About 50 officers and detectives are recanvassing the midtown neighborhood where a young Tucson girl went missing almost two years ago, trying to stir up new information in the case.
The door-to-door interviews regarding the 2012 disappearance of then 6-year-old Isabel Celis began Wednesday and will go through Saturday between noon to 10 p.m. daily. A command post has been set up in the neighborhood.
In addition to patrol officers, eight detectives are working the effort in hopes that residents will recall new information, or tell investigators something they did not report earlier, said Sgt. Pete Dugan, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.
Six of the detectives are new to the case, which will bring fresh eyes and new perspectives, said Lt. Elise Souter of the Police Department’s youth, family and sex crimes section.
The canvassing will focus on about 350 to 400 homes, including apartments, that are within the boundaries of East Broadway to East 14th Street and South Craycroft Road to South Chantilly Drive.
On April 21, 2012, Isabel was reported missing from her home in the 5600 block of East 12th Street. At the time, police and other local, state and federal agencies teamed up and scoured the neighborhood and surrounding areas. They followed up on thousands of tips, but they have had no major breaks in the case.
Isabel’s family was notified of the new effort.
Her parents, Sergio and Becky Celis, stood outside their home, which has large banners displaying information about a $50,000 88-CRIME reward, messages about keeping their child’s disappearance in the public eye through social media and asking the public for their prayers.
In response to the new effort, Sergio Celis said: “Thank goodness. And what took so long? Obviously there has been no new information for a while.” Celis said that the Police Department should have revamped the investigative team and recanvassed the area sooner.
“We welcome this, and I hope investigators find something that was overlooked,” he said.
Becky Celis said: “It is great to have fresh eyes on the case. I am hoping they find some tip that got missed, and it hopefully will bring Isa home.”
The couple is working with a private investigator who, the mother said, passes information on to police.
At one point, the couple said, they felt their child could have been in California because of a reported sighting in 2012. “The person was so sure,” Becky said. “Nothing came of it, and I feel she could be anywhere now.”
“We know she is alive,” said Becky Celis. “We feel it as a mom and dad,” she said.
Both said there is a relative who may have information about the case, but the person is not sharing it. “We want all our questions answered, but this person has not been forthright. We want to figure out why this person is not being forthright with police,” said Sergio Celis. “It boggles us quite a bit.”
The couple would not elaborate, and would only say that this person has been approached several times by different authorities during the investigation, and authorities are referred to the person’s lawyer.
“Why behave this way?” asked Sergio Celis. “We’d like a better answer.”
Tucson police spokesman Dugan said he could not discuss specific investigative information regarding that relative.
Dugan said two detectives have permanently been assigned to Isabel’s case, and they have worked it since Day One, with the intermittent help of other detectives.
“We are still looking at all possible leads,” Dugan said. “We still hope to find her and bring her home.”
Neighborhood residents also welcomed the sight of police back questioning families.
“I have three sons, and if something happened to them I would like to know,” said Rick Haddock, 68, a former Tucson Unified School District maintenance shop worker.
John Schneider, 64, a commercial real estate appraiser, said, “I have two kids, and if it would have happened to either one of them, I would want authorities looking until they found them.”
Schneider’s wife, Toni, 63, a counselor, said the case has affected the community, including children who fear getting kidnapped. “To not know what has happened to a child must be the worst for any parent.”