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The New Documentary About Missing Madeleine McCann Is A Reminder Of These Latina Cold Cases

On Friday, Netflix dropped an original true crime documentary series about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a then 3-year-old British girl who was abducted at a Portugal resort in 2007 while her parents dined at a nearby restaurant. Her case, which remains unsolved, immediately garnered widespread coverage from international media, and, after the release of The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, it has become the topic of conversation again.

One of the most heavily-reported missing person cases of modern history, there are numerous theories about what happened to the girl, and many are investigated in the eight-episode series. One of the most widely-believed premises is that Madeleine was abducted and sold into a sex-trafficking ring. The now-15-year-old child’s body has never been found, leaving her parents to believe that “there is still hope that we can find Madeleine.”

While Madeleine’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.

This was apparent in 2016, when two young women in New York went missing and were soon found murdered in New York within a week. One of the women, 30-year-old Karina Vetrano, who was horribly beaten, raped and strangled to death while taking a jog in Queens, received national headlines. The other, 20-year-old Dominican-American Maylin Reynoso, whose lifeless body was found floating in the Harlem River, was barely covered in local news.

This particular case of media racism isn’t distinctive, either. Zach Sommers, a law and science fellow at Northwestern University School of Law, investigated the anecdotal theory that women and girls of color receive different treatment from the media when they go missing. According to his research, both race and gender play a role in the amount and type of coverage they receive.

“A person’s race plays into the types of assumptions we make,” Sommers recently told Refinery29. “The labeling of teenagers as runaways tends to be racialized. There is a hierarchy of victims in the media and in society, where we are more willing to label a young white girl as blameless.”

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.

Sofia Juarez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Sofia Juarez went missing on February 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday. Her disappearance, which remains unsolved, triggered Washington’s first-ever Amber alert. A 10-year-old relative reported seeing the young girl walking down the driveway with a man dressed in a black sweatshirt, black pants and sneakers. Officers considered her grandmother’s boyfriend Jose Lopez Torres, a neighbor with a record of minor sex offenses Kevin Ireland and the girl’s father as possible suspects, but no arrests have been made. Sofia’s mother died in 2009, but her family vowed to continue their search for the girl.

Haley Romero-Menendez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Haley Romero-Menendez was last seen in her Northwest Washington, DC neighborhood on Tuesday, March 12. The Metropolitan Police Department is currently asking for the public’s help in finding the “critically missing” 16-year-old Latina. Standing at 5’5” and 130 pounds, she was last seen wearing a green hoodie and blue jeans.

Reyna Alvarado-Carrera

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Reyna Alvarado-Carrera was last seen in her Norcross, Georgia home in 2005 at the age of 13. Few details are known, but authorities believe she was abducted by a non-relative male named Jose Carlos Gatica Luna who was 34 years old at the time of the disappearance. The girl, who went by Gaby, is now 27 years old.

Sulay Andino

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Manhattan Latina Sulay Andino was last seen on March 20, 2018 at the age of 16. Standing at 5’5″ tall and 145 pounds, the girl, now 17, is believed to be in the Bronx, though there are few details around her disappearance, including what she was last wearing, who last saw her and what she was last seen doing.

Diana Alvarez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Diana Belinda Alvarez has been missing since May 29, 2016. The girl, then 9 years old, was last seen in her Fort Myers, Fla. home wearing a short-sleeved shirt and blue shorts. Jorge Guerrero, who is currently incarcerated on possession of child pornography charges, is the prime suspect in the now-11-year-old girl’s disappearance. The girl’s mother, Rita, visited Guerrero in jail in July 2016, where the man told her that her daughter was alive but did not tell her where she was.

