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Dec. 24, 2007 | Missing woman's family struggles

In the seven months since Stepha Henry disappeared during a visit to South Florida, her family blanketed the area with fliers, made tearful pleas on national news shows and observed holidays with heavy hearts.

Christmas will be no exception.

"It hasn't been easy, " said her mother, Sylvia Henry, in a phone interview Sunday from her home in Brooklyn. "All of the things that were fun, that Stepha made fun -- buying gifts, decorating the house, cooking -- have been very difficult this year."

The John Jay College honors graduate went missing Memorial Day weekend. She was last seen at Peppers Café, a nightclub in Sunrise.

Stepha Henry, 22, born in Trinidad and Tobago, but raised in New York, had flown with her 16-year-old sister Shola to Florida just before the holiday to celebrate Shola's birthday. They stayed with relatives in Miami Gardens.

The sisters, who their mother said were more like best friends, spent their time visiting relatives, shopping and going to the beach.

On May 29, the night before Henry was scheduled to return home, she spoke to her mother and told her she was going to a nightclub.

Hours later, she left her aunt's place with a male acquaintance in a black Acura Integra, headed to Peppers.


A camera crew taping a promotional video at the club that night captured footage of Henry inside the club.

The male acquaintance left without her, police said. At 4:13 a.m., Henry checked her voice-mail on her cellphone. The next morning, her aunt and sister noticed she had not come home.

She was reported missing, and her parents, mother Sylvia and father Steve, flew down to Miami.

After very publicly setting up camp in South Florida -- urging the local media to cover her daughter's disappearance -- Sylvia Henry eventually returned to New York in November. She calls Miami-Dade police officers every morning, every afternoon and every night, she said.

While investigators continue following leads, the family has had to resume their daily routines.

Sylvia Henry and her other daughter, Shola, have been in counseling.

Shola's grades have dropped and she has become withdrawn, said her mother.

"She doesn't talk to us, " Sylvia Henry said. "They were very close. She blames herself because they had gone down there for her birthday."

Stepha's name has slowly faded from news broadcasts.

Youtube videos about the young woman have cropped up on the site. One called "Stepha Henry -- Who is She?" accuses the media of incessantly playing up the disappearances of young white women like Natalee Holloway and the antics of Paris Hilton and mostly ignoring Stepha.

Another one plays P. Diddy's remake of The Police's Every Breath You Take over still photographs of the missing woman. Her case is also on America's Most Wanted's website.


When Stepha's 23rd birthday came in late September, the family celebrated with a Mass at their home.

John Jay College, where she had excelled in criminal justice courses and aspired to be an attorney, also held a birthday celebration for her. Candles were lit and students read poems, her mother said.

Thanksgiving was also a somber event.

"Normally, we have music, we have lots of friends coming over, but this year, we cooked the food and we just ate together. There was no celebration, " Henry said.

Christmas will be the same.

"Stepha always got us in the mood, " said Henry. "She was the first one to buy gifts, she was always the one that got us excited. It's sad. I can't even be happy. I'm trying to do some laughing. It's not easy."