As the search for Kiely Rodni goes on, the story is growing in notoriety. That’s good for the search — the more people hear about it, the more likely someone will come forward with information that leads to the teen being found. Unfortunately sometimes one case can get so big that others tend to get lost in the shuffle.
In case you’re not following the search, Kiely is a 16-year-old who went missing after a massive high school party in the woods by the Prosser Family Campground, near California’s Tahoe National Forest. Shortly after midnight she told her mom she was heading home — but she never got there. Multiple things are leading the cops and Kiely’s loved ones to fear the worst: her car went missing along with her, her phone went off completely, there were reportedly some sketchy older boys who showed up at the party at the end of the night. It’s now been 10 days since anyone heard from the high schooler, in the early hours on August 6.
Strangely enough, it turns out she wasn’t the only person to go missing that day.
Janette “JJ” Pantoja, 29, and her pal Juan Almanza Zavala, 36, have not been seen since they went on a road trip to the Hot August Nights car show in Reno, Nevada that weekend. Apparently the last time anyone heard from either was when JJ texted her boyfriend that she was a half hour or so from home, in Yuba City. That was around 11 p.m. on Saturday night. They never showed up. Her BF got an alert telling him she’d stopped sharing her location; both their phones stopped pinging in Nevada County, California, according to Yuba City police.
JJ and Juan used to date but broke up years ago and became honest-to-goodness friends. JJ’s sister Alejandra Pantoja says they still did all kinds of things together, including going on day trips like this. But the idea of them running away together doesn’t make sense. She told Fox News Digital she never heard anything from her sister other than that she was heading right home from the trip:
“She just never communicated anything other than that. She’s not like that.”
The pair were last seen driving in Juan’s blue 2002 Ford Explorer SUV, license plate 4SNS072. That, too, has not been seen in 10 days.
Reno is only 35 miles from the campground where Kiely disappeared — and in fact is one of her favorite hangout spots. Authorities do NOT think the two cases are related, despite their proximity in both time and geography.
But Alejandra admitted she’s annoyed by the difference in treatment of the two cases. While authorities are pulling out all the stops for Kiely — dive teams, dogs, helicopters — they’re brushing her off! She told the outlet:
“I thought police were pretty rud. I called them today because I wanted to know about my sister, and they were like we can’t keep in contact with you every day.”
The tow cases are close enough they even have a police force in common; the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office is assisting in both searches. But it’s clear to Alejandra which one is getting all of law enforcement’s attention:
“They’ve been telling us they were going to send an aerial search and they haven’t done that. I just feel like if something happened to them, or if he did something to her, they’re just giving [potential suspects] time to run.”
“How is it that they’re doing a big deal for her but not making a big deal for our family member? It’s not OK.”
We’ve heard a lot recently about “Missing White Woman syndrome” — the preference of media and law enforcement to focus on missing and murdered white women over any other demographic group. That certainly could be at play here. The age of the missing person is also clearly a factor, as Kiely is still a minor.
But we certainly hope this noise Alejandra is making leads the cops to increase their efforts to find JJ and Juan.
As for the search for Kiely, well, that isn’t going well at all, despite over 16,000 man hours spent on it so far. In fact, authorities announced on Monday afternoon they are moving into a new phase. In a press briefing, Captain Sam Brown of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office explained:
“We are moving into a more limited but continuous search-and-rescue effort. We are going to have to switch modes and kind of focus on the investigative end and try to figure out where do we go from there.”
Instead of sending people to cover ground, they’re going to speak to witnesses and look for more information that way. Makes sense. Unfortunately it’s also scary for Kiely’s loved ones.
For anyone who wants to help, please get the word out about both these cases. JJ is described as 5′ 2″ with brown eyes and can be identified by her several tattoos — including one of a red rose with a stem on her arm.
Anyone with information on JJ or Juan’s whereabouts can call Yuba City police at 530-822-4661.
[Image via FindKiely.com/Yuba City Police Department.]