CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Community members who have searched tirelessly for a Chula Vista mother since she went missing in January are reacting after police arrested her husband on suspicion of murder.
Melissa Núñez-Pimentel, a searcher in the case and a family friend, spoke to FOX 5 in front of the Millete home shortly after news of the arrest.
“It’s a lot,” she said. “It’s so emotional, you don’t even know what to do with the fact that they just arrested him.”
Núñez-Pimentel said she had just gotten off the phone with Maya’s sister and brother-in-law when she found out about Larry’s arrest.
“We had just been talking about other things and then we had hung up and she called me up and she said, ‘They are arresting him,’ and she started crying and I started crying.”
Núñez-Pimentel said it’s now “almost like free rein” to look for Maya, who has been missing since Jan. 7, when she disappeared from her family’s home on Paseo Los Gatos in Chula Vista. Her husband was the only person of interest named by police in the case.
“We’re always nervous about him trying to stop us or changing gears,” she said. “Now he can’t. He can’t anymore.”
Núñez-Pimentel said she is “excited” in what the arrest could lead to in Maya’s case.
“He knows where she is at and he’s going to break,” she said. “He’s going to tell us.”
During the entire investigation leading up to the arrest, Núñez-Pimentel expressed her main concern was for the children.
“I had just looked at the Josh Powell case and that was my biggest fear,” she said. “And when he stopped speaking to them, I was extremely nervous because I’ve seen people like him and they’re not safe. Those children weren’t safe. So when he lawyered up, it really scared all of us.”
Now the search is on for more evidence in the case. Investigators combed through the Millete home and even behind his home as captured by SkyFOX. People involved in the searches for Maya said they will continue in efforts to bring justice to Maya and her family.
“I was in shock,” Liliana Burke said, “but I was also really worried about the children. I didn’t know if the children were home or not. I know some people heard some bangs and that was immediately what were those bangs? Are the kids alright?”
Another woman who has participated in the searches for Maya also spoke to FOX 5 Tuesday.
“As a typical missing case goes, it’s very frustrating because you have to be silent with the investigation but at the same time you just want all the answers that are available so you can see, moving forward, what direction you can go in,” said Shannon Denbow, who joined the searches in March. “It’s just been very frustrating I’m sure for the family and the searchers just waiting for that little piece of information that is literally like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
When asked whether she thought the case would get to this point when it did, Denbow said she wasn’t expecting it.
“I thought we were far from it,” Denbow said. “I mean, in the back of our minds, we’re all hoping: I hope they’re really, really working towards something, I hope there’s a good reason for all of the silence. I didn’t expect this. I’m very, very grateful.”
When asked what taking part in the searches was like knowing that the children were in Larry’s custody, she said it was “gut-wrenching.”
“It’s just gut-wrenching,” Denbow said. “You’re out there literally looking for items that may have been on her body. You’re looking for bracelets, a cell phone, or whatever. And that’s their mom. Obviously, the children were in the house when whatever transpired to cause her disappearance happened. It’s just heartbreaking but that’s the motivation to keep going out there and looking for that needle in a haystack, to try to find any piece of evidence to bring justice and to bring Maya home.”
Denbow reacted to hearing that Larry was arrested on suspicion of murder.
“When I first heard, I cried my eyes out,” Denbow said. “I just wanted to get over here. I don’t think it has sunk in yet. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet for anybody really … In the back of my mind, I had hope. I’m sure the family has had hope. But now this is changing everything.”
Denbow said her focus now is on the children.
“I hope that the children can get somewhere where they can be stable and get some piece of mind that way,” Denbow said.
“Asking people to keep sending your support. This isn’t over; this has just begun in a lot of ways.”