Henrietta Avila

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila went missing the summer of 1960, when she was 17 years old. She was last seen in Garden Grove, Calif., where she lived with her husband who she had dated for a month before they wed. News reports refer to the marriage as “no overwhelming success.” The summer of her disappearance, Henrietta’s parents contacted her husband, Merle, to ask where she was. He stated she had packed her bags and left him. A mysterious telegram signed “Henrietta” was sent to the family after the conversation and a collect call was made from someone claiming to be her, though they hung up as soon as her mother took the call. Henrietta’s parents hired a private investigator and offered a $1,000 reward for information on her remains, as they believed she was killed, but she, now 76, remains missing.

Alissa Albizu

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Alissa Albizu disappeared from her home in Philadelphia the night of October 16, 2015. Officials have classified her case as an “endangered runaway.” Last seen at age 13, when she was 5’2”, 112 pounds and wearing a red shirt and blue pants, Alissa, who has a tattoo on her right hand, is currently 16 years old.

Agueda Arias

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Agueda Arias disappeared from Longview, Washington at age three on November 16, 2001. The girl was last seen with her mom, Guadalupe Barajas Castro, shopping with an adult male friend. The vehicle the mother, who was pregnant at the time, was driving was found abandoned in California. Neither she nor her mother was seen again in a case authorities have said had “suspicious circumstances.” She would be 20 years old today.

Manuela Carina Caz Choc

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Manuela Carina Caz Choc, 16, was last seen June 10, 2018 in Culpeper, Virginia. The girl is believed to be with a man, named Oscar Quinich Tut, who was posing as her biological father. Manuela, now 17, was 5’0″ tall and 92 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She also had gold caps on three of her front teeth with a half moon shape in the middle and a skin condition causing discoloration on both her arms and back.

Aileen Rivera

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Aileen Rivera was last seen in Warminster, Pennsylvania on March 10, 2019. Reading police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating the missing 15-year-old. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall and about 120 pounds.

Read: 5 Things To Know About Latina Girls And The Sexual Abuse-To-Prison Pipeline

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Latina Teen Fatally Stabbed In Feud Over A Boy In Texas

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Latina Teen Fatally Stabbed In Feud Over A Boy In Texas

An 18-year-old girl was fatally stabbed in Texas on Friday after an online feud with another teen turned physical.

After weeks arguing on social media, Kaitlin Leonor Castilleja, alongside her friend Vivian Foster, also 18, went to the house of a 16-year-old girl to fight at about 1 a.m. During the brawl, which occured on the younger teen’s driveway, the 16-year-old, who has not been identified because she is a minor, pulled out a knife and stabbed both Castilleja and Foster.

Castilleja, who graduated from James Madison High School in 2018, was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead just before 2 a.m. Foster reportedly suffered “superficial wounds.”

Following the attack, the suspect, a current student at the high school, called the police to say “she had been assaulted in her driveway when she arrived home from work,” later telling officials that the friends were “stating they want to fight her.”

Foster, too, told authorities that she and Castilleja had been assaulted after “jumping” a girl at her house.

The suspect, who allegedly briefly dated Castilleja’s ex-boyfriend before he returned to her, is being held at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center.

Castilleja’s aunt believes the deadly fight was related to the ex-boyfriend.

“She isn’t able to give you her side of the story, but it’s been ongoing bullying on both sides,” Marie Fernandez told the San Antonio Express News. “It’s social media. There’s so many factors that have contributed to this, and at the end of the day, whether it was wrong, in all aspects my niece had no intentions of hurting anyone.”

The aunt, who believes her niece was lured to the 16-year-old’s home and noted a video of the fight had been on social media, shared her grief with KENS.

“I broke, I was lost for words and I just sunk into my pillow and didn’t believe it,” she said of learning of the death of her niece, who recently expressed interest in studying nursing in college. “I thought I was waking up from a nightmare.”

Police are still investigating the fatal stabbing.

