SAN ANTONIO – It's been nearly 12 years since Lucero Sarabia disappeared. She has missed her sons growing up. She was about six weeks away from giving birth to her third child. She has missed holiday and birthday celebrations with her family.
Her family has missed her every day.
Sarabia, then 21, was headed home after a post-Thanksgiving party with family and friends. Her mother and sister waited.
She never made it.
She didn't answer her cell phone.
"When we couldn't get a hold of her in the morning, we both new something was not right because it was not like her not to answer the phone," said her mother, Juanita Trevino.
'I wasn't very comfortable about it'
Sarabia was eight months pregnant in November 2004. She and her two sons moved in with her mother ahead of the birth of her baby. Her mother said they didn't know the gender of the baby, but hoped she was having a girl.
"She would do anything for her two boys. She was always there for anybody that needed her," Trevino said. "Everybody loved her."
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, Sarabia prepared a full meal for the family.
"We gave grace, we ate -- all of us," Trevino said.
Sarabia took her mother to work, then went to a party to meet up with her sister. Later, Sarabia picked up her mother and said she wasn't ready to call it a night.
"I was hoping we would go home, but she said she wanted to go back and be with her sister for a while. I wasn't very comfortable about it," Trevino said. "I was actually kind of upset because I wanted her to come home with the baby. I said, 'OK, I'm going to drop you off. When you guys are ready, call me to pick you up.'"
Sarabia told her mom she loved her and went back to the party.
"Several people there saw her, interacted with her," said Courtney Weyrich, with the San Antonio Police Department's Missing Persons Unit. "They were having a good time. Nothing out of the ordinary."
Sarabia's sister went home a short time later. Her mother asked for Sarabia, whom she called "Princess." She said Sarabia went to the store with someone who had been at the party.
"She called her sister, and Princess said, 'Okay, I'll just go home. I'll tell him to take me home,'" Trevino said.
By 2 a.m., Sarabia still had not made it home. This time, her mother called her. Sarabia had left the party but was at a new friend's apartment.
"I said, 'You need to come home already because it's getting late.' That's when I heard her say, 'Can you take me home?' He said, 'Yeah, I'll take you home.' And she says, 'OK, mom, I'll be home in a little bit.' And that was the last I heard from her," Trevino said.
Nov. 26, Sarabia had not returned home. Her family contacted police, then started retracing Sarabia's steps.
"Each location that she went to that night was actually very close to her home. That's what is also unusual. It wasn't far for her to get home. It was a very short area of time for her to disappear," Weyrich said.
Sarabia's family said they found the man who was supposed to drive her home. They said he claimed she decided to walk. They also told police it appeared the man was moving out of his apartment. When police questioned him, he also said Sarabia chose to walk home.
"She would have been home in 10 minutes. The walk wasn't that far," Trevino said.
She said Sarabia saw the good in people and has wondered if someone picked her up.
"If he says she got off and walked, what time? Who picked her up? I mean, how did she disappear? Where did she go? I mean, I don't understand," Trevino said. "I can't figure out why anyone would do something to her? Why can't they just let her go and come home?"
'She couldn't start over without her kids'
Family and friends searched the area where Sarabia had been hoping to find her. Police also did what they could to look for her.
"We put them into a national database, so if anybody in the United States runs them, they will come back as being missing. We checked the hospitals especially in this instance where she's pregnant. She can't necessarily disappear very easily with being 8 months pregnant," Weyrich said.
Sarabia's family holds a vigil on the anniversary of her disappearance. They have one planned for Nov. 26 -- a reminder of another year without their Princess.
Her mother said the family has stayed in the same neighborhood where Sarabia lived. While she holds out hope her daughter will find her way home, she doesn't believe Sarabia left to start a new life without her family.
"She couldn't start over without her kids, without us. She wouldn't put us through this. I know," Trevino said. "They just don't know the pain that they have inflicted on us by taking her like this."
Anyone with information on Sarabia's disappearance or whereabouts is urged to call SAPD's Missing Persons Unit at 210-207-7660.
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