Four Year Old Search for Sofia Juarez Still Active
KENNEWICK, WA. -- On February 4, 2003, four year old Sofia Juarez walked out of her home with a dollar bill in her hand to go to the grocery store with her grandmother's boyfriend, and then vanished. Her fifth birthday was the next day, but she never had her party, because she disappeared. This resulted in one of the biggest searches in Tri Cities history with every local law enforcement agency, fire department, the F.B.I., the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and hundreds of volunteers. Detectives still don't have any idea what really happened to her, but it isn't for a lack of effort. They've checked into thousands of leads and filed thousands of reports over the last four years and they're frustrated they haven't been able to find this little girl. Sergeant Randy Maynard was on duty the night Sofia disappeared and has been associated with the case ever since. One tip he says they've gotten several times over the last couple of years is that Sofia was hit by a car in front of her house, picked up by the driver and buried somewhere on Jump Off Joe Butte. "There was even a further twist where her remains were excavated from that site on Jump Off Joe Butte and taken to Prosser, and buried out on a farm in Prosser which led us to the search there a year ago June," said Sgt. Maynard. But like all of the other leads, no sign of Sofia. Then in August of 2006, a skull of a child was found north of Connell. Initial tests were inconclusive, so now it's being examined at the F.B.I. Missing Children Unit in Virginia. Detective Craig Hanson has been involved with the Sofia case since the beginning. He's been the lead detective on the case since May of 2005, the third lead detective. He's investigated more than 150-tips just since he's taken over, but again, nothing's panned out. "It's been very frustrating. One, we don't know originally what happened to Sofia. We've have various accounts coming through the last nearly four years of what's happened to her. They've ranged from familial abductions to stranger abductions and so on," said Det. Hanson. Detective Hanson talks to Sofia's mother frequently and follows every single lead, with the hope that one of them will help them figure out what happened to Sofia Juarez. "The Department here is committed to find her one way or another. Whether it happens today or 20-years from now during my retirement party, we want to find her," said Hanson. When both Maynard and Hanson were asked if they think there's a chance Sofia is still alive, they said they hope so, but they know that after this much time, the odds don't look good. The F.B.I. has a new agent in town who's been assigned the Sofia Juarez case. She's currently reviewing the case, which remains very active. Many people are still holding out hope this little girl will be found alive and returned to her mother.