What is going on in the Northeast Valley?
This is the question residents are asking after learning not only about missing 14-year-old Elias Rodriguez, who disappeared on Friday, Feb. 17, but also of a young girl, 15-year-old Katherine Lizzette Solorio, who disappeared more than a month ago.
These two missing teens, coupled with recent witness reports of a woman bound and screaming for help in a car in Sylmar, and news of a similar incident this week in Chatsworth of a distressed woman seen banging on the car windows of a passing vehicle, has residents on edge.
In addition, the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol recently reported a grandmother in Pacoima, while walking and taking a lunch to her daughter, was forced into a vehicle and taken back to her home which was then burglarized. Since that incident, the elderly woman has been very afraid to leave her house.
On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the parents of Elias Rodriguez, with police, asked for the public’s help during a news conference held at the Los Angeles Police Division’s (LAPD) Mission Station.
Elias has not run away before and his disappearance is out of character, police said.
The teen’s parents, visibly distraught, pleaded for anyone to come forward who has information about what happened to their son.
“Come home. We miss him,” his father, Sergio Rodriguez, said before choking up.
Elias’ mother, Pahola Mascorro, said friends and family members have conducted their own searches for the boy and remain desperate to know where he is. As she attempted to talk she broke down.
“We just need him to come home and (to) know he’s okay,” Mascorro said.
Relatives attending the news conference noted what a painful time this has been for their family. Elias’ mother has been battling cancer, and while she’s trying to stay strong her pain is excruciating.
“She has told me that she would ‘take all the cancer in the world’ to have him back,” said family member Jessenia Vega, who described waiting for news about Elias as “agonizing.”
“I was really hoping that when kids returned to school on Tuesday [after their day off for President’s Day] that we would finally hear something. But we didn’t hear anything more and now it’s getting dark outside. Everyday as it gets dark, you think, ‘there goes another day.’”
LAPD said Elias was last seen about 1 p.m. on Feb. 17 in the 1000 block of Arroyo Street leaving his school, The Cesar Chavez Academy in the City of San Fernando.
During his physical education class, his last class for the day, Elias borrowed a friend’s cellphone to call his mother at her workplace in Vernon Friday to ask if she could pick him up because his phone wasn’t charged. But Mascorro missed the call, police said.
Dismissal at school that day was more frenzied and chaotic than usual. Friday had the worst of the recent storms, and it was pouring buckets of rain. More parents than usual were driving in to pick up their kids. The rainstorms were so severe that there were flash flood warnings.
“What Elias was accustomed to doing when he couldn’t be picked up was to walk the short distance to his grandmother’s house, which was nearby,” Vega said.
Vega, along with so many others, wonders what happened after Elias left school, speculating that while she didn’t think he would get into a car with a stranger, did the heavy rain that day alter his judgement?
Her mind is also troubled by the thought that Elias may have tried to take a shortcut to his grandmother’s house through the wash area.
“What if he slipped and fell?” she wonders, but then tries to bring her mind back.
“I try not to think about that,” said Vega, “We are all trying to stay positive.”
A helicopter search of the Los Angeles River turned up nothing, police said.
Elias is described as a “nice, cute kid” who, like many his age, enjoys video games and skateboarding, and hasn’t had any problems at school.
His friends have been having a tough time with the news of his disappearance. Some parents have called the school with concerns about sending their kids to class.
Vega said there is “survey video” of the area, and wonders why it is taking so long to get information about that.
She said family members would like to view it. “We know what he looks like best,” she said.
Police said there was one early lead about seeing Elias on the Red Line but his family said he isn’t familiar with the Metro system. Nevertheless, family and friends quickly responded to the lead and put up flyers at area train stations.
The phone started ringing immediately, but unfortunately what followed was a slew of cruel crank calls. Some people called and said, ‘I know where he is,’ and then would hang up.
“I don’t know why people would do this, why they would be so mean,” Vega said. “We all just want him back home,” she said.
Elias is described as being 5-feet 4-inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes, and weighing approximately 100 pounds.
LAPD detectives from the Mission Station urge anyone with information regarding the boy’s whereabouts to call them at (818) 838-9800.