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Gone Without a Trace: Help Us Find These 10 Missing Children

More than 300,000 kids are reported missing each year in the United States. Ten families share details of their cases in hope of bringing their children home

<p>Courtesy of Vasquez Family; Courtesy of Jamie Jo Hiles; Tanesha Howard; Courtesy of Jodi Jacobellis; National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (2); Courtesy of Erika Ramirez; Courtesy of Teddi Wind; Homestead Police Department</p> 10 Missing Children: Elyssa Vasquez, Oakley Carlson, Joniah Walker, Vanessa Morales, Jayshawn Fountain, Luis & Kahmila Ramirez, Steven Bryan, Nevaeh Kingbird, Maribel Oquendo-Carrero

Many parents have experienced the terror of losing a child in a crowded store or at a jam-packed event — and then felt the overwhelming relief of finding them again.

For Tanesha Howard, whose 15-year-old daughter Joniah Walker disappeared in Wisconsin in 2022, the terror is unending.

“I can’t sleep, I can’t eat,” she tells PEOPLE. “I want her back so badly.”

Joniah’s case, along with nine other missing kids’ cases, are detailed here.

There were 359,094 kids reported missing in the U.S. in 2022, according to the FBI.

If you have information about any missing child, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

A TEEN GONE, A MOM’S UNENDING SEARCH

JONIAH WALKER

Missing: June 23, 2022

<p>Tanesha Howard</p> Joniah Walker

Tanesha Howard

Joniah Walker

It was a normal summer morning in 2022, or so it seemed, when social services worker Tanesha Howard gave her 15-year-old daughter Joniah Walker a kiss and a hug before leaving the family’s house in Milwaukee.

Hours later she called Joniah from work to tell her that Joniah’s father had plans to pick up the teenager that afternoon and take her to get a work permit for her new job at a pizzeria.

“She said, ‘Okay!’” recalls Howard. “That was the last time I talked to her.”

At 3:30 p.m. Joniah’s dad came to pick her up. But Joniah was nowhere to be found. Her dad tried calling her but she didn’t answer her phone.

Howard checked in with Joniah’s siblings and friends who said they hadn’t seen any sign of the teen.

Worried, Howard rushed home and began frantically knocking on neighbors’ doors. She became more terrified when they told her they hadn’t seen Joniah.

“I didn’t know if somebody snatched her off the streets,” says Howard.

A neighbor’s doorbell camera captured footage of Joniah leaving home that day with a large backpack, leading Howard to suspect her daughter had been lured away by someone. “I have a feeling in my heart,” says Howard. “She’s still alive.”

Call the Milwaukee Police Department at 414-935-7405 if you have information about this case.

SHE DISAPPEARED AFTER A FIRE AT HER FAMILY’S HOUSE

OAKLEY CARLSON

Missing: December 2021

Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office Oakley Carlson
Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office Oakley Carlson

When Oakley Carlson was reported missing by a school principal in late 2021, her parents reportedly told police they’d “lost track” of their 5-year-old daughter—last seen on Feb. 10 of that year—after a house fire in Oakville, Wash., the previous month.

Oakley's parents, Jordan Bowers and Andrew Carlson, were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter but were released without being charged when investigators couldn’t find the little girl’s body or other evidence of a homicide. (Both were convicted of drug-related crimes.)

Department of Children, Youth and Families workers responded to 11 reports of “domestic violence, physical abuse, parental drug use and medical neglect” at her family’s home between 2013 and 2021, according to court documents.

For Jamie Jo Hiles, 36, Oakley’s former foster mother, not knowing what happened to the little girl who loved to dance and swim is almost too much to bear.

“If she’s alive, if somebody’s hiding her or if she was sold, I honestly don’t know,” says Hiles.

Call Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office at 360-946-1729 with information.

