FRESNO TEEN IS MISS­ING

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY CAR­MEN GE­ORGE cge­[email protected]­nobee.com Car­men Ge­orge: 559-441-6386, @Car­menGe­orge

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.”

Marissa Wilk­er­son

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