Sunday, June 12, 2022

Pride Month 2022: Missing LGBTQ+

A study from 2020 states that members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be victims of crime than those who do not identify with the LGBTQ+. The study collected data between 2016 and 2020, and the data concluded that "members of such communities, referred to as sexual and gender minorities, experienced a rate of 71.1 violent victimizations per 1,000 persons a year, compared with 19.2 per 1,000 a year among non-sexual and gender minorities." (source

There are many members of the LGBTQ+ community who have vanished in the United States. Given the statistics, it is likely that many of these missing individuals were victims of some sort of foul play. While observing this year's pride month, it's important to continue to raise awareness about these missing members of the LGBTQ+ community. Below is a list of 7 members of the LGBTQ+ who are missing. Their cases remain unsolved today.

Eztli Trujillo-Cortez

Eztli Trujillo-Cortez has been missing since October 2020. Eztli, who identifies as genderfluid, was living in Odgen, Utah at the time of their disappearance. They were last seen after getting into a minor car accident on North Odgen Divide Road.  A GrubHub driver saw Eztli on the side of the road and asked them if they wanted a ride. Eztli accepted the offer, but the driver had to complete a food delivery first. When the driver returned to the scene a short time later, Eztli was gone. Their Volkswagen remained abandoned on the side of the road.

Eztli never returned home and has not contacted any of their loved ones since October 23rd, 2020. After Eztli was reported missing, the case was passed back-and-forth between Salt Lake City and Webb County investigators. At this time, the SLCPD is in charge of the case. Eztli's family members stated that they do not believe the SLCPD is putting enough effort into finding Eztli. Investigators were reportedly unable to get warrants for Eztli's cell phone records or bank accounts because there was not enough evidence that Eztli did not disappear on their own accord. However, Eztli's family and friends maintain that it is out-of-character for them to disappear or to be out-of-touch for extended periods of time. 

Joanna Wright

Joanna Wright has been missing since December 18th, 2016. The then-32-year-old lived in Chicago at the time of her disappearance. Prior to vanishing, Joanna worked as a hairstylist and was active in the city's LGBT scene. 

Witnesses report that Joanna was abducted in broad daylight. She was taking a walk near her home in Marquette Park when she was kidnapped by a group of unidentified men in the broad daylight. A person who witnessed the event immediately called the police. The witness said that three men grabbed Joanna and started dragging her towards a vehicle. She tried to scream and fight them off, but they were still able to force her into the car and drive away. The car was described as a blue newer-model Mazda with an Ohio license plate.

Joanna was kidnapped amidst a series of other disappearances and murders in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Joanna's neighbor Kenshon Ward was shot to death five months earlier, on July 13th, 2016. Just weeks after that, Kenshon's girlfriend Shante Bonahan was found deceased in the same neighborhood. Months after Joanna's disappearance, her friend Marlo Gulley disappeared from the neighborhood as well. All four of these cases remain unsolved today--and police have not ruled out of the possibility that they are connected.

As of today, there are no publicly known suspects in Joanna's case.

Katelin Akens

Katelin Akens vanished while visiting her family in Spotsylvania, Virginia during December 2015. The then-19-year-old lived in Arizona with her girlfriend Amber prior to her disappearance. Shortly before she went missing, Katelin flew to Virginia to meet her newborn nephew. She was due to fly back to Arizona on December 5th, 2015. 

Katelin's mother had to work on the day of the flight, so they arranged for Katelin's former stepfather to drive Katelin to the airport instead. She was dropped off at her former stepfather's Spotsylvania home early that afternoon. The former stepfather claimed that Katelin asked him not to drive her to the airport; she instead wanted to be dropped off at Springfield Mall, where she would walk to the Franconia-Springfield Metro stop and take the metro the rest of the way to the airport. Katelin never boarded her 5:40 PM flight and there is no evidence that she ever made it to the airport. She has never been seen or heard from again.

Two days later, Katelin’s luggage was found 50 miles away from the airport—in a drainage ditch in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The luggage was also found roughly 40 miles away from Springfield—where Katelin's stepfather claimed to have dropped her off. Investigators pulled surveillance footage from both the Springfield Mall and the nearby metro stop, and they found no evidence that Katelin was at either location that day. 

Despite the suspicious circumstances regarding the stepfather, he has not been charged with anything related to Katelin's disappearance. However, police state that he has been uncooperative with the investigation. Katelin remains missing today.