A BABY MISSING AFTER HER MOM FOUND MURDERED

VANESSA MORALES

Missing: Dec. 2, 2019

Amber Alert Vanessa Morales
Amber Alert Vanessa Morales

Christine Holloway always thought she couldn’t have children. So in 2017, when the Ansonia, Conn., day care worker learned she was pregnant with daughter Vanessa, she was over the moon.

“Vanessa was basically a miracle,” says Holloway’s sister-in-law Jodi Jacobellis. “She was just a happy baby, always smiling and laughing. She was stuck to Christine like glue.”

But a horrific tragedy struck the family on Dec. 2, 2019, when authorities found Holloway, 43, beaten to death inside her home. When Jacobellis learned what had happened, “I broke down,” she says. “I looked at the detectives and said, ‘Where’s the baby?’”

Authorities searched but never found then-15-month-old Vanessa. Her father, Jose Morales, 46, was charged with Holloway’s murder — he pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Says Jacobellis: “We will never give up until she’s here in our arms again, where she belongs.”

If you have information, call Ansonia Police Department at 203-735-1885.

SHE GOT ON A BUS AND DISAPPEARED

ELYSSA VASQUEZ

Missing: Jan. 28, 2003

<p>National Center for Missing & Exploited Children</p> Elyssa Vasquez as she might look today

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Elyssa Vasquez as she might look today

Elyssa Vasquez was already planning her upcoming 13th birthday dance party in March when she spoke to her mother on the phone on Jan. 28, 2003, on her first day at a new school in Clarkston, Ga.

“She wanted me to braid her hair like Alicia Keys,” recalls Shannon Vasquez, now 47.

Witnesses saw Elyssa board a bus headed toward home that afternoon, but no one saw her get off. Decades later “we keep searching,” says Vasquez. “I hope we’ll find her, hold her and tell her, ‘If something needs fixing, we’ll fix it together.’”

Call DeKalb County Police at 404-294-2519 with tips.

A PROMISING YOUNG LIFE INTERRUPTED

JAYSHAWN FOUNTAIN

Missing: Feb. 24, 2023

<p>National Center for Missing & Exploited Children</p> Jayshawn Fountain

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Jayshawn Fountain

In early 2023 Tonya King called Jayshawn Fountain to offer to help the Wilkins Township, Pa., teen with homework that his teacher said he hadn’t completed.

“He replied, ‘Okay,’” says King, 62, who became legal guardian of Jayshawn and his two brothers when they were removed from their mother’s care in 2020.

But after two hours Jayshawn — a quiet 17-year-old “homebody” who King says has autism and ADHD — still hadn’t arrived at the Starbucks where they had agreed to meet.

Police found his book bag near a bus stop with his laptop and cell phone inside (and a stranger used his bus pass the next day), but there was no sign of Jayshawn.

Before he vanished, Jayshawn, always helpful and polite, was starting to “get out of his shell,” says King. “He’s a good kid. We all miss him.”

Call Allegheny County Police at 412-473-3000 with any information.

KIDNAPPED AFTER THEIR CASEWORKER WAS TASED

LUIS & KAHMILA RAMIREZ

Missing: May 2018

<p>National Center for Missing & Exploited Children</p> What Luis Ramirez might look like now

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

What Luis Ramirez might look like now
<p>National Center for Missing & Exploited Children</p> What Kahmila Ramirez might look like now

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

What Kahmila Ramirez might look like now

“Who took our kids? How do we get them back?” Erika Ramirez, 46, had to ask the unthinkable in 2018.

Her husband, David, 44, told her that their nephew Luis, 5—whom Erika and David had won custody of two years earlier when his parents vanished after being charged with sex crimes—and their 6-month-old niece Kahmila were missing.

The kids had beeb kidnapped by their birth parents, who used a Taser to stun the children's elderly caseworker at a Tucson park.

Authorities found the couple’s abandoned 1996 Toyota Camry the next day in Nogales, near the Mexican border. “There’s footage of them fleeing the country,” says Erika. “They just disappeared.”

Luis was “a ball of energy, with huge dimples,” she says. “He was very loving,” she says. Kahmila “was very a beautiful little baby” who had the cutest laugh.

