Community gathers for grassroots search in NJ teen’s disappearance

The Missing

Breaking update as of Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, 3:30 p.m.: The mother of a New Jersey teen who disappeared and was later found safe in New York City was arrested Friday, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Editor’s note: Though the teen’s name was widely publicized during the search for her, PIX11 News is not identifying her now that she’s been found and is considered the victim of an alleged crime.

Breaking update as of Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 at 10 p.m.: The teen was found in New York City, officials said.

Original story –

A large crowd brimming with anger, frustration, and desperation, met Tuesday to conduct their own community-led search for the 14-year-old, who’s been missing nearly a month.

Moore was last seen on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 14, taking a short walk from her home to a deli on Central Avenue in East Orange, New Jersey.

“Somebody saw something,” her mother, Jamie Moore, said. “She did not run away.”

Some of the residents who showed up to participate in the block-by-block, civilian-organized search, said not enough is being done on a regular basis to keep the girl’s case in the spotlight; they just want to find her safe.

(PIX11 News first reported on the girl’s disappearance in a series called The Missing, an initiative meant to shine a spotlight on the stories of missing persons that may have previously been overlooked.)

“We’re talking about thousands of girls — Black girls — who are missing every day, and we don’t get to see them plastered on the news or anything,” an attendee said on Tuesday.

Americans were galvanized during the search for missing Long Island native Gabby Petito, who was reported missing in September, in hopes she would be found safe.

But the disappearance of Petito, a white 22-year-old woman, brought scrutiny to the frenzy of coverage some missing persons receive while others go ignored. It brought renewed attention to a phenomenon known as “missing white woman syndrome.”

Many families and advocates for missing people of color are glad the attention paid to Petito’s disappearance has helped unearth clues that likely led to the tragic discovery of her body and they mourn with her family. But some also question why the public spotlight so important to finding missing people has left other cases shrouded in uncertainty.

Tony Olajuwon, a community activist, called on even more action in New Jersey to help bring the teen home.

“We’re here because I got a 14-year-old daughter. My man, my partner, just lost a daughter. So we’ve got to note, we want the people in East Orange to stand up,” Olajuwon said.

East Orange Mayor Ted Green, the East Orange Police Department and Essex County law enforcement now have the FBI’s assistance.

Investigators have since been canvassing the neighborhood, including an nearby pond, and holding news conferences to update the public.

“If you see (the missing girl), if you hear — or overhear someone talking about (the missing girl), please contact us,” said East Orange Police Chief Phyllis Bindi.

Tuesday’s grassroots neighborhood search conducted by people who live in the community seemed to create some anecdotal leads, namely several alleged physical sightings of the missing teen in the past few days. None of those sightings have yet been verified, and investigators — sticking to protocol — have yet to disclose any hard leads they’ve collected so far.

That brings us back to Jamie Moore, who repeated her suspicion that her daughter had been abducted — although she does not know who could be responsible.

“This doesn’t make sense,” she said. “You don’t gotta tell us who you are. Just don’t hurt my baby.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Connect with PIX11 Online

Connect with PIX11 Online

Trending Stories

Follow us on Facebook

Don't Miss

@PIX11News on Twitter