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Missing Teen Found After 20 Years: Mysterious Story of Crystal Haag
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Missing Teen Found After 20 Years: Mysterious Story of Crystal Haag

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It’s not a plot for another Stieg Larsson thriller like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, neither is it Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but still, there are more questions than answers in Crystal Marie Haag’s story. The largest organizations were searching for the girl for over 20 years while she managed not only to survive but graduate from university, give birth to her children and pursue a career. This story from the late 90s resonated strongly with modern users of social networks who showed a genuine interest in the life and fate of a 14-year-old who went missing on April 26, 1997.

Crystal was planning on helping her friend a babysit that day. Having left her home on Fulton Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, she got to her friend’s house and “decided to wait outside” while her friend went in to gather the children. It was the last thing Crystal’s friends and relatives knew about her whereabouts–when the friend came back out, Crystal was gone.

Even though Crystal was nowhere to be found, her friend allegedly assumed that “she just decided to leave” not realizing yet that Crystal was missing. Until a few hours later she got a phone call. It was Crystal’s mother looking for her daughter.

Crystal never came home that night. At the age of 14, Crystal had disappeared.

“At the time of her disappearance, Crystal was 5’4”-5’6” tall and weighed 140 pounds. She had light brown hair and brown eyes. She normally wore her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She was wearing a gray and red striped Tommy Hilfiger shirt, blue denim jeans, white footie socks, gray New Balance sneakers, and a gold C-shaped ring.” This information was all that was known about Crystal’s disappearance. Anyways, it now seems to have been unnecessary–it is not yet fully understood whether anyone was looking for her.

The local authorities rapidly concluded that Haag left the home of her own accord and officially called her a runaway, which was very convenient for the police–such cases were very common at that time when approximately one million young people ran away from home each year.

Writing Crystal off as a runaway was a big mistake that took away family’s best chance of finding her, especially during the first 48 hours.

A few months later, Crystal’s status was changed to “Endangered Missing” and the case went cold, which in most cases is practically synonymous with “hopelessly forgotten.” Translating from the “governmental language,” it literally means that the police are looking–if they are looking–for a body, not a missing person. Having turned Crystal’s story into an ordinary case, everyone calmed down.

But Crystal’s story was not an ordinary one. A surprise twist in this seemingly “typical” case made some skeptical Reddit users call it “unbelievable”: Crystal was found safe after more than 20 years after her disappearance.

How to remain “missing” at the center of events

In 1998, just a year after her disappearance, Crystal got into The City College of New York.

The distance between Crystal and her family in the first year of her disappearance/Google Maps

While Crystal was getting her bachelor’s degree in business management, the police were looking for her every second of the day and night.

In 2003–one year after Crystal’s graduation from college–Detective Terrence Parker was assigned Crystal’s case, which was at that moment “one of 48 cold cases actively being investigated by the Baltimore City Police Missing Person’s Unit,” according to the 2011 article of ABC2 News that now exists only in archives.

“Usually in cases like that we would get something,” said Det. Parker. “Somebody would say, ‘Oh yeah we saw her here,’ or ‘You know she was with so and so.’ But, we really didn’t get anything.”

Lacking the necessary information on the case, apart from Crystal’s habit to wear her hair in a ponytail, Det. Parker decided to start all over again.

“You have to start from the beginning like it’s a brand-new case,” said Parker. After re-interviewing Crystal’s family and friends and talking to neighbors, he solicited the help of the NamUs and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in Washington, D.C.

Robert Lowery, the Executive Director of the Missing Children’s Division, told about the organization’s work. “Up until about 1982, law enforcement wasn’t even required to enter a missing child into the database, although we were tracking stolen cars aggressively or stolen property through serial numbers or the NCIC database. We didn't put children on the same wavelength as we did property,” he said. Apparently, things haven’t changed much since then…

Anyway, NCMEC’s forensic artist Stephen Loftin drew up a sketch of what Crystal might look like at the age of 26.

Progressed by NMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) to age 26 years/missingin.org

Det. Parker, who spoke with Crystal’s mother often “about her hopes and fears,” said in 2011 that “she probably wouldn’t even recognize her if she saw her.”

That same year, Det. Parker promised that “they will continue to look and fight, doing whatever they can to bring Crystal home to her family.”

Meanwhile, Crystal’s sister, Bianca Davis led her own fight against the media that was silent on her sister’s story. Almost every year she left Crystal’s photo on her Facebook’s wall on her birthday in January and on the day of her disappearance in April. She didn’t know that they were not only 4 hours away from each other but also registered on the same social network.

Facebook

websleuths.com

In 2016, five years after Det. Parker’s promise, nothing had changed, except that Crystal’s age on her missing person alert was updated to 33.

Pinterest

Even though it’s been so many years since the police “unofficially” buried Crystal’s case, people from around the U.S. remained interested in the fate of the missing 14-year old—after 20 years!

Comments on the post left by Facebook’s group Maryland DC LostnMissing. February 2018/Facebook

Reddit

Reddit’s users were compassionate enough to make various propositions concerning the reasons for Crystal’s disappearance. Some of them speculated that she escaped from the “criminal atmosphere” of Baltimore in those years; others guessed that she was from an “abusive home” that made Crystal run away. Another user wrote: “Sounds like she went off the radar and her case wasn’t a huge priority. Maybe she came from an abusive home.”

Reddit

However, the most noteworthy element of Crystal’s story is that many more people were intrigued to learn about how she managed to survive at the age of 14, not about why she left home.

“She appears to have started college a year after she disappeared (when she still would have been a minor) and graduated 4 years later. She must have paid for that somehow and, unless she really assumed a fake identity (not just, like, went by a different name), she couldn’t have gotten loans w/o co-signers, etc. This really seems like a case of someone who took off and no one was looking all that hard for a while,” wrote one Reddit user.

Reddit

How not to appear “lost and missing”

While everyone was wondering whether Crystal is still alive, she felt free to live a full life. With a new last name, though (maybe an alias?).

She graduated from college and learned Spanish.

Facebook

According to information from her new account on Facebook, she has children and is in a relationship.

Comments on Crystal’s photo on Facebook

Facebook

There were also some comments from her aunt and uncle dating back to April of this year. Hmm… The woman behind the Charley Project said that her sister had emailed her on September, and judging from the number of her friends from Baltimore on Crystal’s Facebook account, they had learned that she was all right even earlier.

Crystal Saunders/Facebook  Subject for the photo: “This is an awesome place for our kids to keep busy with school work and different activities. We need this in our community to keep our kids off the corner and on the right path. Squeaky and Carlose put their all into to the center without anything in return. Thank you both for believing in our youth and wanting the best for our community. God bless you both!!!”

Now, when Crystal managed to remain “hidden” from the eyes of the authorities for more than 20 years, there’re some questions for the U.S. police about the system of searching for missing people on the whole. How did this person, who didn’t even conceal her identity and was registered in numerous governmental institutions, go unnoticed? Was Crystal Marie Haag a special agent? …Or maybe her “ageing” portraits just weren’t good enough? Is every missing person in the U.S. being searched for the same way as Crystal was?

According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, over 600,000 individuals go missing in the United States every year. Fortunately, many missing children and adults are quickly found, alive and well. However, tens of thousands of individuals remain missing for more than one year–what many agencies consider “cold cases.”

It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year.

Author: USA Really