Details of Disappearance Bianca was a fifth grade student at Elias Howe School in her hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2001. She arrived for classes during the morning hours of November 7, 2001 and told her friends and a teacher that her uncle was taking her shopping during the day. She invited friends to come along, but they declined.
Witnesses told authorities that Bianca got into a vehicle at 8:30 a.m., before classes began. The vehicle was an older-model two-tone brown and tan van with tinted windows. The exterior was in poor condition and it appeared to have been sanded in several areas. A photo of a similar van and a sketch of its driver are posted with this case summary. Bianca has never been heard from again.
The driver is described as an Hispanic male, approximately 20 to 30 years old. Witnesses said he stood 5'8 to 5'11 with an average build. The individual had black curly hair styled in a short afro with long sideburns and a beard, brown eyes, a prominent nose and scratches on both of his cheeks. He was wearing a long-sleeved blue pullover shirt with Gap imprinted on the front and along the right sleeve, Fubu jeans with an image of the cartoon character Fat Albert on the right rear pocket and scruffed brown Timberland boots. The man made no attempt to conceal his face from witnesses.
Bianca's classmates believed that the unidentified man was her uncle and didn't interfere when she entered his van. Her family members told authorities Bianca does not in fact have an uncle, however, and none of her relatives owned a van similar to the vehicle involved in her abduction.
School officials received widespread criticism for their handling of Bianca's disappearance. Administrators did not realize Bianca was missing until the day after her abduction. Her teacher counted her absent.
Stronger security measures and new attendance policies were put into place after Bianca disappeared. The teacher who heard Bianca's statements about plans with her uncle on the day of her abduction was suspended with pay. Bianca's mother believes she is alive, but had her declared legally dead so she could bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the school.
Bianca resided with her mother and stepfather, Carmelita Torres and Angelo Garcia, in Bridgeport at the time of her disappearance. Bianca's family noticed that she was missing at approximately 4:30 p.m. They initially believed that she may have been at a friend's house and did not remember to call them.
When Bianca failed to return home by 8:30 p.m., her mother called the authorities. She often went to the homes of relatives other than her parents after school, and once disappeared overnight but turned up safe at a friend's house. Bianca's mother and father had an amicable relationship at the time of Bianca's disappearance; neither is suspected of involvement in her case.
No suspects have been identified in Bianca's disappearance. In late April 2002 police announced that they wanted to question Jason Gonzalez, 20, as a possible witness in Bianca's case. He had lived in Bridgeport but left about a month after Bianca's disappearance. Authorities characterized him as an acquaintance of Bianca. A photograph of him is posted with this case summary.
In November 2003, Gonzalez, whose real name is Jason Lara, called the police department to deny that he knew anything about Bianca's disappearance. The police traced his call to Fort Myers, Florida, and arrested him for second-degree forgery. The arrest is not related to Bianca's case, but authorities used it as an opportunity to bring him up to Bridgeport for interrogation about Bianca.
Investigators began to question him intensely about Bianca's disappearance. He resembles the sketch of Bianca's presumed abductor and one of his friends owns a van similar to the one Bianca was seen getting into.
Bianca's loved ones stated Lara was her secret boyfriend and she had been seen kissing him, but Lara's fiancee says the allegations are false and are the result of a feud between the Lara and Lebron families.
Lara has a criminal record; he was sentenced to seven years in 1998 for carjacking, but was released from prison early. He was eventually cleared of suspicion in Bianca's disappearance; he had an alibi for the time she disappeared. He pleaded guilty to a charge of interfering with a police officer and received a suspended sentence in December 2003.
Bianca is described as having an outgoing personality with high self-esteem. She was a very good student in 2001 and it's uncharacteristic of her to skip school, as she apparently did the day of her disappearance. In 2001 her hobbies included dancing and singing to all types of music, as well as shopping at Milford Mall and Trumball Mall near her family's residence. She also had a pet hamster named Nina.
Elias Howe School has since been closed, and Bianca's father now lives in Florida, but her grandmother still lives in the same house as she did in 2001 and her entire family hopes she will be found. Her case is unsolved.
- Bridgeport Police Department
Updated 7 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated September 26, 2014; age-progression updated.