Police: Foul play may be factor in mother, daughter disappearance

MEDLEY, Fla. (WSVN) – Clues uncovered at a warehouse in Medley, Wednesday, may help investigators understand what happened to a mother and her 9-year-old daughter, who went missing without a trace.

Family of the mother and daughter in Colombia contacted authorities after they tried to reach her and couldn’t. 7News got into contact with her brother who traveled to South Florida in an effort to help find his sister. “I need to find my sister and find my niece,” said Eduardo Moreno, “so I need all the information that can help me to find her, find them. If you have, please call the police and say what you know.”

Police spent hours scouring a new area off Okeechobee Road in Hialeah Gardens, Wednesday night. Police also returned to the West Miami-Dade home of Gustavo Castaño, the father of the missing girl. They have since returned to the Medley warehouse, looking for any signs of the missing pair.

According to relatives, 43-year-old Liliana Moreno and 9-year-old Daniela Moreno had not been heard from since Sunday.

Wednesday morning, investigators responded to a warehouse in Medley, which according to a police source, is owned by the girl’s father. “When you’re dealing with a 9-year-old that’s missing, in this case, is missing with her mom, we’re going to look, and we’re going to turn over every single rock,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta.

According to investigators, the girl’s father is cooperating in the investigation.

For more than two hours, detectives with Medley Police, Miami-Dade Police and Doral Police investigated the premises. At around noon, 7News cameras captured investigators surrounding a dumpster on the site, which was covered with a blue plastic tarp.

Moments later, 7Skyforce captured investigators entering and exiting a warehouse, which, according to a neighbor, is a gym.

Around 3 p.m., the dumpster was hauled away. Police have yet to say what they found inside.

“The investigation continued, we followed all leads,” Zabaleta said, “and some of the leads of the investigation lead us here, into this area of the warehouses where these businesses are at.”

According to business owners, when police arrived to the warehouse early Wednesday morning, Castaño’s shop and a printing company were broken into. The only thing stolen, business owners said, was a surveillance recording system from a nearby business.

While investigators have their eye on the Medley scene, the search in nearby Hialeah Gardens was underway Wednesday evening. Divers there searched a canal in the area of Northwest 138th Street and Okeechobee Road.

Officials said, Moreno’s sister in Colombia contacted authorities at around 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, after not having heard from the mother since Sunday. “It’s not easy,” said Eduardo Moreno, the missing woman’s brother, speaking via phone from Colombia. “It’s something you don’t think will ever happen to you. It’s something you see on TV and stays just on TV. You never think it’ll happen in real life.”

Police responded to the mother and daughter’s home, located at the Doral Terrace apartment complex, near 107th Avenue and Northwest 50th Street, to check on their welfare, Tuesday night. However, officers did not find anyone home.

Once inside, investigators found the mother’s purse, containing her wallet and license. “She had left behind her wallet with her driver’s license,” said Doral Police Captain Carlos Arango. “and other small details in the apartment that seemed to suggest that she left the apartment in a big hurry.”

Officials also said it looked as if she may have been preparing a meal. They also found a cellphone, not believed to be Moreno’s. However, officials said the door was locked, and there was no sign of forced entry.

“Whenever we have a situation where someone’s been missing a couple of days, we automatically work on the assumption that foul play may have been involved,” said Doral Police Captain Carlos Arango. “It’s always better to air on the side of caution, mobilize the resources as early as possible. You know, God willing, she’s located, everything is fine, and we wasted a few hours of investigation. That’s OK. But if she’s in need of help and something nefarious has happened, we need to know so that we can give her the help needed or we can investigate whatever occurrences may have happened.”

According to officials, Daniela has not been in school since Friday.

Castaño has been in contact with police and is cooperating. His mother-in-law at his West Miami-Dade home, Wednesday morning, told 7News that he wasn’t home because he was meeting with police.

On Wednesday night, police blocked off a street near his home. Around 10 p.m., a crime scene van could be seen in the area of 2148 S.W. 152nd Place, in West Miami-Dade.

“That’s terrible, and that for me is scary,” said neighbor Vivian Jimenez. “because that people living here in the complex – oh, no, I can’t believe that.”

The Miami-Dade homicide unit has joined the investigation as part of standard procedure. Miami-Dade Police is leading the investigation. “Everybody is involved in this search, and of course, what are we asking for? In addition to 2.7 million people, to continue to help,” Zabaleta said. “I think our community will pull through. Somebody’s gonna keep their eyes open, somebody’s gonna come up with information.”

If you have any information on this Moreno and her daughter’s whereabouts, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward.

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