Friday, February 6, 2009

Vanished

by Jenna Jackson

A 37-year-old woman was kidnapped at gunpoint Monday night as she was leaving a well-traveled shopping center in Pearland. Texas EquuSearch is leading the search for her right now.

Even the search leaders say they aren’t optimistic about finding Susana De Jesus (pictured above) alive at this point, considering how she was taken. I know this kind of thing happens all the time–but this one stuck with me because of how brazen it was. And because of what this woman and her family have already gone through in the past year.

De Jesus was snatched as she was walking to her car in the parking lot outside of Catherine’s Plus Sizes, a boutique in a shopping center on Smith Ranch Road, where she has been assistant manager since November 2007.

She wasn’t alone–she was walking with a co-worker. The co-worker described a masked man who grabbed De Jesus at gunpoint and forced her into her own Cadillac. Then he drove the Cadillac out of the shopping center parking lot with another vehicle following.

The brazenness of abducting someone who is not alone–in a visible spot, even though it was late evening, is terrifying. To add to that, this poor woman lost her husband in a freak accident in May. His Corvette crashed into a concrete bridge support and burst into flames on the Gulf Freeway.

I feel very sad for De Jesus’ family–and am hoping the searchers have luck finding her today. The odds aren’t great that she’s still alive, considering the motive in this abduction was likely money. But I hope for the family’s sake that she is the exception–they’ve certainly had enough tragedy in the last year already.

A security camera snapped a photo later the night of her abduction of a masked man in the driver's seat of her black 2008 Cadillac at an automated teller machine outside a bank at 3636 Old Spanish Trail in Houston. He used De Jesus' card to withdraw cash.

It was not clear whether De Jesus was still in the car when the photo was taken, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle. Houston police found the Cadillac early Tuesday at an apartment complex in the 6000 block of West Airport.

Tim Miller, the director of EquuSearch, has organized volunteers to search for the missing woman today.

"We have one fairly small girl and really and truly, a big area," said Miller to the Houston Chronicle. "Where do you start with something like that?"

Based on phone calls he has received, Miller said he expects a huge turnout of volunteers today as a widespread search for Susana De Jesus begins.

The ATM where the man was photographed is about 11 miles from the store and another 11 miles from where the car was found.

Miller, who founded Texas EquuSearch after the 1984 abduction and murder of his daughter, Laura, said he and others in the group were trying to decide which of those three locations should be the focus of today's search.

Police said they don’t know why De Jesus was targeted.

Brazoria County sheriff’s Capt. Chris Kincheloe told the Chronicle investigators are not sure whether the abduction has any connection to a recent series of home-invasion robberies in Pearland and other communities in the area. Each of the crimes has been different, he said.
Miller said single women driving impressive new cars—such as De Jesus’ Cadillac—sometimes become targets.

“I don’t believe this was just random,” he said of the kidnapping. “I would anticipate he’d seen her over a few days or few weeks.”

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office at 281-756-2392, or investigator Wade Nichols at 281-756-2220. Brazoria County Crime Stoppers also is taking anonymous tips at 800-460-2222.

I’m hoping this will give just a little more publicity to the search for this woman. Maybe she is still alive–and maybe a random sighting will help discover her location.

4 comments:

A Voice of Sanity said...

Then there are the three abductions in the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, Fla. of women driving black SUVs, resulting in three murders. It's hard to believe any of these abductions took over 20 minutes.

Anonymous said...

The news from the channel that has Supernatural reported that someone said the woman seemed nervous that day. And the coworker took two hours to call in her kidnapping? I'm guessing there's other stuff involved in this that we haven't heard yet.
~S

Leah said...

The news in Houston this weekend is that they have very few substantial leads in this case. Very sad indeed.

Anonymous said...

Update!

In today's Houston Chronicle:

De Jesus' family told that body may be hers

Found in trailer near Reliant Park early today, Houston police say

By MIKE GLENN

March 10, 2009, 12:07PM

Investigators have informed the family of Susana De Jesus that a body found in south Houston, not far from Reliant Park, may be hers, a spokesman for the family said this morning.

The body was found about 2:30 a.m. in the trailer of an 18-wheel truck in a light-industrial business park in the 9000 block of Knight, near West Bellfort.

"It was in an advanced state of decomposition and it's going to the (Harris County) Medical Examiner's Office for identification," said Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department.

The truck also has been removed from the gravel-surface lot to be processed for evidence. The site is just southeast of the area once occupied by AstroWorld.

De Jesus, 37, was abducted at gunpoint on the night of Feb. 2 as she and a co-worker left their jobs at a women's clothing store in a Pearland shopping center.

The co-worker said a masked man with a pistol forced De Jesus into her 2008 Cadillac and drove away, followed by a dark-colored van or sport-utility vehicle.

The man was photographed later that night by the camera at a bank's ATM at 3636 Old Spanish Trail in south Houston. He was in De Jesus' car, but it was not clear whether she was still in the car.

The car was recovered the next morning in the 6300 block of West Airport in Houston.

De Jesus' abduction triggered widespread search efforts, but no trace of her was found.

Danny Perez, who has acted as a spokesman for the family, said this morning, "While nothing is confirmed and final determination will have to be made by the medical examiner's office, the family wishes to express gratitude to everyone who helped search for Susana and supported the family during this trying time.

"They want to especially thank the Laura Recovery Center for their tireless efforts," said Perez, who works as the spokesman for Harris County Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino.

Family members have declined to comment while they await more details.

The family revealed last week that De Jesus made two phone calls from the car on the night of Feb. 2, although they were not aware at the time that she had been abducted.

Her sister, Guilly Puente, said she received a call at 9:55 p.m.

"She just said that she was taking someone home and would be late," Puente said, adding that De Jesus did not sound upset during the short call. "I didn't pay much attention to it."

In another call, at 10:05 p.m. from somewhere near Reliant Park to a family friend, De Jesus asked if the OnStar device in her car could help to locate her even though she had not paid the OnStar subscription.

"That did sound suspicious," Puente said.

But investigators were hindered because De Jesus' frightened co-worker did not report the abduction until about 11:30 p.m. She knew De Jesus only as "Susie," and Brazoria County sheriff investigators learned the kidnapped woman's full name only after a family friend reported the strange phone call about 2 a.m.

OnStar began tracking the Cadillac about 2:40 a.m., heading toward Houston from the La Porte area, in east Harris County, said Brazoria County sheriff's Capt. Chris Kincheloe. The car followed Beltway 8 access roads to south Houston.

Puente filed a missing-person report with Houston police about 3 a.m. The car was recorded by the drive-through camera at a Whataburger on Bellfort in Houston about 3:30 a.m. before stopping at at 6363 W. Airport, Puente said.

The family friend went to that location and, at 7:02 a.m., saw a man getting out of the Cadillac, Puente said. She called 911 and Houston police arrived about 20 minutes later.

The family has not heard from De Jesus since that night.

At the site where the body was found today, an employee at a nearby business said he had wondered about the truck trailer that had sat in the lot for months.

Broderick Holdman, who works at The Blood Center, said the gates on the lot's chain-link fence are always open, so anyone would have had access to the trailer. He said he went to look at the trailer about a month ago, out of curiosity, but didn't notice anything unusual and didn't check to see if the doors were locked.