Tampa Bay families: ‘Our children are missing, too’

After Gabby Petito, families with missing children are asking for help, too
Posted at 5:27 AM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 22:48:59-04

TAMPA, Fla — From social media to ground searches in multiple states, thousands of people across the country joined the search to help find Gabby Petito when she went missing, but there are families in the Tampa Bay area that say their daughters are missing too.

I want to show you where Cieha’s car was found on February 6, 2020, at around 7 p.m.,” Hope Taylor told ABC Action News as she walked down Trapnell Road in Plant City.

“Police received a 911 phone call that there was a car in the middle of the road. Her car was found on these railroad tracks at a 180, her headlights were facing north,” Taylor explained. “Police found her car running, with the driver door open.”

Cieha Taylor was 28 years old when she went missing almost two years ago. She had been staying with her boyfriend a mile from where her car was found on the tracks.

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When the Hillsborough County sheriff's officer got here, they moved my niece's car from the middle of the road right there they drove it and parked it right here,” Taylor said frustrated.

In a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office podcast on August 3, 2020, the detective on Cieha’s case explained, “The fact that a vehicle is obstructing railroad tracks, it's an active CSX line, the decision was made by the officer and the deputy to move the vehicle off the tracks and they secured it on the side of the road.”

Three days later someone told the family they saw her car sitting there and that’s when they filed a missing persons report.

“Forty-eight hours is the time limit on trying to find someone with the most crucial hours. We lost those, and then some,” Cieha’s mother Canitha Taylor said.

Two weeks before Cieha went missing, 23-year-old Veronica Reyes disappeared from her home 10 miles away in Dover.

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The night of January 17, 2020, Reyes had gone out with friends. Around 1 a.m. she picked up her three children -- ages 1, 4, and 5, from the babysitter, drove home to her husband at the Valrico Hills Mobile Home Park, and tucked the kids into bed. Her purse was left in her car outside. Her husband reported her missing two days later.

ABC Action News met Reyes’ father, Fidencio Minjares, at the Sydney Dover trails near her home off Highway 60.

Minjares put together a search in the wooded area of the trails with nearly 100 people from the community the week Reyes went missing. He said law enforcement did the same search three months later, but nothing came up, and he hasn’t heard from detectives in eight months now.

In another HCSO podcast episode in August of 2020, the detective on Reyes’ case said, “We are tracking down everything that we can. We get little bits and pieces that come into us constantly. We've flooded social media. We've asked for the public's assistance.”

There are currently more than 3,300 missing person cases open in Florida right now according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Parents like these two say it’s been painful to watch the coverage of Gabby Petito, from national media to help from several law enforcement agencies.

“Because we didn't get that,” Canitha Taylor said. “We asked for the FBI to come in, they didn't. There's two girls missing in the same area within two weeks apart. You know, we could have had more coverage.”

“It's unfair,” Minjares added. “I mean I'm glad Gabby is getting her justice... but, nobody’s above nobody else doesn't matter what color you are, it doesn't matter, if you're a drug addict. I mean, it doesn't matter, everybody has a father, a mother, someone who loves them.”

In July of this past summer, a third woman went missing from the same area. Kelly Vazquez, 21, left her home in Valrico the morning of May 24 without any belongings. She told her family she would be back, but never returned.

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Now, these parents are pleading with the national community to help them too.

“I wish you'd bring everybody out of the woodwork to help us,” Taylor begged.

Everybody needs to come together as one because one day can be somebody else's kid,” Minjares said with tears in his eyes.

The families say they are grateful for the help they have gotten from the community.

One of those people is Tampa Bay resident Alessia Mcintosh. She started a Facebook page called Unfiltered Justice to help find missing people across the country. She's since been joined by several people in and around Florida, also creating a viral discussion page for Gabby Petito.

"We here at Unfiltered Justice pride ourselves in helping in every way we can to help find the missing. We ourselves have experienced the loss of loved ones and we are honored to help others who are grieving. Every missing person deserves a voice," Mcintosh told ABC Action News in a statement.

Minjares and Taylor say Mcintosh made missing posters for them to put up around the community as well.

Families like Cieha's are also very concerned that their daughters could be victims of human trafficking, but authorities have not mentioned any leads into that.

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HCSO tells us all three of the cases mentioned in this article are open investigations and they cannot comment.

If you know anything that could help lead detectives to these women, you can contact the sheriff’s office at 813-247-8200.

There are financial rewards for information on Reyes and Taylor, up to $10,000 dollars.

In addition, the FDLE encourages everyone to sign up to receive AMBER and Missing Child Alertsor follow FDLE on Facebook and Twitter for information on missing people.

To search for missing people in the U.S., click here to visit the FBI database.

To search missing people in Hillsborough County, click here.