Although police have held a suspect, there was still no joy on Tuesday for San Juan mother Candice Riley, whose daughter Ashanti, 18, remains missing after she left the family home on Sunday to visit her grandmother.
In an interview with Newsday on Tuesday afternoon, Candice said the last time she saw her daughter was around 4.15pm on Sunday, when the teenager left the apartment, headed to San Juan junction.
“She said she was going by her grandmother in Cocorite, Diego Martin, because her grandmother’s birthday was the same day, so all the grandchildren were going to spend the day with her.”
Candice said she had no reason to believe her daughter would go anywhere else, and debunked rumours circulating online that her daughter had run away with her boyfriend.
She said her daughter’s boyfriend has been with the family every day since her disappearance and was at the apartment at the time of Newsday’s visit.
Candice said Ashanti was meeting her boyfriend and one of her cousins at San Juan junction, then a few other cousins in Cocorite and together, they were all heading to her grandmother’s house.
She said Ashanti walked out of the apartment to the corner of Sunshine and Lloyd Street in San Juan, where she waited for a taxi. She was wearing a denim knee-length skirt and an olive-green top with a pattern on the front. Security-camera footage from a neighbouring house showed Ashanti getting into a blue Almera.
At about 5.08pm, Candice received a call from one of Ashanti’s cousins, the sister of the cousin she had arranged to meet in San Juan, asking if Ashanti had already left the house. Candice said she told her yes.
She said several people tried to contact Ashanti, but all their calls went to voicemail.
“At first, the phone would ring once and go to voicemail. But as the day progressed, it would just go straight to voicemail.”
She said Ashanti’s phone was charged before she left the apartment, and she took her charger with her.
The family went to the San Juan police station and filed a report close to 7pm.
Candice said the family was able to obtain security footage themselves from a house on Sunshine Street showing Ashanti entering the car, but the video was from a few houses down and not clear.
“We could tell it was her because we know her, but the police were able to obtain clearer footage from another house.”
On Monday, the family received a call from someone who said Ashanti’s body had been found, stripped of her clothes in Maracas Valley, and they rushed to the police station.
“The story was not true," said Lisa Riley, Ashanti’s aunt. "So we are still trying to advocate for her and let people know she is still missing,
“As far as we know we are looking for the taxi driver of the car she got into,..We know where he lives, because he drives taxi in the area.”
Lisa said the man does not own the car.
“Most of the vehicles here, if not all, are PH (privately owned and not registered) drivers.”
She said although the family is not certain he did anything to Ashanti, he was the last person she came into contact with.
“Why are you hiding?” she said, at the time of Newsday’s visit. “Come forward. Go to the police station if you are innocent, and give us information as to where you dropped her off.”
Shortly after Newsday’s visit, police called Candice on Tuesday afternoon to say they had the suspect in custody and were questioning him.
Newsday contacted San Juan police station, where an officer confirmed a suspect was being questioned, but could not give any other details.
Candice said the family only moved into the apartment two months ago from Santa Cruz Old Road, and had no reason to believe the neighbourhood was not safe.
“When we moved here, we never heard anything bad about the area. Even the landlord said it was a good place.”
Ashanti is a form five student at Aranguez North Secondary School. She is the second of her mother’s three children. The eldest is 19 and ther youngest eight. “She is a loving person,” said Candice. “Very kind. Good student.”
Lisa said the family received a call from one of Ashanti’s teachers, who was shocked by her disappearance.
“She was in the process of finishing her SBA,” she said.
Lisa described her niece as a “jovial” girl who enjoys beauty and makeup.