Sunday, November 1, 2020

List Series: Vanished from School

School is a place where children are supposed to feel safe. However, American schools have often been the target of very unsafe situations. From shootings to sexual misconduct by teachers, the United States has no shortage of dangerous situations in their schools. Additionally, there are also numerous cases of children who have vanished from their schools. These cases involve children who were able to leave school without detection or supervision and were never seen or heard from again. Below is list of five such cases of children who vanished from school. All five of these individuals remain missing today.

Heather Lewis

Heather Lewis vanished after leaving her middle school in Ely, Nevada on April 4th, 2003. She was only 13 years-old at the time. Heather left school that day after getting suspended for getting caught with cigarettes. School officials sent her home and she left the building on foot. Heather never made it home that day and has never been seen or heard from again.

It's unclear why the school allowed Heather to leave school by herself rather than asking an adult to come pick her up. After she was reported missing, police actually classified her as a runaway. Heather was reportedly struggling in her relationship with her father and stepmother prior to her disappearance. Her family also believed the possibility that Heather ran away--but as time went on without any sign of her, they began to believe she had come to harm. 

Despite her runaway status, it does not appear that Heather actually planned to leave school early and actually run away that day. She left school because she was suspended--so unless she got caught with the cigarettes on purpose, it seems possible that Heather ran away on a whim. If the school had made sure that Heather was picked up by a trusted adult after getting suspended, there's a chance Heather may have never gone missing. Unfortunately, she still remains missing today. [read more]

Iyana Sawyer

Iyana Sawyer vanished from her high school in Jacksonville, Florida on December 19th, 2018. The 16 year-old girl left the building around lunchtime that day. Surveillance captured her exiting the building carrying two large bags. The footage shows that Iyana left the building without being detected by any of the school staff. She was never seen or heard from again.

Once police began investigating Iyana's disappearance, they quickly identified her uncle, 33 year-old Johnathan Quiles as a person of interest. Iyana was living with him prior to her disappearance, and they were reportedly engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship. In fact, Iyana was five months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, and it is believed that Johnathan was the father. In January 2019, he was arrested for sexual battery committed against yet another underage girl. While behind bars on those charges, investigators began to collect evidence against Johnathan in Iyana's case as well. Months later, Johnathan was indicted on murder charges for the death of both Iyana and her unborn child. 

At this time, prosecutors are pursuing the murder charges even though Iyana still remains missing. The last known images of her are from the surveillance footage from her school. Due to the fact that she was living with Johnathan, there's still a strong chance that Iyana would have come to harm regardless if she had left school early or not. Still, many schools their school require counselors and social workers to work with pregnant students. If the school staff had been aware or suspected that Iyana had gotten pregnant by statutory rape, they would have been required to call CPS. If CPS had intervened prior to Iyana's disappearance, there's a chance both she and her baby would be safe and unharmed today. [read more]

Nathaniel Holmes

Nathaniel Holmes vanished exactly one year before Iyana Sawyer, on December 19th, 2017. The 17 year-old boy was last seen last seen at his high school in Westminster, Colorado. Nathaniel had been dropped off at the school that morning by his mother, but he did not attend any of his classes.  Nathaniel instead went to the principal's office and asked to speak with a friend. The principal denied his request. Nathaniel left the building shortly thereafter. He called his mother and told her that he was going to a friend of his father's house and did not need to be picked up. Nathaniel has never been seen or heard from again.

Nathaniel was a new student at the school from which he vanished. He had only been attending the school for five weeks before his disappearance--but according to his father, he had already gotten in trouble quite a bit. The day before his disappearance, Nathaniel's father picked him up from school and suspected that he was on drugs. Since his father had to work that evening, Nathaniel was sent to his mother's house so he could be monitored. His mother dropped him off at school the following morning before he vanished.

Authorities believe Nathaniel left on his own accord. Still, Nathaniel's family members say that his disappearance is completely out of character. He left behind many personal items, including his iPad. It is unclear where Nathaniel was actually headed after he left his school. He remains missing today. [read more]

Elyssa Vasquez

Elyssa Vasquez was only 12 years-old when she vanished on January 28th, 2003. She was last seen at her middle school in Doraville, Georgia. Elyssa disappeared at some point during the school day and has never been seen or heard from again. 

It's unclear if anyone saw her leaving the school on the day of her disappearance. There is a lack of information available about how Elyssa actually left her school. It is unknown if she spoke to anyone at the school--such as a friend or classmate--about leaving school early or about running away. Still, police initially classified Elyssa as a runaway. She remained at that status for years before finally being reclassified as an endangered missing person.

Nowadays, schools are required to notify parents if their child does not show up to school without prior notification of their absence. It's unclear if a system like that existed at Elyssa's school in 2003, but there's a chance the search for her could have began earlier if that had been the case. 

Elyssa remains missing today and her family continues to search for answers. [read more]

Bianca Lebron

Bianca Lebron was only 10 years old when she vanished on November 7th, 2001. She was last seen in front of her elementary school in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was 8:30 in the morning and class was about to begin; however Bianca informed her friends and her teacher that she would not be actually attending class that day. She told them that instead, she was going shopping with her uncle. Bianca asked her friends if they wanted to join, but they declined. Shortly thereafter, an older model brown/tan van pulled up in front of their school. Bianca’s friends watched as she got inside the car and it drove off. Bianca has never been seen or heard from again.

It was not until Bianca's mother called the police at 8:30pm that evening that she learned that Bianca had never actually attended school that day.  Investigators then spoke to the friends who witnessed her getting into the van that morning. They told investigators that they were not worried when Bianca got into the van because they thought the driver was Bianca’s uncle. Her family members told investigators that Bianca does not have an uncle, and none of her relatives drive the car she was picked up in. At this point, it was clear that Bianca had been abducted. The suspect was described as a Hispanic male around 20 to 30 yrs old, 5"8 to 5"11 with an average build, black curly hair, long sideburns and a beard.

Over the years, a person of interest was identified--however he was eventually cleared of suspicion. Since then, there have been very few leads in Bianca's case. She remains missing today. The school from which Bianca disappeared enforced stricter attendance-taking policies after her abduction, and the teacher who allowed her to leave was suspended without leave. In 2008, the city reached a settlement to pay the Lebron family $750,000 after they filed a lawsuit claiming Bianca’s teacher let her leave without asking Bianca about the “uncle.” [read more]

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