By Kathi Bliss
Across town and throughout social media, people are mobilizing to help a local parent find her daughter.
Alexandra “Alex” Sanchez, 15, left her home last Tuesday morning after arguments with her parents about her behavior came to a head. According to her mother, Debbie Martinez, Alex was upset that her phone was taken away, and chose to leave home in retaliation.
“She’s just a regular teenager, but the last couple of months she’s been hanging out with what I think is the wrong crowd,” Martinez said on Wednesday morning. “And I had turned her phone off, but she could still get WiFi, so she could still communicate with her friends, so when we realized that, we took it away, and that’s when this started.”
Martinez said while she was at work, her daughter packed a bag and left home, and has since told her friends that she was moving to California.
Alex, who just finished her sophomore year at Lockhart High School, does not have friends in California to her mother’s knowledge, except perhaps friends through social media, but she did fall in love with the state during a family vacation this spring.
“We were there in March, but she never left our side, she was never out of our sight,” Martinez said.
A few times over the last year, Martinez said, Alex has chosen to leave home after arguments with her parents, but she has never been gone this long.
“I know that we were having arguments, but I want her to know that when she comes home, it’s going to be better and we’ll work through this,” Martinez said.
Not long after Alexandra left home, her mother engaged the services of local investigator Chuck Foreman, the founder and CEO of the Center for Search and Investigations (CFSI) and the leader of a nationwide network of volunteers who specialize in finding missing children.
CFSI volunteers were on the ground as early as Sunday afternoon, spreading the word and posting flyers, seeking help in determining Alex’s whereabouts.
“We don’t use the term runaway in my organization,” Foreman said. “I don’t allow it. Too often, there are police that think, ‘oh, it’s just a runaway,’ but the truth is, we’re talking about a missing child, and our job is to find them before evil finds them.” Foreman refers to the organizations efforts, which are largely non-profit and based on volunteer efforts and some corporate donations, as a “race against evil.”
From his headquarters in Lockhart, Foreman guides a nationwide team of investigators, volunteers and social media contacts, in an effort to recover missing children, regardless of the circumstances leading up to their disappearances.
“We have to look at every angle in these cases,” he said. “We can’t stop and think, ‘oh, she was just having trouble with her mom,’ or, ‘oh, she’ll come back in a few days,’ because that’s not always the case. There’s always a chance that the last time someone saw their child will be the last time they ever see their child.”
Foreman draws much of the passion for his mission from his desire to stop the child-sex trade, which has been growing throughout the United States in recent years.
One study from the Department of Justice suggests that human trafficking has become a $32 billion business, and that at least 200,000 children are sold for sex every year.
“Typically, the captors will move from place to place,” the study said. “They never stay in one city too long…unlike drugs, human beings can be sold over and over.”
Both CSFI and the Lockhart Police Department have open investigations into Alex’s whereabouts, noting that although she has been communicating via Facebook and Instagram, it is unclear where she is, and it is less clear whether she will remain safe.
“If she is out there in California, she’s out there without any kind of job, any kind of support system… that’s just not a good thing,” Foreman said.
Early on Wednesday morning, Alex posted a message to a social media site indicating that she did not intend to come home. However, many of her friends, her mother said, are encouraging her to return and try to work things out.
“Most of her friends are messaging her telling her to come home or at least let us know where she is,” Martinez said. “But so far, she has decided not to.”
However, Martinez noted, at least one of Alex’s friends has been attempting to actively impede the investigation.
“We know that there is at least one person that is going around and ripping down the posters,” she said. “And to that person, I just want you to know that you’re interfering in the investigation, and we know about it. You might think you’re helping [Alexandra], but you’re not.”
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Alexandra Mariah Sanchez is encouraged to contact the Lockhart Police Department at (512) 398-4401, or Foreman at (512) 644-9856.
Follow the Post-Register at www.post-register.com for more information on this story as it develops.