Family theories collide as search continues for missing San Carlos Park girl

Reporter: Corey Lazar
Published: Updated:

SAN CARLOS PARK, Fla.- Family members are grasping for answers in the disappearance of 9-year-old Diana Alvares, but they cannot agree on theories about what may have happened.

Diana’s whereabouts have been unknown since 2 a.m. Sunday. That’s when her pregnant mother, Rita Hernandez, checked the rooms of their home on Unique Circle in the Sheltering Pines Mobile Home Village after waking up early in the morning to make a bottle of milk for a baby in the home. Five hours later, Hernandez checked the little girl’s room again.

Diana was gone.

She is 4-foot-4 with black hair and brown eyes, authorities said. Diana might be wearing blue bottoms and her parents said she went to bed in a black long-sleeve shirt with rhinestones. When Hernandez woke up around 7 a.m., she noticed something strange: all four of the burners on her stove were turned on, according to Diana’s stepfather Uribe Jimenez.

He noticed Diana’s purple-striped shoes were missing from her room.

Family has theories

What happened to Diana between the window of 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.? Diana’s mother has a theory, but her father living in Puebla, Mexico does not agree.

A family member said Diana could be with a man, one of two brothers, who rented a room in the home. Diana was very attached to this man, who moved out of the home two weeks ago, the family member said. According to family, this would explain why the family dog did not bark when Diana disappeared.

Diana’s mother, Hernandez, said she was uncomfortable with the relationship between the man, named Jorge Guerrero, and her daughter.

“He’d say things like ‘The girl’s gotten really cute’ or beautiful and that she’s so big,” Hernandez said. “To me, that’s not something a grown man can say about a 9-year-old girl.”

Hernandez said she confronted the man and he moved out on May 2. Diana was visibly upset when he returned to the home to move his van, according to Hernandez.

“Diana noticed that the van wasn’t here. So she comes to me and says ‘Mom, did Jorge come to take his van?’ I said yes. Then she starts to cry. She then says ‘But why didn’t Jorge wait for me?'” Hernandez said.

Deputies have not confirmed any details about this former housemate but Diana’s father, Martin Alvares, thinks that theory is unlikely.

“I lived with the brothers for a long time about five to six years. I never thought he had any bad intentions. The only thing I know is that he was very nice to her, they would talk, and he was affectionate with her,” he said.

The family wants to go to Okeechobee, where Diana was born, to conduct their own search, with the hope that it would prove more fruitful than efforts thus far. Jimenez said Wednesday he no longer feels safe at the home.

Tension grows

After roughly 80 hours of searching for missing 9-year-old Diana, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday there is no evidence suggesting she is still in the area. The sheriff’s office said it is actively pursuing a number of leads.

A fevered atmosphere surrounded the girl’s house Tuesday. Crime scene tape was around the perimeter of the home, where crime scene technicians began an examination around 10 a.m. Investigators were interviewing neighbors and diving in a nearby pond as the search encompassed air, land and water.

But with the weekend of her disappearance behind them, tension grew, exploding on the lawn outside the 9-year-old’s home where family members were seen arguing Tuesday. Jimenez said the sheriff’s office isn’t doing enough to find his stepdaughter and is leaving the family in the dark.

“I didn’t go to sleep last night, man,” he said. “I know that it is getting more dark, more dark. No answers, nothing.”

Hernandez agreed.

“While they’ve been searching here. The person who has her is long gone,” she said. ” It’s been 3 days and 3 nights and we don’t know anything. It’s not fair that the police still have not given us any answers. I don’t know what else to think. Are they still looking? Or have they stopped looking for her?”

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has not held press conferences but is communicating with the public and media through emails and Facebook posts.

The family was allowed to return to their mobile home later Tuesday, once the home was no longer considered a crime scene. A cousin, Nancy Martinez, said they have avoided Diana’s room.

“You just don’t want to go into the bedroom. That is not an option right now. I mean it’s heartbreaking,” Martinez said. “It is a door that we want to keep closed until she comes home because she will come home.”

Search effort continues

Lee County sheriff Mike Scott vowed in a statement Monday to do whatever it takes to find the girl. The sheriff’s office said authorities have received tips from people who believe they spotted Diana, but the information often comes hours after the sightings.

Authorities issued a Florida missing child alert, but no Amber Alert has been sent. Law enforcement must believe an abduction has taken place, and descriptive information about a suspect or a suspect’s vehicle must be available for an Amber Alert to happen. Also, the child must be at risk of serious bodily injury or death. Deputies haven’t given any indication of any such known risk.

Multiple Urban Search and Rescue Task Force teams used machetes to hack through heavily wooded areas near the family’s home Tuesday. Crews were also seen diving in local ponds before the neighborhood search was suspended.

Parents ‘in pieces’

Frustrated and worried, Jimenez said he feared for the worst.

“I feel like she’s not here no more, man,” Jimenez said. “That’s my heart that’s telling me. That’s all my heart is telling me. I feel that she’s not here no more.”

Hernandez said she has hope.

“In my heart, as a mother, my heart is telling me that she’s OK. To not worry. That one day she will show up,” she said.

From Mexico, Alvares said there is little he can do. He said he will visit a consulate to ask for permission to reenter the country.

“I don’t know what to do. I’m in pieces. Our whole family is so worried,” he said.

A $6,000 reward is being offered for information leading to missing Diana. If anyone knows the whereabouts of the 9-year-old or spots her, call 239-477-1000 or 911 immediately so authorities can dispatch a deputy to that location, the sheriff’s office said.

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