Karla Rodriguez was 7 years old when she vanished in 1999. She would often stroll the streets near her home in central Las Vegas all by herself without adult supervision. According to a recent comment from former Deputy Chief Al Salinas, Rodriguez “was a victim waiting to happen.”
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, Karla was last seen on October 20, 1999, playing with her bike near the corner of St. Louis Avenue and Maryland Parkway. She was expected to attend an English language class at Park Elementary School that afternoon.
The police initially assumed that Karla’s mom walked with her at least halfway to the school. However, detective Dan Long, who took over the cold case 6 months ago along with fellow detective Terri Miller, is no longer sure whether her mom walked with her at all.
Regardless, Karla never showed up for her English language class and no one knew her whereabouts for at least twelve hours after she was last seen.
Karla’s father, Ramon Rodriguez, came home from work around 5 p.m. on the evening of October 20, 1999. When asked where their younger sister was, Ramon’s teenage daughters replied by simply saying “she was around.” This comment didn’t raise any red flags since Karla was often left alone.
However, after dropping the family vehicle off with Karla’s mom, Elia Zepeda, Ramon returned home around 10 p.m. and noticed that his youngest daughter and her bike were still gone.
He reached out to a neighbor, who said that Karla was at the house around 7 p.m. playing with his son. He told Karla she should go home because it was getting late.
Ramon went to bed assuming Karla was over at another friend’s house and didn’t tell his wife anything when she came home from work at 3 a.m. because he didn’t want to worry her.
The next morning, Zepeda went by Park Elementary School to make sure her daughter arrived safely, only to find out she never even made it to English language class the day before.
The principle had contacted the police to officially report Karla as missing. Police found her bike near a neighbor’s home 12 hours after she was last seen the evening before.
The Metropolitan Police Department has recently implemented a new database search using Karla’s parent’s DNA. The FBI has also widened their search grid by looking into relatives living in Mexico who may have taken Karla 20 years ago.
Detectives Long and Miller have plans to re-interview suspects and family members who were questioned when Karla was first reported missing. They also want to send more forensic evidence to be tested although they didn’t reveal what that evidence actually is.
Retired Deputy Salinas said that “[e]verybody knows the first 6 to 12 hours of a child reported missing, if those resources aren’t pushed out, the chances are the child will become a victim.”
During a recent conference, Rosy Rodriguez, one of Karla’s sisters, who is now 35 years old, pleaded with the public to help with the investigation. “We miss you, Karla. Please someone who has any clue—please let us know, contact the police.”