Jael Hamblen

Jael Hamblen has been missing since October 2014. The-then-20-year-old lived in Anchorage, Alaska at the time of her disappearance. She lived in a home with her infant son and a 32-year-old woman named Kendra White. Jael and Kendra met on an online app. Their relationship was reportedly romantic for a few months, but in the months leading up to Jael's disappearance, their relationship was platonic. In fact, shortly before Jael vanished, she had expressed romantic feelings for a guy. 

On the evening of October 11th, 2014, Jael and Kendra met up at TGI Fridays for dinner. Their respective children were with Kendra's mother, so they had an entire night to themselves. However, Jael reportedly was not in the mood to go out after dinner. The guy that she was interested in told her that he did not feel the same way. Kendra tried to encourage Jael to go out to cheer herself up, but she refused. According to Kendra, Jael returned to her bedroom after 10 PM that evening. She has never been seen or heard from again.

Kendra discovered that Jael was not in her bedroom the following afternoon. Kendra texted Jael several times throughout that day but did not get a reply. None of Jael's other loved ones were able to get ahold of her either. She was reported missing by her mother on October 14th. 

Five months later, hikers found Jael’s purse buried in the snow along a trail in Chugiak, Alaska. Her social security card and cell phone were among the contents of the purse. Investigators say that it is unlikely that Jael placed the purse there herself, as the weather on the night she disappeared was below freezing, and she didn’t enjoy hiking. Since then, news about Jael's disappearance has been far and few in between. She remains missing today.

Jasmine Moody

Jasmine Moody has been missing since December 4th, 2014. The then-18-year-old vanished while on a trip to Detroit, Michigan. At the time of her disappearance, Jasmine was a freshman at Texas Women's University. She was visiting her girlfriend, Brittany Gurley, while on a break from school.

On the night of December 4th, Jasmine and Brittany allegedly got into a heated argument over something Brittany saw on Jasmine’s Facebook. Brittany’s mother, Sonia, claims that she witnessed Brittany storming out of the house to blow off steam during the argument, and then a few minutes later, she witnessed Jasmine storming out of the house as well. Sonia states that Jasmine had her belongings with her, which suggested that she intended to leave. Brittany, who was still outside, claims that she encountered Jasmine and encouraged her to come back inside. In an effort to get Jasmine to stay, Brittany claims she grabbed Jasmine’s belongings from her and headed back to the house, expecting Jasmine to follow. However, Brittany claims that Jasmine did not follow her and that when she returned outside, Jasmine was nowhere to be found.

Jasmine's mother believes that both Brittany and Sonia know more about Jasmine's whereabouts than they have disclosed. Both women deny any involvement in Jasmine's disappearance. Neither have been labeled as suspects in the case, and Jasmine remains missing today.

Sage Smith

Sage Smith vanished at the age of 19 on November 20th, 2012. She was living in Charlottesville, Virginia at the time of her disappearance, and she had just recently come out as transgender. On the evening she was last seen, Sage told her roommate, Aubrey Carson, that she planned to meet up with a man—possibly for a date—whom she had met online. That man was later identified as Erik McFadden. Sage never returned from this meet-up and was later reported missing by her grandmother.

Erik has dodged authorities since the beginning of the investigation. He has only spoken with them via phone, and he has continuously denied involvement in Sage's disappearance. Erik's girlfriend later told police that they had been corresponding, but his last known contact with her was in May 2013. In 2019, Erik was officially listed as a missing person.

Erik remains the only known person of interest in Sage's disappearance. Both Sage and Erik remain missing today.

Mia Santiago

Mia Santiago has been missing since August 20th, 2005. She was only 16 years-old at the time of her disappearance. Mia was last seen in Brooklyn, New York. She reportedly was seen getting in a cab with an unidentified man in the 300 Block of Rodney Street. She has never been seen or heard from again.

There are some discrepancies online about Mia's gender identity. Most sources refer to Mia as a transgender woman, however some sources refer to Mia with her previous name. There are many rumors online that Mia was a victim of the Long Island serial killer. Remains were found in Gilgo Beach that remain unidentified today, and there is speculation that the remains belong to Mia. Some posts have indicated that Mia's family members have yet to provide a DNA sample to compare to the remains, but Mia's family members have denied this.

The details about Mia's disappearance remain unclear, the only thing that is certain is that she remains missing today.

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