“I love them and I will never stop searching for them,” says Erika.

Call Tucson Police at 520-791-4444 if you have any information.

MISSING HIS VOICE AND THE LIGHT IN HIS EYES

STEVEN BRYAN

Missing: June 9, 2022

<p>National Center for Missing & Exploited Children</p> Steven Bryan

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Steven Bryan

Tyler Bryan loved to read to his 3-year-old son Steven. “He was very active and playful—a lot of fun to be with,” recalls Tyler, 30, a plumber in Indianapolis.

Now all he has are treasured memories of those moments. “June 9, 2022, was the last time I saw him,” he says.

It was the day Steven’s mother, Deborah Bryan, 30, left her home in Mooresville, Ind., with their son and abruptly severed contact with Tyler.

In August of that year police issued a statewide Silver Alert for Steven, Deborah and Deborah’s boyfriend Caleb Blevins, 31. They may have been in a silver Toyota Rav4 with an Indiana license plate (VSH490). Tyler and Deborah were divorcing when she vanished, he says.

He worries about Steven, who has a speech impediment—“He couldn’t really speak; I don’t know if that’s gotten better”—and sometimes thinks he’ll never see his son again. “I’ve talked to so many detectives and U.S. Marshals. I’m at a loss.”

Call the Mooresville Police Department at 317-831-3434 with information.

LAST SEEN LEAVING A FRIEND’S HOME

NEVAEH KINGBIRD

Missing: Oct. 22, 2021

<p>Courtesy of Teddi Wind</p> Nevaeh Kingbird

Courtesy of Teddi Wind

Nevaeh Kingbird

In the fall of 2021, 15-year-old Nevaeh Kingbird was struggling after her best friend died by suicide.

“Nevaeh was going through some things,” says her mom, Teddi Wind.

On the night of Oct. 21, Nevaeh was supposed to go to the movies, but her friends took her to a party at Cass Lake near Bemidji, Minn., Wind says. "She ends up leaving that party and showing up at my house.”

So did some of her friends, says Wind, who was at work at the time.

When Wind came home, she told the people gathered at her house to leave. And while she was doing that, Nevaeh ran out the back door, she says.

At 2 a.m. the next day Nevaeh was seen leaving a friend’s place in a nearby mobile-home park, and then she disappeared, leaving her phone behind.

“It’s been really hard on my family,” says Wind. “We’re living a nightmare.”

“I'm trying my best to be a mother to my other children and hold down a job while still looking for Nevaeh and still keeping her name alive and still trying to get support to have people come and help me look for her. We have to take one thing at a time."

Her message to Nevaeh: "I miss you and I love you, and I think about you every day and I will never give up, and you're not forgotten."

Call Bemidji Police at 218-333-9111 with information.

MISSING AFTER GOING TO CORNER STORE

MARIBEL OQUENDO-CARRERO

Missing: Dec. 6, 1982

<p>National Center for Missing & Exploited Children</p> What Maribel Oquendo-Carrero may look like today

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

What Maribel Oquendo-Carrero may look like today

Maribel Oquendo-Carrero was 9 years old when she decided to walk to the corner store near her mother's apartment in Homestead, Fla., in 1982.

The owner of the store told family members that Maribel spent $5 on candy and then left with three men in a car, according to her sister, Claribel Garay. Maribel was never seen again.

More than four decades later, her family believes she was kidnapped that day, perhaps by a another relative, But police who investigated Maribel's disappearance have never made an arrest.

"When they took Maribel, there was a void in our hearts. Since then, that void has never been filled," says Maribel's half-sister, Brenda Vazquez-Rivera. "My mom passed away with that void in her heart, missing her daughter."

If she could speak to Maribel today, says sister Claribel, "I want to let her know that we have always been looking for her—that we miss her a lot."

The FBI is offering $25,000 to anyone with information leading to the recovery of Maribel or the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for her disappearance. If you have information, call your local FBI office.

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