Marta Ramirez Mendez was last seen in her family’s home on U.S. 431 in the Hollis Crossroads area on the morning of Sept. 30.
Staff at Cleburne County High School, where the girl is a student, called police Oct. 2, after her sister and brother-in-law went to the school for help, according to police Chief A.J. Benefield and the brother-in-law, Hector Chun. But she had been missing since about 4:20 a.m. Sept. 30, he added.
The girl lives with Chun and her sister, Alicia Mendez and their children.
Through an interpreter, Chun told a reporter Tuesday afternoon that he came home from work the morning of Sept. 30 at about 3:50 after working the third shift, and Marta was there. A little later, he heard the front door and she was gone. Chun thought she had gone to school, but she didn’t come home that afternoon. That’s when he knew something was wrong, he said.
He asked his neighbors and her friends if they had seen her, but they hadn’t, he said. After a couple of days, Chun went to the school for help, and staff there notified the police, he said.
Chun said his wife remembered hearing a car outside that morning. She thought it was having car trouble, he said. Now they’re not sure.
“Maybe she ran away on her own, maybe somebody helped her,” Chun said through the interpreter.
He also doesn’t know if she was forced to leave.
Since she left, a man who didn’t give his name has called Chun several times saying the teen was in Alabama, then Atlanta and most recently in Maryland, traveling with a man. The number those calls came from has since been disconnected.
It’s possible the missing girl may have gone back to Guatemala, Benefield said. Much of her family still lives there, he said.
Chun, though, doesn’t think so. The teen left a note saying she was going to Guatemala, but Chun said she had no money to get there.
Chun said that his sister-in-law had wanted to find a job, but that he and his wife thought it would benefit her more to devote her attention to school.
“If she goes to school and gets better marks, it would be easier for her,” Chun said.
The family is worried and hurt, Chun said.
“All I know is she was fine with us,” Chun said.
According to Chun, the 16-year-old had gone with the family to shop and to eat at the Golden Corral restaurant Sunday. The next day she was gone, he said.
The girl’s name has been entered into the National Crime Information Center, Benefield said.
Marta Ramirez Mendez is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about her is urged to contact Heflin police at 256-463-2291. Anyone who sees her should call 911, Benefield said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.