If you’ve been following the fervent coverage of the missing person case of Gabby Petito, you’ll undoubtedly have heard about the disparity that occurs in missing person coverage in the media known as Missing White Woman Syndrome. Missing White Woman Syndrome is the cultural phenomenon in which stories about young white women receive the bulk of media coverage when it comes to missing persons. Other names associated with Missing White Woman Syndrome are Mollie Tibbets, Natalee Holloway, and Lauren Spierer—all young, beautiful white women who went missing under perilous circumstances. The high drama of their cases practically eclipses coverage of nonwhite missing persons, especially missing women of color. Petito’s case has reignited the national conversation around Missing White Women Syndrome, and prompted true crime fans to familiarize themselves with stories of missing women of color who have received a fraction of the media attention as Petito.
Modesto, California is incredibly familiar with high-profile missing person cases because it was the location of the Laci Peterson disappearance back in 2002. However, coverage of Susana Torres’ disappearance more than 3 months ago has not garnered national attention despite the harrowing circumstances of her disappearance. Susana remains missing after she disappeared from a grocery store parking lot in Stanislaus County, California back in April, 2021. Susana was kidnapped at gunpoint by her ex-husband, Javier Chavez, 41, who forced her into the car and drove off with their two young children in the back seat. Chavez reportedly dropped the children off at his mother’s house, then drove off with Susana in the car. She has not been seen since. Chavez is believed to have fled to Mexico, and investigators are currently working with the Mexican authorities to find him.
Few things exacerbate the urgency of a missing person search like the missing person carrying a child. Akia Eggleston was last seen on May 3, 2017 in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore Maryland. At the time of her disappearance, she was eight months pregnant. She was reported missing on May 7, 20217, just a week before Mother’s Day, when she did not show up to her own baby shower. Despite the advanced stage of her pregnancy, and the circumstances of her disappearance, her case and all subsequent addendums to it have received little to no media coverage.
Nine-year-old Asha Degree disappeared more than 20 years ago in North Carolina. Her case shares details with Elizabeth Smart, but did not recieve the same level of coverage. Like Smart, Asha disappeared from her bedromo in the middle of the night between 2:30AM when her mother went to check on her, and 6:30AM when she went to wake her children for school. There were two eyewitness accounts from persons who claimed to have seen a young girl walking away from Asha’s home around 4:00 AM. Asha has not been seen since. The case remains an open investigation.
Lauren was a 30-year-old New Jersey teacher when she was last seen on Jun 28, 2021. She was last seen leaving a residence on foot in Yucca Valley, California. Lauren’s case shares many of the same details with Gabby Petito’s story—such as the fact that she had recently returned from a cross-country trip with her ex-boyfriend in a tour bus. She had been staying with the ex after they returned from the trip. Lauren’s case is just one of many that has gained new life since coverage of the Petito case escalated.
Missing child cases do get comparable media coverage to that of young white women, but this coverage very rarely includes children of color, like Sofia Juarez, who vanished in Kennewick, Washington in 2003. The circumstances of her case could have been clickbait fodder for nervous Facebook parents who share viral stories of attempted abductions by sex traffickers in the present day—but back in 2003 before the ubiquity of social media, it still did not receive ample media coverage at the time. Investigators have recently reported a credible witness account from a woman who claims she saw a toddler who matched little Sofia’s description being abducted by a young adolescent boy—a common tactic of sex traffickers. Investigators are continuing to follow all incoming leads.
Dulce Maria Alvez was also from New Jersey. She was just five years old when she disappeared from Bridgeton City Park while visiting with her mother after a trip for ice cream. Her disappearance was noticed when her younger brother informed their mother that he could not find Dulce. Investigators reported that Dulce may have been abducted by an unknown man who lured her into a red van. He was described as light-skinned, between 5’6” – 5’8”, with a thin build, no facial hair, and acne. Police said he was wearing orange sneakers, red pants, and a black shirt. Despite Dulce being placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list of missing children, her case remains largely unknown.