The disappearance of a California woman, last seen on video at a convenience store more than three weeks ago, is now being treated as a criminal matter, police said.
Jolissa Fuentes, 22, was reported missing by her family on August 7, the Selma Police Department said.
She was last seen around 4 a.m. that day on video at an AM/PM convenience store in Selma, about 15 miles southeast of Fresno. Police said Fuentes then got into his silver 2011 Hyundai Accent and drove west.
Since then, a forensic lead for her — information that could lead to her whereabouts from her cellphone, social media activity or bank statements — has been nearly non-existent, police said. “It’s very rare that a 22-year-old girl doesn’t have a fingerprint,” Police Chief Rudy Alcaraz said during a press conference last week.
“Ms. Fuentes is long gone. … And that’s not normal behavior for Ms. Fuentes,” Alcaraz said. “So we are treating this as a criminal matter.”
When Fuentes was reported missing, she was immediately entered into a national missing persons database, Alcaraz told NBC News on Monday.
Alcaraz said that if the police were to come into contact with her and she didn’t want her family to know where she was, officers would comply but still tell her family that she was physically fine.
“That didn’t happen,” Alcaraz said.
He also said that while most of Fuentes’ physical search took place in Fresno County, authorities received information “from New Mexico.”
“We’ve been out of county a couple of times,” Alcaraz said.
Investigators were initially able to trace data from his cellphone to nearby Sanger, Alcaraz said, and searched areas northeast of Selma in the Avocado Lake and Pine Flat Lake areas.
Alcaraz said last week that the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spent 15 hours searching by helicopter and another 20 hours searching major roads. The sheriff’s office spent dozens of overtime hours searching the waterways, Alcaraz said.
Fuentes’ mother, Norma Nunez, said on Monday that her family had not given up hope of finding her alive.
“We’re still going out there and looking. We’re looking to hire a private investigator. We’re not going to stop until she’s home with us,” said Nunez, 44, of Fresno.
She said her daughter used to visit the Avocado Lake and Pine Flat Lake areas often for “peace of mind.”
Volunteers from the Adventurers with Purpose dive team were also looking for Fuentes, NBC Affiliate KSEE of Fresno reported. The group is credited with finding the submerged vehicle of missing 16-year-old Kiely Rodni, containing the teenager’s body, in a Northern California lake.
Adventurers with Purpose member Doug Bishop told KSEE last week that divers had been able to rule out Lake Avocado but would continue to search Pine Flat Lake and other areas.
Helen Kwong contributed.