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This Texas woman mysteriously disappeared 4 years ago. A car like his was found by divers

2022-01-20T13:50:09.804Z

Stephanie Torres was last seen in 2017. A group of volunteer divers called 'Adventures With Purpose' is helping to clear up this unsolved case.



By Suzanne Gamboa, Lindsey Davis and Antonia Hylton -

NBC News

WACO, Texas — A team of scuba divers and citizen volunteers helping to clear up unsolved cases plunged into a river Wednesday and

found a car matching the description of the vehicle of a woman who disappeared in 2017.

Police have yet to identify the car as that of Stephanie Torres, who went missing in 2017, but her relatives hope official investigations will help solve the case.

Waco police were in Brazos Park East Wednesday investigating whether the blue and gray 2006 Kia Rio found by divers from Adventures With Purpose, the citizen volunteer organization, belonged to Torres.

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The woman was just days away from celebrating her 43rd birthday when she disappeared.

She was last seen leaving her home on December 20, 2017, but did not take her cell phone, wallet, or medication with her.

The car was found in the cold, murky waters of the Brazos River in Cameron Park about an hour after the dive began.

"I'm scared. I'm nervous. I have no words right now

," said her daughter Bianca Torres, as the search for the car unfolded.

Adventures With Purpose, a project founded by Oregon-based diver Jared Leisek, conducted the search in the Brazos River after contacting Torres' family via social media last year.

At first, the group organized environmental cleanup dives before turning to searching for missing persons.

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For the Torres case,

Leisek focused on nearby bodies of water, targeting a Brazos River boat ramp,

located in the 416-acre city park where the Brazos and Bosque rivers meet.

Stephanie Torres lived near that area.

Relatives said Torres, a loving and hard-working mother, had been in excruciating pain from fibromyalgia when she disappeared.

The disease dominated his life, and the medications he took caused depression as a side effect, according to those close to him.

Every day when he got home from work, he would take a hot shower and cry as he let the warmth of the water ease his pain, said his children, Bianca and Jonathan Torres, who were flown to Waco by NBC News to witness the search.

Jonathan Torres said that the last day he saw his mother, they argued about the possibility of having a dog and then she left the house.

It was not unusual for him to disappear for two or three days and then come back.

However, that did not happen.

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The family believes that Torres may have decided the pain was too great and decided to end his life, but they hope they are wrong.

They also specified that he appeared to have been drinking when he left, but it is not yet known if any of those factors contributed to his disappearance.

The family, who went to police to report her missing on December 21, 2017, said their communication with authorities has been limited.

Jonathan and Bianca Torres said they felt completely in the dark.

"I felt that they were not in contact with us, nor did they inform us about the case

," said Bianca Torres.

Officer Garen Bynum, a spokesman for the Waco Police Department, said officers learned of the severity of Stephanie Torres' illness and other details, such as that she had left behind her belongings, and that she may be having suicidal thoughts, a week after her death. disappearance, which affected the speed and urgency of the initial investigation.

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The department said multiple database searches were conducted and attempts were made to identify his car's license plate from roadside video.

And they asked the Texas Rangers to do the same.

Officials said they also checked local pharmacies to see if he had repurchased his medications and posted his disappearance on social media, as well as sharing the case with the media.

But it was all in vain, Bynum claimed.

Officers had no reason to believe they should be looking for Torres in the rivers or Lake Waco, he

said.

"I know our investigators did everything they could ... and they just didn't find anything," Bynum said.

As the days passed, family members began to give up and went their separate ways, they said.

They tried to stay together, but their mother's disappearance affected them, particularly their younger sister, they added.

"My life got worse, it was much worse," said Jonathan Torres.

The case had stalled.

Then, in December 2021, Leisek contacted Bianca Torres with the intention of helping solve the disappearance.

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The Stephanie Torres incident could be the 17th case Adventures With Purpose has helped solve

since 2019.

The group is making a week-long trip through the south of the country to conduct similar searches and dives in search of other missing persons whose cases have stalled.

The organization performs these tasks for free.

The group has solved several missing persons cases, including that of a mother and her young son who had disappeared 23 years earlier.

Adventures With Purpose posts their successful searches on their YouTube channel, which has 1.71 million subscribers.

Some viewers have informed the group about new cases or leads.

His online fame has also spurred requests for help from relatives or friends of missing persons and from law enforcement.

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In 2018, Leisek founded Adventures With Purpose with a group of friends who wanted to use their diving skills to clean trash and debris from the country's waterways.

But when they started finding cars, and human remains, their purpose changed.

They now only assume cases where they have a high probability of finding a vehicle, based on their calculations of the circumstances of the incident and the geography of the area.

Similar organizations have collaborated to make up for the deficiencies of the diving teams, directed by the police, managing to solve other cases.

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More than 600,000 people go missing each year,

according to the National System of Missing and Unidentified Persons.

Attention to unsolved missing persons cases, particularly those involving women of color, has increased following the death of Gabby Petito.

Petito disappeared in August while traveling cross-country in a van with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.

His remains were found on September 19 and his death was ruled a homicide.

A month later, Laundrie was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Leisek and his team have the equipment, time, and crowdfunding (assets that local law enforcement sometimes lack) to conduct the dives.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for help. additional resources.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2022-01-20

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