Details of Disappearance Sofia was last known to be playing with her brother in her bedroom between 8:15 and 9:15 p.m. on February 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday. She left the bedroom and told her mother, Maria Juarez, that she was going to the store five blocks away.
She was supposed to be accompanied by her grandmother's boyfriend, Jose Lopez Torres. Maria gave Sofia a dollar to spend at the store and assumed she caught a ride with Torres.
Sofia did not get into the car, however, and Torres left without her. No one saw her leave the house. When Torres returned from the store at 9:45 p.m. and said Sofia had not gone with him, Maria alerted the authorities.
Sofia's disappearance was treated as an abduction from the outset and an Amber Alert was issued. It was canceled after she was not located within 36 hours. Police continue to believe she was abducted.
They have contacted Sofia's father and say he was cooperative and is not a suspect in the case. Her father has never met her. Torres has also been ruled out as a suspect in Sofia's disappearance.
A ten-year-old relative of Sofia's who lived in her home said he saw her walking down the driveway at about the time she disappeared, accompanied by a man dressed in a black sweatshirt, black pants, and black shoes. This sighting has not been confirmed.
A week after Sofia's disappearance, police announced an interest in a 35-year-old neighbor of Sofia's. Kevin L. Ireland, who has a record for minor sex crimes, allegedly made a suspicious comment about Sofia's disappearance over the phone.
He took a polygraph about her disappearance and police served a search warrant on his house. They were also interested in the Ireland's car, a white Ford Tempo panel van. A similar van was spotted a few blocks from Sofia's residence at around the time she disappeared.
Ireland was arrested on a traffic warrant unrelated to Sofia's case a week after her disappearance, and while in jail, he was charged with telephone harassment in relation to the comments he had made about Sofia's case. He is considered a person of interest but not a strong suspect in Sofia's apparent abduction.
Authorities, in May 2003, announced that in addition to the panel van they were looking for a mid-nineties model full-sized faded orange van with a license plate which had a double J in the number.
The van's driver was a while male with a thick blond beard, between 35 and 40 years old. A witness recalled seeing the van in the area around the time of Sofia's disappearance. Police do not know if the van is connected to her case.
Extensive searches have produced little of evidentiary value in Sofia's case. Searchers found a pair of overalls and a pair of little girl's shoes in the area, but neither belonged to her. Nothing else was ever located.
Sofia is described as a loving and vivacious child. Her mother stated she was shy and wouldn't have gone with a stranger without a fuss. Maria believed Sofia's kidnapper was someone the child knew and trusted. She enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls and putting on makeup at the time of her disappearance, and her favorite food is hamburgers from the fast food restaurant chain Burger King.
Despite a search which extended to Mexico and fairly extensive media coverage, Sofia remains missing and her case is unsolved. Her mother died of natural causes in January 2009, aged twenty-six.
- Kennewick Police Department
Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 6, 2015; age-progression added.