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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Dozens of friends, family and community members gathered Friday night to pay tribute to Maya “May” Millete, the first time the group has come together since her husband Larry Millete was charged for her alleged murder.

Millete, 40, was arrested and charged this week on a single count of murder and one count of illegal possession of an assault weapon. He pleaded not guilty to both charges. If convicted, he potentially faces life in prison.

Maya hasn’t been seen since Jan. 7 near her South Bay home. Her family has scoured the region for more than nine months searching — and hoping — for any sign of her, but have found nothing.

Maya’s sister Maricris Drouaillet joined San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and Chula Vista police in an emotional news conference Tuesday when Larry’s arrest was announced.

Speaking to FOX 5 Friday, Drouaillet said she’d asked Stephan if she was sure Maya was gone “because I was still hoping.” She says she’s having trouble wrapping her mind around the difficult development that not only do investigators believe her sister is gone but that the man she’s known for two decades could be responsible for it.

“We loved him,” she said. “My sister loved him and he’s still the father of my nieces and nephew. That’s not going to change. It’s just unfortunate he did what he did to my sister.”

Investigators this week portrayed Larry as being in a “desperate, frantic, unbalanced mindset” in the months leading up to her disappearance. They believe the couple’s marriage had been unraveling dating back to September 2020 with Larry becoming “more desperate” by January when he learned his wife was serious about moving forward with a divorce.

He is slated to return to court for a bail review hearing on Nov. 4. A readiness hearing is planned for Dec. 16.

Members of the community continue to shower Maya’s family with love and support. Their prayers now even include Larry, the man charged for potentially taking her life who also may hold the key to where her remains are located.

“(We’re) hoping and praying really hard that he’ll have a change of heart,” Drouaillet said. “Just do it for his kids, so his kids know where their mom is.”

The search continues this weekend for Maya’s family. Saturday’s search will be at 8:30 a.m. in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, an area the Millete family knew well that’s located roughly two hours away from their Chula Vista home.

FOX 5’s Dillon Davis contributed to this report.