disappeared in 2003, seen here aged 5.

On Monday night, the unsolved case that has long haunted both current and retired Kennewick police officers was the story of “True Crime” on People TV, a daily streaming show.

The 4-minute segment coincided with the release of a story in the magazine which is currently on newsstands.

He asks – “Did a viral TikTok video help solve the case of an 18-year-old missing person?” – and includes interviews with Kennewick’s special investigator, Al Wehner, and Sofia’s grandmother, Ignacia Juarez.

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Sofia would now be 23.

Here is what has happened in the case to date:

Sofia at 8 p.m. on February 4, 2003, comes out of the family home on East Avenue at 3 p.m. on suspicion of following a relative’s boyfriend to a nearby store.

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A memorial for Sofia Juarez, 4 years missing, can be found at the corner of East 15th Avenue and Washington Street in Kennewick in 2003. Molly Van Wagner Herald of the Three Cities

A witness around 8:30 p.m. saw a Hispanic boy, aged 11 to 14, approaching a young girl on a sidewalk on South Washington Street, between 14th and 15th Avenues East. He led the girl to a stopped nearby van, laughing as she cried.

Sofia’s mother, Maria Juarez, spends 45 minutes looking for her daughter, then calls Kennewick Police. Ten agents join in the search, checking out yards and convenience stores – not sure if she wandered away or was taken away by someone.

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Traffic passes the intersection where a witness said a boy drove Sofia Juarez to a pickup truck stopped on 14th Avenue on February 4, 2003. Bob Brawdy Herald of the Three Cities

Sofia’s disappearance became Amber’s first alert in Washington state.

The witness contacted the police the next day after seeing reports of a missing girl and realizing that they had seen the first moments of Sofia’s kidnapping. Detectives are keeping the witness’s report confidential to help determine if new leads with similar details are credible.

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Volunteers and police lined up side by side in a field off 12th Place West in Kennewick to search for clues the day after Sofia Juarez went missing from her home on February 4, 2003. Bob Brawdy Herald of the Three Cities

Police, firefighters, federal agents, volunteers, dive crews and the Army National Guard are searching the Sofia neighborhood and homes around Mid-Columbia and the Columbia River for any signs of the little girl’s body.

In March 2003, Sofia’s mother and grandmother traveled to Mexico to look for leads in the investigation.

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Mother Maria Juarez, center, and Grandmother Ignacia Juarez carry signs and candles in honor of Sofia who died in 2003. Molly Van Wagner Herald of the Three Cities

Over the years, the smiling girl’s face with a floral hat and images of progression by age are featured on the side of a NASCAR race car, on the America’s Most Wanted TV show, in Times Square in New York and on semi-trailers that crisscross. the country.

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The Washington State Patrol Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit unveiled its new Homeward Bound trucks at the Kennewick Police Department Headquarters on February 4, 2021. Jennifer King [email protected]

Maria Juarez moved to California several years after her daughter went missing. She died in January 2009 from medical complications and her family said they never gave up hope of finding her.

The 18th anniversary of her disappearance is marked in early 2021, as Kennewick Police redouble their efforts to find her, putting her face on trailers with the Homeward Bound program and throwing a “What Happened in Sofia? ” website.

In April, detectives discovered a 37-second TikTok video with a homeless woman in Culiacan, Sinaloa.

Kennewick Police are making contact with the woman’s suspected relatives, who say she is not the missing Sofia and has no ties to the United States.

The woman, who said in the video that she was a drug addict, goes to a rehabilitation center.

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Detectives do not have the power to simply travel to another country. They try to contact the woman through the drug rehabilitation center, but without success, in an attempt to confirm her abduction history and identity by comparing her DNA to Sofia’s on file.

An update on Sofia’s website says detectives are trying to find a light blue, silver or gray van that was busy and sitting on a nearby street that night. The old full-size minivan from the 1970s to 1980s looked like a work van with no side windows.

A couple from Kennewick are offering a reward of $ 10,000 for any information leading to the discovery of Sofia’s whereabouts.

Anyone with information is encouraged to visit the website, www.go2kennewick.com/1368/What-Happened-to-Sofia.

They can also contact Special Investigator Al Wehner at 509-582-1331 or [email protected], in addition to calling non-emergency dispatch at 509-628-0333.

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This story was originally published June 15, 2021 5:00 a.m.

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Kristin M. Kraemer covers the justice system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She was a journalist for over 20 years in Washington and California.


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