As the search for 72-year-old Virginia woman Emily Lu stretches into its third week, her daughter Jenny Ball is pleading with the public who may have information regarding her mother’s whereabouts to please come forward.
“She’s the kindest, most generous woman who would do anything to help others,” Jenny told Dateline. “All I ask is to please come forward if you know anything. Do the right thing and reach out. Say something.”
Emily Lu, a native of Taiwan, has been in the United States since the 1970s after marrying a serviceman stationed overseas. The marriage didn’t last. Jenny lives in Arkansas, where she grew up and where her father still lives. She still regularly speaks to her mother who has made her home in Lorton, Virginia.
They last spoke on the phone on June 3, 2021. Jenny told Dateline she was on a road trip with her husband, and called to check in with her mother. She said everything seemed fine with no indication that anything was off.
“It was just a normal conversation,” Jenny said. “But the next day, she was gone.”
Despite being retired from her career in software development, the 72-year-old continued to work - this time as a caregiver for seniors.
“That became a vocation for her,” Jenny said. “And she just loves taking care of people. So after she retired, that’s all she wanted to do. She was extremely devoted to her job and to her patients. For her to not show up - especially for the patient she was supposed to see that day - it doesn’t make any sense.”
When Emily failed to show up for her shift that Friday morning, her employer at Home Instead Senior Care requested a welfare check.
Officers with the Fairfax County Police Department responded to her home on Davis Drive in Lorton that afternoon. They found her car in the driveway with recently purchased groceries still inside, according to a press release issued by the Fairfax County Police. Officers checked the home and spoke with neighbors but were unable to find her.
Detectives from the Major Crimes Bureau launched an investigation which revealed that Emily Lu was last seen at the Aldi grocery store, at 1329 Gordon Plaza in Woodbridge, Virginia, at 7:52 p.m. on Jun 3, 2021. Security video from the store shows Emily buying bananas and other groceries. Detectives say she arrived home but never took the groceries inside.
Fairfax County Police Sergeant Hudson Bull told Dateline that detectives suspected foul play was involved after evidence suggested she may have been harmed inside the home.
“Detectives quickly picked up on some suspicious circumstances regarding Ms. Lu,” Sgt. Bull said. “Nothing has been ruled out at this point and they are continuing to investigate - and ask anyone with information to come forward.”
Emily’s daughter Jenny and other family members have traveled to the Virginia area to help aid in the search for Emily by hanging fliers and pleading for the public’s help at a press conference on June 15.
“We are extremely worried about her,” Jenny said at the press conference. “We want her back home safe. We want to tell her we love her in person.”
Jenny describes her mother as a kind, very generous and loving person who always puts others first and is always willing to help.
After moving to America, Emily got her bachelor’s degree in computer science and spent her career working in software development before retiring and devoting her time to caring for others.
“She came to America, raised her family and built a life for herself,” Jenny told Dateline. “She’s this independent, resilient woman who can do anything.”
Jenny told Dateline there’s no way her mother would walk away on her own, leaving behind her family and patients, and added she doesn’t know of anyone who would want to hurt her mother.
The 72-year-old, who had her large house in Lorton, Virginia built in the 1990s, has always rented rooms out to tenants for the better part of three decades, her daughter said.
Sergeant Bull confirmed to Dateline that Emily wasn’t the only person living at the house at the time of her disappearance, but didn’t give details on how many tenants there were. He added that police continue to speak to everyone connected to Emily and haven’t ruled anything - or anyone - out at this time.
At the press conference on June 15, it was announced that a $20,000 reward would be offered for information on Emily’s whereabouts.
“Our Major Crimes detectives are working tirelessly to determine what led up to Mrs. Lu’s disappearance,” Major Ed O’Carroll stated at the time. “They continue to work closely with officers from our Search and Rescue and detectives from our Crime Scene and Cyber and Forensics team. We remain committed to providing her family with answers and want anyone with answers to come forward with information to assist with our investigation.”
Emily’s daughter and other family members hope the reward money will help bring them closer to finding their loved one.
“You have to be hopeful. You cannot lose hope. But then again, you're very sad and upset that you cannot grieve,” Jenny said. “We just want her back.”
Emily is described as being 5’2” tall and weighs about 130 lbs. She has brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information on Emily’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Fairfax County Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 6. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), or by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411.