TEMPLE – Her 5th grade school picture in a gold colored frame is worn and discolored from the passage of time but the family of Angelica Gandara will never forget July 14, 1985.
“I remember my parents were going to my aunt and uncle's house and my sister didn't want to go that day with them so she said, no, I I'll go to my grandma's which my grandma lives three blocks away,” says Laura Mendoza, Angelica’s 17-year-old sister at the time.
Mendoza says on that day Angelica stopped by a friends house, visited her grandmother and began the walk home at 5pm on a summer afternoon. She never made it.
"Our first thought was "Oh, we're going to find her. She's at a friend's house. She went somewhere for what reason we don't know but we just really thought we would find her,” said Mendoza.
Within 2 hours, Angelica’s parents called police. In the summer of 1985 that 5th grade photo of Angelica was plastered on posters all over the city of Temple. Her family has pleaded for help to find her for 31 years but as time went by the leads into her disappearance grew fewer and fewer.
"To this day, we really don't know anything more than we did the first day she disappeared,” said Mendoza.
The Gandara family is not alone. Right now there are 280 children reported missing in Texas, 13 in Bell and Mclennan counties. 460,000 were reported missing in the U.S. just last year.
“Nowadays, we have a lot of attention to a missing child case, but then, after a couple of weeks, it drops off the news cycle. And, if the child is still missing, they literally – for the parents and the loved ones looking for that child – just become another poster. We need to draw attention to the fact that we can get kids back. We can get them back after long periods,” said John Walsh, an activist for missing children.
Though the years are long, Walsh says hope is not lost for families like Angelica’s. Last year, 49 children were reunited with their families thanks to the help of local news media. On this National Missing Children's day, Walsh says it's time to remind America that there are still families waiting for children to come home.
“To bring people to the awareness that we cannot stop looking for these children. We cannot not give the parents hope,” said Walsh.
For angelica's family, the pain is still there. Her mother carries tears in her eyes at the mention of Angelica’s name and the photos of her 11-year-old daughter are treasures to their family.
"Now that we are all grown and married and have our own kids, we realize really what my mother went through,” said Mendoza.
Still, no matter how many days turn into years and then to decades, the hope of finding angelica is still there.
"Only a family that has experienced a child abduction can understand what it feels like. The pain is always there. The sadness is always there. She is still missed and we love her and if anyone out there knows of anything no matter how insignificant they think it may be please speak up. It's never too late,” said Mendoza.
Below is a message from Laura Gandara Mendosa, Angelica’s sister to the community of central Texas:
“Only those who have experienced the abduction of a child could ever really understand the heartache and pain of losing someone in such a way than only leads to questions. Not knowing, what happened was really difficult. The sadness doesn’t ever go away and it doesn’t cure in time. This year on July 14th, 2016 it will be 31 years that my sister has been missing. We still don’t know anymore now than the first day Angelica was abducted. Even after all this time, I am thankful that she is not forgotten by the community. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers and comments. We know that the Temple Police Department did all they could at that time. We are very appreciative for the hard work the detectives did. Ruben Rubac, Ron Flippo, Lila Price, just to name a few (may they all rest in peace). I am also thankful for all the agencies, programs, resources that are now available to help find missing children. It is very sad that even with all the education and training, there are still hundreds of children that come up missing every day. It is only through my faith that I have found peace. One of my favorite verses is John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
If you have any information about Angelica’s disappearance, please call 1-800-843-5678.