Read: Latina Faces Deportation After Confronting A Man Wearing A “Make America Great Again” Hat At A Mexican Restaurant

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11 Most Notorious Crimes Of Passion

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11 Most Notorious Crimes Of Passion

Some critics argue that their term “crime of passion” is misleading, as it relieves some of the blame from the perpetrator and trivializes brutal crimes into something as harmless-seeming as a random burst of uncontrollable emotion. This is especially problematic in situations like domestic abuse, where the intimacy of relationships makes the violence that much more dangerous and insidious. We’ve compiled a list of 20 Notorious Crimes of Passion as a way to remember that love should never hurt.

1. Murder of Selena Quintanilla by Yolanda Saldívar

@carlos.floresr/Instagram

In one of the most notorious and heartbreaking murders in the Latino community in the 20th century, beloved Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla was shot and killed by her friend and fan club president Yolanda Saldívar. In the lead up to the murder, the Quintanilla family had discovered that Saldivar was embezzling money from both Quintanilla’s clothing stores (which she managed) as well as her fan club. After the Quintanilla family confronted her and terminated her employment, Saldívar lured Selena to a motel room under false pretenses and shot her to death. The fan and media response to Quintanilla’s death was unprecedented for a Latin artist. Quintanilla’s death is still regarded as one of the most tragic events in Latin music.

2. Lorena Bobbitt

@horror_nate2/Instagram

In a case that, at the time, captured the nation (and still does), Ecuadorian immigrant Lorena Bobbitt was put on trial in 1993 for cutting off her husband John’s penis while he was sleeping and disposing of it in a field. His penis was later surgically re-attached. The subsequent trial was a media-circus, both for its salacious subject matter and for the attention it brought to the issue of domestic abuse. Bobbitt alleged that she snapped after years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. A jury acquitted her of all charges due to insanity caused by extreme emotional duress. After the trial, Bobbitt reverted her last name back to her maiden name, Gallo, and has kept a relatively low profile ever since.

3. Laci Rocha Peterson

@coldcasemurdermysteries/Instagram

The murder of Laci Peterson, an expectant 27-year-old mother of mixed Mexican descent, is especially notable for the extended tabloid media coverage that surrounded her missing person’s case and subsequent murder trial. America was fascinated by the story of this beautiful young woman whose life was cut short by her psychopathic partner, Scott Peterson. The case shone a spotlight on the prevalent issue of pregnant homicide at the time. According to much-published statistics at the time, homicide causes twenty percent of pregnancy-associated deaths, making it the leading cause of death for pregnant women. Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection. His case, however, is currently on appeal.

4. Jodi Arias

@jaclynpassaro/Instagram

27 year-old Mexican-American Jodi Arias was convicted in 2008 of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in a fit of passion after a kinky sexual encounter. He was found dead with multiple stab wounds inflicted on his body as well as a gunshot wound to his head. What made this case even more fascinating was the couple’s involvement in the Mormon Church–an organization that isn’t often seen in headlines due to violent crimes. According to Arias’s testimony, it was Alexander’s repressed sexuality that caused him to be sexually abusive towards her, causing her to fear for her life. The jury wasn’t buying it, however, and in 2015 Arias was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

5. Sylvie Cachay

@misslesamac/Instagram

Peruvian-American swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay was drowned in a bathtub by her boyfriend of the time, Nicholas Brooks a trust-fund baby and an alleged freeloader. Cachay was murdered after breaking up and reconciling with her Brooks, whom she discovered was both stealing from her and cheating on her with sex workers. She was found drowned in a bathtub in the SoHo House in New York. It was a tragic end to the life of a woman who seemed to have her whole future ahead of her. In 2013, Brooks was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

6. Debbie Flores-Narvaez

@christian_oldewolbers/Instagram

Puerto-Rican born Las Vegas burlesque dancer Debbie Flores-Narvaez made headlines when she was reported missing in 2010. Both beautiful and highly intelligent, Flores-Narvaez was an interesting personality; both beautiful and highly intelligent, she obtained both a law degree and a master’s in finance. However, she left it all behind to pursue a dancing career in Vegas. After her disappearance, police soon zeroed-in on her recent ex-boyfriend and Cirque du Soleil dancer, Jason Griffith. Griffith was found to have disposed of Flores-Narvaez’s by playing her dismembered in concrete-filled tubs and scattering them in abandoned homes.  He was convicted in 2014 with 10 years to life. Flores-Narvaez’s murder transfixed the nation, and even spawned a Lifetime Original Movie entitled “Death of a Vegas Showgirl”.

