More than 50 volunteers scoured desolate and marshy areas in Southwest Miami-Dade on Saturday in search of any clues that may lead them to a Doral mother and daughter who have been missing for nearly a month.
A team of private investigators, law enforcement workers, former military personnel, K9 dogs and others — working as volunteers with the Missing Children Global Network, a nonprofit dedicated to finding missing children — searched the areas of Southwest 157th and 137th avenues near Eighth Street to find Liliana Moreno, 43, and her 9-year-old daughter Daniela, a student at John I. Smith K-8 Center in Doral.
Moreno and her daughter have been missing since May 31.
“My family is very grateful. So many volunteers are helping us” in trying to piece together what happened to Moreno and her daughter, said Moreno’s brother, Eduardo Moreno.
Police began searching for Moreno and Daniela on May 31 after Moreno’s sister called from Colombia saying she had not heard from them in several days. Daniela was not in school the previous Friday. A search at Moreno’s apartment at Northwest 107th Avenue and 50th Street in Doral turned up her purse and wallet. The front door was locked, and her car was in the parking lot. Police suspected foul play.
Through most of the search, police have considered Gustavo Castaño — who is the girl’s father but claims to not have had a romantic relationship with Moreno — as a serious person of interest. He is the last person to see Moreno and her daughter before their disappearance.
Castaño has maintained his innocence.
On June 3, police found a distraught Castaño stabbing himself in the throat inside a truck in the parking lot of a Hialeah Gardens Home Depot.
Castaño’s lawyer, Michael Grieco, told el Nuevo Herald that police shot him in the face with a Taser stun gun, causing Castaño to lose his right eye. He has said Castaño has been cooperative from the outset of the investigation.
The incident added another bizarre twist in a case steeped in mystery.
For private detective Fernando Álvarez, a volunteer with the Missing Children Global Network, his priority is helping Moreno’s family.
“We are focusing on a fairly large area, and that’s why we have called on help from volunteers who have experience in searching forested areas that are difficult to access,” Alvarez said on Saturday. “That’s why we have come with trained dogs, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.”
One of those volunteers was Carlos Aguilar, the father of Christian Aguilar, the University of Florida freshman found killed after he was missing for weeks. When he went missing, the Miami and Gainseville communities united to find him, searching for days across much of the college town.
“I lived what happened to this family and I can very much relate,” Aguilar said. “I think that just as the community supported me then, I can offer the same in this case, which has been quite confusing,” Aguilar said.
Other volunteers included Venezuelan activist Oscar Puig, a former Doral City Council candidate. “It’s important to be involved in the community in difficult times such as these,” Puig said.
“We’re trying to help the family so that they can find out what happened and where are [Moreno and her daughter Daniela],” Puig said. “Now more than ever the family needs the community’s support.
Enrique Flor: @kikeflor, firstname.lastname@example.org