Police in Washington state are investigating whether a woman filmed in a viral Tik Tok video in Mexico is the child who was abducted a day before her fifth birthday nearly two decades ago.
The unsolved kidnapping of Sofia Juarez on Feb. 4, 2003, remains an open wound in Kennewick, Washington, to both cops and residents, said Lt. Aaron Clem, a spokesman with the city’s police department.
“This is one of those cases that everybody in our community knows exactly what they were doing when she went missing,” Clem, a 25-year veteran with the department, told NBC News Friday.
The Tik Tok video is giving investigators new hope that Sofia may be reunited with her family, Clem said.
A video posted last month on the social media platform shows a man interviewing a woman in Culiacan Sinaloa, in northwest Mexico. In the clip that is less than a minute long, the woman says in Spanish that she’s 22 years old and claims she was kidnapped. The woman also says that if relatives are watching, they should come get her because she does not know where she is from.
Clem said investigators have been in touch with the man who produced the video clip, and he’s been helpful, going back to the city where he interviewed the unidentified woman and trying to find her.
“The ultimate goal is to get her identified and have her voluntarily give us a DNA sample. … There is enough there that we need to do our due diligence,” Clem said.
The police department about a month ago launched a website to generate interest in Sofia’s case and has since garnered about 100 tips, Clem said.
On the website, the kidnapped girl is described as “a beacon of sunshine who had a bright and innocent life stolen from her."
"Her family, friends and community have lived under a dark cloud since she was taken from us," the website says. "Sofia was, and still is, loved by all who knew her.”
In addition to the Tik Tok trail, Clem said police are also speaking to a local witness that they deem "highly credible" who says they saw a crying girl being led away by another person. The girl matched Sofia’s description and the time of the alleged incident is about when Sofia went missing, Clem said. The same witness also led police to another promising lead about a windowless, grey or light blue van that was parked in the area near where Sofia went missing the night of her kidnapping, police said.
The van is described as being from the 1970s or 1980s.
Clem said if investigators were able to crack the unsolved case after almost 20 years, it would be a feat celebrated by the entire community.
“It would be amazing. It would be great for the family and great for the community,” Clem said. “Everyone is looking forward to her coming home.”
Sofia’s abduction marked Washington state’s first Amber Alert, Clem said.
Kennewick is about 85 miles southeast of Yakima and sits on the southwest bank of the Columbia River.
Kennewick police ask that any tips on the Sofia Juarez case be made here.