In the early morning hours of September 15th, 2019, 14-year-old Alicia quickly wrote a note to her sleeping family. She then took her phone and laptop and left the house just five days before her birthday. Was she lured away by an online predator?
Alicia Christina Navarro lived with her mother and stepfather in Glendale, Arizona. Her mother describes her as a sweet girl who loves her family. Because she is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, which requires her to take medications regularly, social interactions can often be overwhelming. While Alicia did have a few friends that she spent time with, she found it easier to socialize on the internet, where she became a regular in online gaming forums such as Minecraft and Discord.
In the months leading up to Alicia’s disappearance
Because of her autism, Alicia took great comfort in routine and could become quite agitated when this routine was disrupted. She preferred to eat the same foods, listen to the same type of music, and loved to wear long-sleeved shirts daily, even in the sweltering heat that Arizona is known for. However, in the months leading up to her disappearance, this would all change.
Alicia had begun to act differently, exhibiting behaviors that were drastically outside the norm.
Some of her new interests included comic books, classic rock, and fitness products such as protein powders. She also began to express an interest in body spray, makeup, and somewhat provocative clothing. Jessica assumed that these changes were the result of peer pressure at her high school.
The day before Alicia’s disappearance
On September 14th, Alicia was feeling anxious and asked if she could stay home from school. Her mother agreed and the two spent the day together, going to McDonald’s for Alicia’s favorite meal and got their eyebrows threaded together before visiting a chocolate shop and heading home. That night, Alicia stayed up late, playing games online as usual. She came downstairs somewhere between 12:00 and 1:00 AM for a glass of water and told her mother that she loved her before heading back to her room. Later that night, Alicia sat at her desk and wrote a note to her mother.
“I ranaway [sic]. I will be back, I swear. I’m sorry. — Alicia.”
At around 7:00 AM, Alicia’s mother, Jessica Nunez went downstairs and noticed that the back door was wide open. When she looked out into the yard, she could see two of their chairs had been placed against the fence. She raced upstairs only to find Alicia’s room empty. In that moment, Jessica’s worst nightmare began. She knew that Alicia had most likely snuck out and used the chairs to scale the fence. Her young and extremely vulnerable daughter was missing. Jessica phoned the police to report Alicia missing. The following day, a Silver Alert was issued statewide for Alicia. While these alerts are most commonly used in the disappearances of the elderly, they are also used when the missing individual is particularly vulnerable as Alicia was.
After investigators combed through Alicia’s room, it was determined that she had taken her laptop, cellphone, body spray, some cosmetics, and a comic book. However, she did not take any of her charges for her devices, which led investigators to believe she likely had planned to return. The last confirmed sighting of Alicia was reported by a friend who claimed to have seen her at La Pradera Park (only 1.5 miles from her home) on the afternoon of September 19th. Jessica went to the park to investigate this lead herself.
Additional witnesses would corroborate this claim, saying that a girl matching Alicia’s description was talking “with an African-American man with tattoos on his hands, neck, and face.”
Where Alicia’s case stands today
It has been nearly three years since Alicia Navarro left her home in the middle of the night. The FBI became involved early in the investigation, but the trail appears to have run cold. Aside from the sighting at the park, no other sightings of Alicia have been reported and there has been no movement on her any of her known social media accounts since her disappearance. Both investigators and Alicia’s mother believe she was most likely groomed and lured away by a predator in one of the forums that she frequented, possibly with the intent of human trafficking.
"She was not intended to leave for this long. Something … something is preventing her to come back," Nunez said.
In the years since her disappearance, Alicia’s mother has remained relentless in her search for her daughter. She has taken to the streets to post flyers of Alicia and has even begun using social media platforms such as TikTok to spread awareness of Alicia’s disappearance and to warn other families of the dangers that lurk on the internet for children. Jessica believes that one day she will be reunited with her daughter, reminding herself of the promise in Alicia’s note.
“I will be back. I swear.”
Narrative content was researched and written by Kathrine Pair, Uncovered Community Member