Family searches for answers in disappearance of Illinois woman

Missing

(NewsNation) — Juana Arellano-Garnica posted almost daily on TikTok documenting her weight loss, racking up comments from admirers.

On the day before the 32-year-old Illinois woman disappeared, her last post was an eerie nighttime beach scene with the words “you did it? But at what cost? I lost everything.”

The next day, Aug. 21, Arellano-Garnica reportedly left her house around 9 p.m., saying she was getting a drink, but she never showed up at the nearby bar.

About two hours later, police believed she can be seen in security footage, first walking and then running past a local elementary school.

Police say they located another video clip from a short time later showing her voluntarily getting into a car with two other people inside.

Through a translator, her sister insists Arellano-Garnica would have contacted them if she was OK. 

“She doesn’t feel she’s safe,” the translator said. “Because it’s been so many days and she hasn’t communicated to anyone, not even her daughters.”

The Clinton Police Department says it appears “Juana Arellano-Garnica left the area voluntarily, absent any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.”

But in a statement to NewsNation, Chief Ben Lowers said: “We will continue to investigate any new information or new leads that may lead us to Juana’s whereabouts for the purpose of verifying her safety and well-being, however future investigative efforts must balance public safety and an individual’s right to privacy.” 

Cybersecurity expert Alex Hamerstone said of Arellano-Garnica’s robust online presence that while social media platforms now strip geolocation meta data from photos and video, the risk still becomes heightened.

“When you start to share these pictures out, and you get these concerted efforts to find out where someone is, generally someone’s going to know where that location is just by the photo,” Hamerstone said. “Anybody who gets a lot more attention, you know, may be at more risk.”

Gia Wright, founder of Missing Person Awareness Network, says the search for Arellano-Garnica needs to continue until her family has answers.

“There always is somebody who knows something, and it is your responsibility as a human to say something,” Wright said. “It is absolutely critical for all of these cases to be put out.”

Late Wednesday, Lowers said Arellano-Garnica contacted her sister, but that phone call could not be authenticated and the case is still open. Lowers asked that if Arellano-Garnica can contact law enforcement wherever she might be, to please do so.

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