FRESNO TEEN IS MISSING
A girl with Asperger’s syndrome is missing. A goodbye note in someone else’s handwriting was left, her mother says.
A 13-year-old Fresno girl with Asperger’s syndrome has been missing since Sunday.
Marissa Wilkerson is a seventh-grader at Tenaya Middle School in northwest Fresno.
Asperger’s, described as a milder form of autism, causes issues with social skills.
“She’s very vulnerable,” her mother, Elizabeth Romero, said in a tearful interview Friday night. “If you give her attention, she’s willing to do anything you ask, so I don’t know if someone is taking advantage of that fact.”
Romero said her daughter also suffers from depression.
Marissa was last seen early Sunday at home, an apartment in the area of Fresno Street and Bullard Avenue in northeast Fresno.
Romero said she left for work at 5 a.m. Sunday and when she came back at 1:45 p.m., found a note that said it was from her daughter, but was in someone else’s handwriting.
Romero said the note said, “I’m not missing I’m going to a friend’s,” and to “chill out” – a phrase Romero said she’s never heard her daughter say. She said a post appeared on her daughter’s Instagram page four days later, but the tone didn’t sound like her.
“She just says she’s with a friend and that she’s safe … It doesn’t even sound like her talking. She’s spelling everything out instead of with all the abbreviations.”
Romero said the social media posting was brief, once ending with “I can’t take anymore questions,” and that Marissa’s Instagram profile name keeps changing.
“This whole situation is weird. … She’s a good kid and this just isn’t like her,” Romero said. “It’s literally just me and her and we’re very close.”
Fresno police described Marissa as a voluntary runaway. Romero said a detective interviewed her and asked that people with tips call the main police number, 559-621-7000, not his personal line.
Community members have shared posts on social media thousands of times in hopes of finding her.
DANGERS OF BEING MISSING
In a missing poster Romero made, she included a number for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678.
The center said there were 424,066 reports of missing children to law enforcement throughout the United States in 2018.
In a 2016 Bee story, Fresno police Sgt. Curt Chastain said approximately 2,700 to 3,000 children run away from home in Fresno every year, and at least 10 to 12 percent of them, approximately, are lured into human trafficking.
In another Bee story the following year about human trafficking, a detective said, “I’d bet every 16-year-old girl in Fresno has received a message that they didn’t know was from a recruiter.”
DESCRIPTION OF MARISSA
Marissa is described by her mother as African American and Hispanic, 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 110 pounds, with dark brown eyes and dark curly hair that falls just past her shoulders. She has braces on her teeth, and a red birthmark between her eyes, but often covers it with makeup, her mom said.
Marissa left home with her mother’s Nike flip flop shoes and a white Acer Chromebook laptop, but nothing else that her mother could see. Romero isn’t sure what clothes Marissa was wearing when she left. She doesn’t know where she may be or who she could be with.
Romero, who works at Whole Foods Market at Shaw and Palm avenues, can be reached at 559-790-3311 or my[email protected]look.com.
“She’s all I got,” Romero said tearfully. “She’s all I got.”