Broward County

Police suspend search for missing Pembroke Pines woman after spotting her on surveillance

Surveillance footage shows Malika James, 28, at 7:41 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 8, withdrawing funds from a JPMorgan Chase Bank in Winter Haven. She had been reported missing Dec. 6.
Surveillance footage shows Malika James, 28, at 7:41 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 8, withdrawing funds from a JPMorgan Chase Bank in Winter Haven. She had been reported missing Dec. 6. Pembroke Pines Police Department

Update: Malika James is home, according to a friend's post on the Find Malika James Facebook page.

Police on Wednesday suspended the search for a missing 28-year-old Pembroke Pines woman after surveillance footage showed her in good condition at an ATM near Orlando.

“She’s not in our system as a missing person,” Pembroke Pines Police Capt. Al Xiques told the Miami Herald. “She’s not technically missing. We know where she is. She is willingly going.”

Surveillance video captured Malika James, a regular on Miami’s nightlife scene, at a drive-up ATM in Winter Haven, conducting a transaction at 8:30a.m. Dec.8.

The images, according to a Pembroke Pines police report, show her to be in good physical condition, alone in her vehicle.

But despite the news that his daughter appears to be OK, Leonard James is still left with more questions than answers.

“At this point I have no idea what is going on,” James told the Herald Wednesday.

James said that he has family in Atlanta but that he does not know where his daughter is headed. He has not heard from her and continues to worry about her.

“Last thing we got is the picture,” James said, referring to the images from the surveillance footage. “Still pictures don’t show you everything.”

James said he is putting more money into her bank account.

“She’s kind of out there alone without much money,” he said.

Malika’s friends, too, are left wondering.

“We do not know why and where she is going, but we will still be looking for her and trying to figure out what’s going on with our friend,” Viviana Montesino posted on Facebook late Tuesday afternoon.

Malika James was last seen after she let a family friend into her Pembroke Pines home to fix something, said Kerry McLaney, a close friend of Malika’s.

She got to her house where she lives with her father around 9:15a.m., but left shortly after without her phone, McLaney said. She was scheduled to work at an event at Basel Castle at 41 NW 20th St. in Wynwood, according to McLaney.

McLaney and others have since created a 645-member-strong Facebook group called “Find Malika James — Information and Updates” in an effort to “put together a timeline of events” for this weekend.

“We’re trying to piece it together,” McLaney said.

Their timeline:

Malika, originally from Tacoma, Wash., was out Friday night and was seen at the Corner Bar and Restaurant near downtown Miami around 3a.m. Saturday, where somebody had hit her blue 2014 Ford Fiesta.

“She was in a text conversation with a friend,” McLaney said. “She was upset because it was a new car.”

That conversation ended around 8:28a.m., when Malika made her way to Pembroke Pines to let the family friend in.

After she left there, things become a little more hazy.

Around 5p.m. Saturday, a friend who works at a gallery in Wynwood said she talked to her at the gallery, McLaney said. Malika told the friend that she had a lot do before working the event at 6p.m.

“So she was planning on going,” McLaney said.

Then, around 6p.m., another friend reportedly saw her outside the Wynwood bar Gramps at a food truck with an unknown man.

“We’re hoping this is Saturday,” McLaney said, adding that time lines can become “a bit crazy” on the weekend of Art Basel.

Then Malika disappeared.

“Her not showing up for these parties is a huge red flag,” McLaney said. “She was very responsible.”

When she didn’t show up to work at one of her part-time jobs on Saturday, her father received a call from her boss.

“He said, ‘Well that’s not normal for her,’” Leonard James told CBS4. “She’s been working for him for about four years. She’s always reliable. He can count on her.”

McLaney first learned the news about her friend missing on Sunday morning on social media.

“Now it’s like everywhere,” McLaney said. “She’s a very well known person.”

Indeed, a rush of posts and pleas from friends, celebrities and strangers popped up on social media sites including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Celebrity and events photographer Manny Hernandez, who takes photos for miami.com, was among the many posting the missing-person flier on Instagram, where he wrote: “Still missing our friend Malika James if anyone has any info please contact authorities. Last seen on Saturday December6 in Wynwood. Please share this post.”

Hernandez, who has been friends with Malika for a few years, described her as “outgoing” and “very nice.”

“She’d go out a lot,” Hernandez said. “She came to all the hipster events. She was part of the cool kids.”

He last saw her two weeks ago at an event where Malika told him about her future plans.

“She wanted to do an art blog,” Hernandez said. “I was going to do a photo shoot with her.”

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