The family of a 16-year-old girl who had been missing since Jan. 1 and was recently found safe held a news conference Wednesday to thank the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for their efforts in finding the teen.
Alinka Castaneda, 16, left her family’s home in Carson on New Year’s Day and was seen “entering an unknown vehicle” in the 23000 block of South Caroldale Avenue at 5 a.m., officials with the sheriff’s department said.
Footage from a Ring doorbell camera captured an unidentified man walking toward Castaneda moments before she disappeared.
While the teen’s family initially believed her disappearance may have been an attempt to run away, they later received several distressing calls from the 16-year-old, which prompted fears that she may have been a victim of sex trafficking.
Moses Castillo, a retired LAPD detective and a private investigator who worked on the case, told NewsNation that there was at least one suspected male adult kidnapper, but there could be more. He added that the primary suspect’s name was known and had not been released.
The sheriff’s department described Castaneda as a “critical missing juvenile,” asked for the public’s help in locating her, and said that there was “concern for her well-being.”
It was unclear if anyone would receive the reward of $100,000 that was offered for information leading to the teen’s safe return and for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for her disappearance.
On the morning of April 17, authorities responded to a call in the area of Venice Beach where they located the teen. She was reunited with family members a short time later.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Castillo spoke for the family, saying the 16-year-old’s reunion with her mother was extremely emotional.
“She held her daughter close to her and she could feel her heart racing and it was a feeling that only a mom and a daughter could appreciate,” he said. “She’s very grateful.”
Investigators have questioned the girl, though have not released any details of the conversation. Family members also did not provide any information about where the teen has been or why she left the house in the first place.
It is unknown if any arrests have been made concerning her disappearance.