In December of 2007, things were looking up for Danica Childs. The 17-year-old Federal Way resident had been struggling in an advanced course in school but had managed to turn things around, academically. She’d struck up a friendship with a college-aged boy she met through the program, and the two had begun dating.
On December 21, 2007, Childs was supposed to meet her sisters and some friends to go to the mall for some Christmas shopping. Her mother, Dianne Zoro, called her that morning and had a brief conversation with her about her plans for the day. Shortly after that call, Zoro remembered that she had another question for her daughter and called back, but the call went straight to voicemail.
Zoro initially thought nothing of the call going to voicemail. Danica had mentioned that her phone was dying, so her mother simply assumed the unanswered calls were due to a dead battery. However, when Danica missed the shopping trip and no one heard from her the next day, her family began to worry. They reported her missing the next day, and the investigation was on.
The investigation unearthed details that were chilling for Danica’s family. They learned that the boy she had been dating had a connection to human trafficking in the Washington area. The night before she’d gone missing, Danica had stayed at a hotel in the Federal Way area that had a bad reputation for illicit activity. While the police had initially believed Danica was a runaway, Zoro feared that her daughter had actually been abducted by criminals.
A search of the motel room Danica had stayed at the night before her disappearance turned up the only physical evidence in the case. The missing girl’s phone, jacket, and purse had all been left behind. Danica’s mother was able to guess her daughter’s voicemail password and discovered messages that made her heart sink.
The messages were reportedly evidence that Danica had engaged in a double life, dabbling in dangerous activities that brought her uncomfortably close to the illicit side of Federal Way. Zoro shared the messages with the authorities, though the investigation hit a brick wall. Danica’s case has been cold for nearly 15 years.
Zoro has remained an outspoken activist in the Federal Way region, speaking out against human trafficking and joining a local community action team to try to root out the criminal activity in the Seattle region. Danica’s family continues to hold out hope that she is alive and they look forward to the day she might return home.