In late December 2007, 17-year-old Danica Childs was making plans to get together with her family to do some Christmas shopping in Federal Way, Washington.
And then, just like that, she was gone.
“I was driving home and we were talking [about Christmas shopping] and I got off the phone and realized I forgot to tell her something,” Danica’s mother, Dianne Zoro, tells PEOPLE of the last time she spoke to her daughter on Dec. 21, 2007.
“So I called her back,” Zoro recalls. “It just went straight to voicemail.”
Zoro was never able to reach her daughter again. Hours after trying to get a hold of Danica, she contacted police and reported the teen as missing.
At first, authorities thought she was a runaway, but Zoro knew something was wrong.
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Despite her daughter going through some hard times with school and her job at a local restaurant months earlier, Zoro says Danica was turning her life around in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. “She was excited,” Zoro says.
Despite being the subject of a federal investigation for more than 10 years, no arrests have been made in Danica’s disappearance. But Zoro says that she fears her daughter was the victim of sex trafficking based on information she has learned on her own.
Citing what authorities have learned and then subsequently told her, Zoro says her daughter may have been sexually exploited even before she went missing. Friends told Zoro they last saw Danica at a motel seven miles from her home, where investigators found her jacket and purse in one of the rooms.
Nearly 11 years later, Zoro remains hopeful and tries to keep her daughter’s name in the news. She and Danica’s three sisters plan on celebrating the anniversary of her going missing in their own way.
Last year, they kept it simple: sharing memories and supporting one another.
“We didn’t want to dwell too much and make it totally sad,” Zoro says. “But my daughters, they’ll go to the park — we used to all do this — and release balloons.”
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“The more time goes by it gets hard and harder,” Zoro admits. “But our family, we try to bolster each other … she’s always been there, she’s always on my mind.”
Anyone with information regarding Danica’s whereabouts is urged to call Federal Way police at 253-835-2121.