No sign of Isabel, but family is hopeful

2012-12-16T00:00:00Z 2012-12-17T11:47:10Z No sign of Isabel, but family is hopefulVeronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Nearly eight months have passed since Isabel Celis was last seen in her midtown home, and though police still aren't any closer to finding the 7-year-old, her parents remain hopeful that she is alive and will come home soon.

"I wish I could give you that there's some big break, but there isn't. The status hasn't really changed," said Tucson Police Department Chief Roberto Villaseñor. "There's other things going on that I'm not privileged to talk about yet, but nothing that has brought forward anything to cause me to say that we're close to a big break in this case at this point."

In the days and weeks following Isabel's disappearance from her home in the 5600 block of East 12th Street in late April, police followed up on hundreds of tips that came in about the missing girl, and at the investigation's peak more than 200 local and federal officers were assigned to the case.

Now, the flow of tips has slowed, and the two lead detectives on the case are longer assigned to it full time.

"We constantly go back over the leads. If new leads come in, we follow up on them, but there haven't been too many relevant new leads that have come in lately," Villaseñor said.

Search warrant documents detailing items taken from the Celis' home have not been released.

They will remain sealed "until the point the investigators feel that what is in there and the information in there, if it gets out will not damage the case, right now that's not their opinion," Villaseñor said.

The Celises are critical of the department's handling of the case and since the summer have been working with private investigators and a Phoenix-based group, Find Me, which consists of retired law enforcement officers, psychics, canines and search-and-rescue teams that help in the search for missing people or homicide victims.

The Celises said they believe fresh eyes could help with a break in the case.

"If you keep looking at the same stuff over and over again, you're gonna see the same stuff over and over again," Becky Celis said. "And I'm hoping that the fact that we do have two different entities looking into Isabel … one of them will catch something."

Sergio and Becky Celis recently appeared on Katie Couric's talk show, hoping that national exposure for Isabel's case will encourage people to keep looking for her.

"There is somebody out there that knows something. They just have to have the courage to come out and tell us where Isa is," Becky Celis said.

The couple said they believe someone who knows them well was involved in Isabel's abduction.

That person knew their sleeping patterns, their dog's behaviors and the layout of their home, Sergio Celis said.

Since Isabel has been gone, the Celises have installed a security and surveillance system.

The Celises are certain it's only a matter of time before their "baby girl" is found and returned home. They pray the rosary every day with the same request for her to come home.

"Every single day we wake up with the same prayer: Let it be today, God, please let it be today," Sergio Celis said.

The Celises are holding out hope that Isabel will be home in time to celebrate Christmas. They've put up Christmas lights in Isabel's favorite colors - pink and purple - on the wall around their house.

Isabel's older brothers chose to decorate a Christmas tree only with a strand of lights and to keep their holiday decorations tucked away until Isabel can help trim the tree.

There's a newly painted purple and pink polka-dot bedroom waiting for her, something Isabel asked for before she disappeared. Her family painted it for her seventh birthday in September.

Drawings and notes from Isabel's neighborhood friend sit on her bright pink bedspread.

And for the adventurous first-grader who loved riding her bike, a new purple two-wheeler is waiting to be taken for a spin.

The center at a nearby church where volunteers gathered to make posters and distribute ribbons, candles and other items has closed, but the family will continue hosting fundraisers to keep spreading Isabel's information around town.

And until she comes home, Becky and Sergio Celis continue to ask for prayers from the community.

"Isabel needs all the prayers we can give her. That way when she comes home, the community will see what their prayers did," Becky Celis said.

Go to azstarnet.com/multimedia for a timeline of the events and news in Isabel Celis' disappearance.

"There is somebody out there that knows something. They just have to have the courage to come out and tell us where Isa is."

Becky Celis, Isabel's mother

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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