I am passionate about missing persons cases due to a personal family experience of having someone go missing in my family.
Sofia Juarez was only 4 years old when she went missing on February 4th, 2003, just one day before her birthday, in Kennewick Washington. Sofia was of Hispanic descent and weighed about 33 pounds and stood 3 feet tall. She has black hair, brown eyes and at the time of her disappearance, she was missing her top four front teeth. She also has a mole under her eye, a birthmark on her lower back, and pierced ears. She was last seen wearing a red long sleeve shirt, blue overalls, white converse sneakers, violet socks, and gold hoop earrings.
Sofia was born on February 5th, 1998 to her mother Maria Juarez, and her father who lives in Mexico. Her father has never met Sofia and was never in her life. She lived in a household with other family members along with her mother, brother, grandmother, and their grandmother's boyfriend, Jose Lopez Torres.
Sofia was described as a loving and vivacious child who loved to play with barbies, put on makeup, and eat at Burger King. Her mother said she was also a very shy child and didn’t like to talk to strangers even in the presents of people she knew and trusted.
Sofia was playing in her bedroom with her brother between 8:15 pm and 9:15 pm on February 4th, 2003. Jose, their grandmother's boyfriend was heading to the store and Sofia wanted to go with him. She left her bedroom asked her mother if she could go. Her mother said yes, helped her get her shoes on, and gave her a dollar to spend at the store. The store was just 5 blocks away from their home and Sofia ran off after Jose. Maria assumed she caught a ride with the grandmother's boyfriend as she never came back inside.
When Jose arrived back home around 9:45 pm he didn’t have Sofia with him. Her mother asked about her and learned she never got into the car with him, he didn’t know she was coming along and left without her. After searching the area around and inside the house they contacted the police and filed a missing person report.
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When the police arrived they sent out the first Amber Alert in Washington for Sofia. The alert lasted for 36 hours before it was canceled without finding any trace of her. Volunteers, firefighters from Kennewick and the surrounding areas came to help search the area around the house. They found a pair of children’s overalls and shoes but Maria confirmed these did not belong to Sofia.
This was never confirmed by the police but it’s said a 10-year-old relative in the house, possibly Sofia’s brother, claimed he saw Sofia walking down the driveway with a strange man dressed in all black, black sweatshirt, pants, and shoes. It’s unsure why the police didn’t look into this lead further, perhaps because the witness was a young child and couldn’t be considered a reliable witness.
The police were able to rule out Sofia’s estranged father and Jose the grandmother’s boyfriend. Her mother said she knows her daughter would never have left with someone she didn’t know and thinks it would have been someone she knew and trusted.
Police started looking for someone who owned a white panel van as one was seen in the area around the time of Sofia’s disappearance. They looked into a neighbor, 35-year-old Kevin L. Ireland who had a history of minor sex crimes. The police searched his house and found he owned a white Ford Tempo panel van, similar to the one they had been looking for. Despite being a person of interest, he was not a strong suspect in the case. They later took Kevin in on unrelated traffic charges and was charged with telephone harassment after he called a female acquaintance and had been heard making sexual remarks about missing Sofia.
In May of 2003 police began looking for a second vehicle, a mid-nineties model full-sized faded orange van. The license plate has double J’s in the numbers and the driver was a white male between 35 and 40 years old with a thick blond beard. This van was also seen in the area around the time Sofia went missing but police are unsure if this van is involved in the case.
Police followed leads that led to searches of homes in the area but found nothing. One drug informant mentioned Sofia’s body could be found on a farm in the silage area behind the house on the property. The police located the farm north of Prosser in Benton Country and brought five cadaver dogs and a forensic anthropologist to the site. Despite searching the area for 8 days they found no evidence of Sofia.
Six Years Later
Maria Juarez moved to Sacramento California in 2008 to start a new life with her boyfriend and baby boy. She passed away from health complications at just 26 years old in January 2009 without ever knowing what happened to her daughter Sofia. Police said that her case is still open and they are still actively searching for Sofia but haven’t gotten any new leads lately.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Sofia Lucerno Juarez, or what happened that night, don’t hesitate to call the Kennewick WA police department at 1-509-585-4208 or 1-509-628-0333. Sofia’s case number is 0303751, she is the only missing child not yet found in Kennewick WA almost 20 years later.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.