10 -year-anniversary of disappearance: Kennewick police still seek information on missing girl

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 4, 2013 

It's been 10 years since 4-year-old Sofia Juarez disappeared from her Kennewick home on Feb. 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday.

Police say nothing new has been discovered in the case, and they are no closer to finding out what happened to her, said Sgt. Ken Lattin of the Kennewick Police Department.

If Sofia still is alive, she will turn 15 years old Tuesday.

She was last seen leaving her Kennewick home with a dollar in her pocket to follow a family friend to a nearby store. But the friend was unaware Sofia was following him, and she never made it to the store.

During the past decade, Kennewick police have not given up trying to solve the mystery surrounding her disappearance, despite a plethora of dead-end tips.

"There have been all sorts of urban legends about what happened to Sofia," Lattin said.

Some of those reports included that she was abducted by someone she knows and is living in Mexico. Another tip was that she was taken by a stranger and murdered, or is being held somewhere against her will.

Another rumor indicated that she accidentally was hit by a van, then buried south of Kennewick near Hover Park in Finley or Jump Off Joe, a hill south of Kennewick.

"There was no credibility to any of those myths," Lattin said.

But for those detectives who worked the case from the start, the day Sofia went missing is one they never will forget.

"Somebody out there knows something about what happened to Sofia and hasn't shared it with us yet. Technology changes all the time and helps solve cold cases like this. So we aren't giving up," Lattin said.

A new lead detective is assigned to the case every few years so it can be looked at again with a fresh pair of eyes, he added.

The advancement of social media also entered the investigation a couple of years ago when detectives got a tip that a Sofia Juarez was on Facebook and living in Long Beach, Calif. But that tip was unfounded, and the case stalled again.

Sofia was the subject of Washington's first Amber Alert. Since her disappearance, her picture has been featured on the TV series America's Most Wanted, the side of a NASCAR race car, in Times Square and on the side of a fleet of semis that travel back and forth across the country.

She is one of 76 children from Washington who are listed with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Sofia's family moved back to California a few years after her disappearance, and her mother Maria died four years ago in Sacramento from medical complications.

Sofia has black hair and brown eyes, a mole under her left eye and a birthmark on her lower back. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Kennewick police at 509-585-4208 or 509-628-0333.

"We're always looking for new leads in this case," Lattin said. "We won't give up."

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com'

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