Sofia Juarez, 4, disappeared on February 4, 2003, just one day before her 5th birthday. She was Washington State’s first Amber alert, and her case remains a mystery.
Sofia’s family said she enjoyed watching cartoons, playing with dolls, and coloring. She lived with numerous family members, including her mother, grandmother, and several aunts and uncles, near where she vanished.
Sofia was abducted between 8:00 and 9:15 pm while walking westbound in the 100 block of E 15th Avenue towards S. Washington Street in Kennewick, Washington. The police reportedly arrived just three minutes after they were notified about Sofia’s kidnapping.
According to Kennewick PD, Sofia was “shy by nature and not prone to wander off by herself.”
Police and community members began searching house to house for Sofia to no avail. The search lasted through the night and over the next several days.
According to the Kennewick Police Department, “the FBI responded within hours to conduct a joint investigation into Sofia’s possible abduction.”
The Search for Sofia Juarez Begins
The search involved K-9 scent, search and rescue, cadaver teams, thermal imaging, and night vision scopes. Police used helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to scour surrounding neighborhoods and remote areas.
Authorities searched every inch of the area, including rivers, waterways, street sewers, homes, and vehicles. Over 500 individuals from local police agencies, FBI agents, Dive and Rescue members, Incident Management Team personnel, and civilian volunteer members reportedly searched for Sofia in the first few days after she disappeared.
TikTok Rushes to Sofia Juarez Rescue?
Over 19 years later, internet sleuths urged authorities to investigate whether or not a woman in a viral TikTok video was, in fact, Sofia.
In April 2021, social media personality Aká y Allá posted a video interview with a 22-year-old woman in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. The unnamed woman, who had similar features to Sofia, told the interviewer she didn’t like celebrating her birthday.
The video racked up over two million views on various social media platforms, eventually reaching the woman’s family. A person related to the woman told police she was admitted to a rehabilitation center and was not Sofia Juarez.
The rehabilitation center refused to assist police unless “ordered to do so by a Mexican court.” Police reportedly suspended the investigation, so they did not interfere with the woman’s treatment.
However, in February 2022, FBI authorities located the woman who had since been released from the rehabilitation center. She voluntarily provided a DNA sample.
A month later, in March 2022, police confirmed the woman’s DNA did not match Sofia’s.
The Match the Started a New Fire
Three months later, on June 2, 2021, police revealed information to the public that they’d kept confidential since Sofia vanished. Authorities revealed that 18 years ago, a “highly credible witness” reported seeing a Hispanic juvenile male lead Sofia on South Washington Street near E 15th Avenue to an unmarked van.
The witness said the male was laughing as Sofia was crying.
Police estimated the male was 11 to 14 years old, making him about 29-32 years old today. The witness described him as light-complexioned, chubby, and about 5-foot to 5-foot-2-inches.
According to KPD investigators, he had a “baby face with a possible mark on a cheek, dark short wavy hair about 1.5 inches long that appeared greasy that lay flat with bangs.” They also noted he had big hands for a person of his age.
The witness said the vehicle was parked on a nearby side street and described it as a 1970s or early 1980s light blue or silver (gray) work-type van with no side windows.
Kennewick PD asks “anybody who has information on a person and van seen in the area of S. Washington Street near E. 15th Avenue between 8:00 pm and 9:15 pm on February 4, 2003, to contact police.”
Anyone who might know someone who “may have operated a similar type van and either lived nearby, would have passed through the area at that time, or driven by as part of their regular route or routine” is also urged to contact police. Authorities say it doesn’t matter how minimal it might be. Someone knows what happened to Sofia.
Signs of Sofia Juarez
One month later, on July 7, 2022, Kennewick authorities announced they ruled out another lead suggesting a TikTok user was Sofia. However, The Kennewick Police Department has yet to report any new information since then.
Sofia was 3 feet tall and 35 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes when she disappeared. She was last seen wearing blue overalls, a red shirt, violet socks, and white shoes. Sofia has a mole under her left eye and was missing four top front teeth.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created multiple aged-progressed photos of what Sofia might look like at ages 9, 15, and 23.
“Sofia was a beacon of sunshine who had a bright and innocent life stolen from her,” according to the Kennewick PD website. “Her family, friends, and community have lived under a dark cloud since she was taken from us. Sofia was, and still is, loved by all who knew her.”
Sofia’s mother passed away without knowing what happened to her baby girl. However, authorities are determined to bring her family closure.
Sofia Juarez Disappearance has Haunted the Tri-City Community for Nearly Two Decades
On the 18th anniversary of Sofia’s disappearance, The Washington State Patrol’s Homeward Bound Program collaborated with Kam-Way Transportation to help bring awareness to Sofia’s case.
As a result, numerous semi-trailer rigs drove throughout the country with images of Sofia plastered on the sides of their trailers. In previous cases, the Homeward Bound Program successfully generated new leads by displaying images of missing children on semi-trailers.
Sofia’s disappearance has haunted the Tri-City community for nearly two decades, and Kennewick PD officials wrote a message for the person who kidnapped Sofia.
“This event has had a marked effect on your life. You have been looking over your shoulder since 2003. You may have trouble sleeping, maintaining employment, and/or changed your consumption of alcohol and/or drugs.”
“Each tip brings us closer to you. It is time to relieve this heavy burden that you have carried. It is time to help yourself. We encourage you to contact us.”
Special investigator Al Wehner asks anyone with information about Sofia’s case to contact him at 509-582-1331.