YAKIMA, Wash. (NewsNation Now) — Every day, the loved ones of Jennifer Caridad fight off their fears of the worst.
They worry something terrible happened to Caridad before police found her car at a lake in Yakima, Washington, on Aug. 9.
There were ominous clues inside the car, but no sign of Caridad anywhere.
“Where is my daughter?” asked her father, Enrique Caridad. “Why has this happened to her?”
It’s been three months of pain for the family of the missing 24-year-old. Her two younger brothers and her mother, Leonor Caridad, are still hopeful.
“I can’t explain the big love for her. It’s my life. It’s everything for me,” Enrique said. “I know I have two more kids and I love them, but it’s — the girl. I love her so much and I miss her.”
On Aug. 8, Jennifer left her family home in Sunnyside, 35 miles east of Yakima, to pick up her boyfriend. She walked out of the back door at around 5 p.m. and told her younger brother she’d be back later.
He started to worry when she wasn’t.
“The first thing I thought (was) ‘What happened to her? Where is she?'” her brother, Marco Caridad, said. “I thought, ‘oh, she’s probably somewhere,’ so I messaged her: ‘Where are you? Are you OK?’ I didn’t get a response.”
The next day, the family SUV was found at Berglund Lake in Yakima.
There was blood on the back seat and some of Jennifer’s clothing was nearby, but there was no sign of her.
Jennifer was said to be consumed with her boyfriend of eight months, 26-year-old Aurelio Escobar. The relationship soon overshadowed her work with kids at a child care center.
But the Caridads were less than impressed with Escobar, who was unemployed and moved in with the family over the summer.
“Not that I was scared of him. I just had a weird feeling,” said Jennifer’s brother, Luis. “I didn’t want to be involved with him.”
The family has since learned Escobar is a gang member and Jennifer’s disappearance is linked to his violent crime spree stretching from Washington to southern Oregon.
According to police, Escobar shot and carjacked another man at Berglund Lake. And over the next two days, he allegedly carjacked or made attempts to switch vehicles in several towns south of Yakima and then in Portland, Oregon.
Police believe he stole a car in Goldendale, Washington, about 12 miles north of the Oregon border. Authorities in both states were on the lookout.
Escobar was finally taken into custody Aug. 11 after a chase and shootout in Medford, Oregon, which is a 40 minute car ride from the California border.
He has refused to provide any information about where Jennifer may be.
“It’s hard when you don’t know some place to look for her. You don’t know where,” Enrique said. “Yeah, that’s why it’s hard for us; we stay in the house … waiting for news.”
But there has been no news from Sunnyside, Washington police about the case.
The department refused an interview request, but said it continues to partner with other agencies in their investigation.
Several drone and dive searches of Berglund Lake have yielded no clues.
“We just want to know what happened to her, if she’s dead or not, we want to have peace,” Marco Caridad said.
“When I go to sleep, I ask God, ‘Take care of my daughter,'” her father said. “I can’t do anything, but you can. That’s all I ask him. Why my daughter?”
The Caridads’ SUV remains in police custody as part of the investigation.
Without direct evidence of foul play in Jennifer’s disappearance, it remains a missing person case. If toxicology results determine the blood found in the SUV was Jennifer’s, the investigation would take on a new focus.
Police told the family that may take up to eight months.
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