Mom of missing North Carolina woman texted with stranger who claimed missing daughter was safe

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Thursday, February 15, 2024
Mom texted with stranger who claimed missing daughter was safe
The family of Marissa Carmichael are devastated as they mark one month since her disappearance from a North Carolina gas station.

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The family of Marissa Carmichael say they are devastated as they've marked one month since her disappearance and police in Greensboro, North Carolina, are sharing new information about the search for the missing mother of five.

Carmichael, 25, vanished on Jan. 14 from an Exxon gas station in the 800 block of E. Market St. in Greensboro shortly after making a distressed call to 911, according to police.

Police said in a statement on Tuesday night that they have reviewed surveillance footage that shows Carmichael getting into the car of a man at the Exxon gas station where she was last seen shortly after she called 911.

Police say they have identified and interviewed the driver of that vehicle, who is currently considered a witness in this case.

Carmichael called 911 from the Exxon gas station and told the dispatcher that a man drove off with her cell phone, leaving her stranded, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News. In the call, Carmichael asked police for help finding a ride home.

Carmichael's younger sister and only sibling, Emma Villegas, shared an emotional message with ABC News on Tuesday night, hoping it would reach her sister.

"If Marissa is possibly seeing this, you know for a fact that we're not going to stop looking for you. We're never going to stop looking for you until you are found safely," Villegas said. "The kids are worried about you, the kids miss you so much. We're going to drive ourselves crazy looking for you. But we are going to find you. And whoever has her, you are just evil."

Sara Carmichael, Marissa's mother who filed a missing person's report, told ABC News that the family is "devastated" and believes that her daughter is being "held against her will."

Police declined comment on whether they believe foul play is involved, saying it's an ongoing matter, but they urged the public in a statement on Feb. 6 to share any information about Marissa Carmichael's whereabouts and said that they have received "limited leads" in this case and were becoming "increasingly concerned for her welfare."

Marissa Carmichael's disappearance

According to police, Carmichael contacted Guilford Metro 911 at 3:40 a.m. on Jan. 14 from the Exxon and told the dispatcher that a man who took her phone left her there. She asked police to help her find a way to get home.

Guilford Metro dispatched the police department at 4:19 a.m., police said, but when an officer arrived at 4:21 a.m. Carmichael had already left the immediate area.

Sara Carmichael expressed frustration about the police's response time after she reported her daughter missing on the afternoon of Jan. 14, saying that she was told police had to wait 48 hours before they considered her daughter a missing person.

"(Police) didn't even start doing anything until the middle of that week. By then I had already been to the Airbnb. I had already been to the Exxon (to conduct) my own investigation," Sara Carmichael said. "Now they're taking it serious, but those first few days are critical."

Sara Carmichael said that the family last saw Marissa was on Saturday, Jan. 13. They were with her all day, but since Jan. 14, her daughter -- an avid social media user -- has not been active on her accounts and her phone has been turned off.

According to Sara, on the night before her disappearance, Marissa told her sister Emma that she was going to the club. She reportedly asked Emma not to tell their mother because she didn't want her to worry.

Sara Carmichael said after talking to her daughter's friends, she learned that Marissa went to One17 SofaBar & Lounge, and then later went to an Airbnb for an after party, after which she was dropped off at the Exxon station.

"When I woke up around lunchtime, Sunday (Jan. 14), and she wasn't home, and then I found out she didn't go to work, and that's just not like her at all," she said when asked what prompted her to report her daughter missing. "She's always in touch with me. So, I had a feeling."

She added that she also grew more suspicious about her daughter's whereabouts because she noticed missed calls from an unfamiliar number at around 5 a.m. and thought it could have been Marissa trying to reach her. However, when she contacted the number, she said she had a concerning conversation over text with someone who tried to reassure her that Marissa was OK.

"He told me Marissa's asleep. And then I said 'Let me speak to her.' And then he said well, 'she walked up to the store.' And then he just kept, you know, any reason to not get her on the phone," Sara Carmichael said. "So I said well what's the address that I can come or send somebody to get her, and the address that he sent me was a Sheetz store ... and she was not at no Sheetz, she was nowhere to be found."

Sara Carmichael said that the family set up a GoFundMe account and hopes to raise enough money to hire a private investigator.

"I feel like if I'm not spending my time investigating, searching, that I'm failing her," she said. "There's days I just don't want to get up out of bed. I just don't want to do life, but I have to ... she needs help. She needs us, and I have to find answers."

Carmichael is described as a 5'4" biracial female and is approximately 260 pounds with long black and blonde braids, police said. She also has a heart tattoo on her face and a butterfly near her eye and was wearing a white Tweety Bird T-shirt, blue jeans, and yellow sneakers when she was last seen.

Police are asking anyone with information about her whereabouts to call Greensboro/Guilford Crime Stoppers at 336-373-1000.