'We will never give up looking for you'

'Tell us your demands,' distraught dad pleads with 'the person or persons who has Isabel'
2012-04-26T00:00:00Z 2013-09-10T17:14:32Z 'We will never give up looking for you'Carmen Duarte and Veronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The father of Tucson's missing girl made a public plea Wednesday for "the person or persons who has Isabel" to "tell us your demands."

The parents of Isabel Mercedes Celis - the 6-year-old missing since Saturday - begged at a news conference for her return.

The police chief said afterward that authorities haven't received a ransom note but haven't ruled out that a demand may surface.

Police also said they don't believe Isabel has been taken out of state, and they're operating under the assumption she is alive although they are now focusing their scaled-back search on washes, abandoned homes, drainage areas and the desert.

At the news conference at a shopping center next to their midtown home, Sergio and Becky Celis wore T-shirts with "Bring Isa Home" on the front and a photo of the smiling brown-haired child with hazel eyes on the back. They wore blue rosaries around their necks.

"We will do anything for her," said Sergio Celis, trembling as his eyes filled with tears.

The father, a dental assistant, opera singer and Freedom Little League coach, spoke to his little girl: "We're looking for you Isa. We love you and we miss you so much, and we will never give up, we will never give up looking for you."

He opened his prepared remarks by saying the family is cooperating fully with investigators.

Becky Celis, a nurse at Tucson Medical Center who is the No. 1 fan of Isabel and her brothers, Julian and Sergio, at all their baseball games, also trembled while speaking in front of television cameras and to reporters for the first time.

The mother thanked the community for its support and prayers, and for its efforts to help find her daughter. She said she and her husband "do not want the focus to be taken off Isabel" by their being in the media spotlight.

The couple came forth "to plea for a safe return of our baby girl Isabel," said the crying mother.

Standing behind them were friends and co-workers who wiped away tears.

Those volunteers will remain in the parking lot at the shopping center at South Craycroft and East Broadway handing out fliers to anyone who wants to post them around the city.

"We will keep helping them in whatever way we can," said Valerie Ballesteros, who works at Tucson Medical Center and is a close friend of Becky Celis. "We all know Isa. … She is our little Isa, and we want her home. We need to get stronger for the family," she said, her voice quivering.

The parents did not take questions, and after their pleas were escorted away by police. They had previously issued one written statement since Isabel's disappearance, thanking volunteers for their support in trying to find their daughter.

In a news briefing Wednesday night, police said there may be homes in the three-mile search radius around the Celis home where no one was home or answered the door when police knocked. They asked that anyone who lives in that area and hasn't talked to a police officer call 88-CRIME.

The Celis home is in the 5600 block of East 12th Street, near East Broadway and Craycroft Road.

The FBI behavioral analysts called in to help on the case will begin today to review the interviews already conducted by police.

They "may or may not" interview the parents themselves, said Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor.

The analysts looked through the family home Tuesday night. "I'm hoping they saw things differently," Villaseñor said.

Earlier Wednesday, Villaseñor said he does not believe Isabel walked away from her home.

Villaseñor said there have been more than 300 leads in the case, noting that they are not coming as often as they had earlier in the week. He said the slowdown in tips might have played a role in the parents' decision to hold a news conference.

Villaseñor said no one has been eliminated as a suspect.

He said officers are reviewing surveillance video from cameras near the home, but he would not say if they have provided any clues to Isabel's disappearance.

The family told police that the last time the first-grader was seen was when she went to bed at 11 p.m. Friday, and when her father went to wake her up at 8 a.m. Saturday she was gone.

They said a quick search was done before calling 911 to report her missing.

About $20,000 has been raised in private donations for a reward in the case offered through 88-CRIME, though officials say $33,000 has been pledged.

More than 100,000 fliers have been posted or handed out in the city. The T-shirts with Isabel's photo are also being distributed, along with buttons and wristbands, thanks to private and business donations, said Becky Celis' friend Ballesteros.

A donated billboard off Interstate 10 and Elliot Road in Phoenix now displays a photo of Isabel. In Tucson, an Isabel banner was put up above the Trader Joe's at North Wilmot Road and East Speedway. Volunteers are also hoping for donations to put up a billboard off Interstate 19.

 

How to help

Anyone with information can call 911 or 88-CRIME (882-7463).

What the parents said

Here is a transcript of the statements made Wednesday by Becky and Sergio Celis, the parents of Isabel Mercedes Celis, who has been missing since Saturday.

The couple spoke in English and Spanish during a news conference near a Tucson Police Department command center in a shopping complex next to their midtown home.

Becky Celis

"Hi, we just wanted to let you guys know we have tremendous gratitude toward Detective Sabori and his elite team, our community and the Little League community, and the TMC family crew and the millions of people around the world who continue to pray and volunteer their time and effort, endless efforts in finding Isabel.

"We do not want the focus to be taken off Isabel by us being in front of the cameras or the media. We are here today to plea for a safe return of our baby girl Isabel."

Sergio Celis

"We are cooperating to the fullest extent with the investigation.

"We are increasing the reward. Just please, please, to the person or persons who have Isabel, tell us your demands, tell us what you want. We will do anything for her.

"We're looking for you, Isa, we love you and we miss you so much, and we will never give up, we will never give up looking for you."

Reporter Jamar Younger contributed. To contact reporters: Carmen Duarte at cduarte@azstarnet.com or 573-4104; Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224; or Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115.

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

Activate

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...
Get weekly ads via e-mail