7. Leonard Rojas

Public Domain

Like many of the assailants on this list, this convicted murderer seemed to suffer from intense paranoia. Convinced that his younger brother, David Rojas, and his common-law wife, Jo Ann Reed, were having an affair and plotting to kill him, Mexican-American Leonard Rojas shot and killed both Reed and Rojas in their shared trailer home in Alvarado, Texas in 1994. Rojas was executed by lethal injection in 2002. Before his death, Rojas expressed no remorse at the slaying of his wife and brother, insisting that they were “basically evil” and that they “just wanted [his] money…and wanted to do [him] in”.

8. Martha Freeman and Rafael DeJesus Rocha-Perez

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In one of the more bizarre entries on the list, this crime of passion commenced with a woman’s extramarital lover, illegal Mexican immigrant Rafael Rocha-Perez, living in her closet for a month, unbeknownst to her current husband. According to Freeman’s testimony, when her husband discovered her sleeping with Rocha-Perez, he demanded that the young man leave. Instead, Rocha-Perez attacked him, beating him to death. It was later revealed that Martha Freeman herself aided Rocha-Perez in the murder of her husband. Freeman and Rocha-Perez were both charged with first-degree murder and convicted to 51 years each in prison.

9. Áurea Vázquez Rijos

@elnuevodia/Instagram

Dubbed “The Black Widow” by the media, Áurea Vázquez Rijos, former “Miss Puerto Rico Petite” winner, orchestrated the killing of her husband Adam Anhang. Rijos hired a hitman to kill her husband while they left a restaurant together. Her motive was determined to be completely financial, as she was poised to gain more money from his death (Anhang had a net worth of $24 million) than from a divorce. After being charged with being an accessory to Anhang’s murder, the Puerto Rican beauty queen fled the country to Italy in 2006 and wasn’t found until 2015. She was convicted of being a co-conspirator in her husband’s murder in 2018 and sentenced to life in prison.

10. Irene Garza

@find_gods_children/Instagram

Former Chicana beauty queen and homecoming queen Irene Garza’s body was found at the bottom of a canal in 1960. Her autopsy reported that she was raped and died of asphyxiation due to suffocation. Her death was deeply upsetting to a community that valued her as a grade-school teacher and as an active member of the local Catholic parish. What made the murder case even more unsettling was that the primary suspect was visiting priest, John Feith. Although Mr. Feith had admitted to “killing a woman” in an interview with a Catholic monk, Garza’s death had long been viewed as a cold case before the Hidalgo Country District Attorney reopened the case in 2014. Mr. Feit was finally arrested in 2016 at the age of 83. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Feit was living in a home for “troubled priests” in New Mexico, where he had been moved to by the Catholic Church. Feith was finally arrested in 2016 and convicted of murder in 2017. He was sentenced to life in prison.

11. Carlos Monzón & Alicia Muñiz

@aliciamuniz_55/Instagram

Alicia Muñiz’s death was one of the first of many in Argentina that sparked a national conversation about violence against women. Frustrated by the media minimizing domestic violence murders like this as “crimes of passion” in Argentina, feminist activists campaigned to instead to label murders like this as “femicide”. Thrown from a balcony and killed by her famous boxer husband, Carlos Monzón, Muñiz’s death enraged many Argentinian women who felt that Monzón got off easy in both the justice system and the media. Monzón was sentenced to eleven years in prison but ended up being released before serving even a quarter of his sentence. Authorities determined he threw Muñiz over the balcony in an attempt to stage her murder as an accident after murdering her beforehand.

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