Elizabeth Smart Asks for 'Time, Attention and Prayers' to Help Find Missing Utah Woman

Elizabeth Elena Laguna-Salgado was last seen April 16 walking home from English class in Provo, Utah

Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP

One month ago, Elizabeth Elena Laguna-Salgado moved to Utah from Mexico so that she could learn English after serving a mission for the Mormon Church. Now the 26-year-old is missing, and another young woman who shares her first name has stepped up to urge the public to help find her.

“The importance of the public and media’s help in rescuing missing persons like Elizabeth Salgado can’t be overstated,” says Elizabeth Smart, 27, who was kidnapped from her bed in 2002 at age 14 and held captive for nine months. Her abductor, Brian David Mitchell, is now serving a life sentence in federal prison.

“I got involved in the hope that others will take notice of her situation and will give of their time, attention and prayers,” Smart tells PEOPLE. “She is an amazingly strong young woman who has a bright future ahead of her.”

Laguna-Salgado has not been seen since she disappeared on the afternoon of April 16 while walking home from her English class at Nomen Global Language School in Provo, Utah.

“It’s so unlike her – she’s very responsible and wouldn’t take off without telling anyone,” says her uncle, Rosemberg Salgado, 38, of Rancho Cucamonga, California. “We are all devastated. To have somebody in your family disappear is the worst thing imaginable.”

Laguna-Salgado’s family members (she is one of six siblings) are scrambling to get visas so they can come to the United States to help search for her, Rosemberg says. “It’s shocking,” he says. “She came to the U.S. on March 23 to live in an apartment with some other girls and now she’s gone. How could this happen?”

After serving a mission in Mexico for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rosemberg says, his niece was looking forward to living in Utah among other young Mormons and learning how to speak English. “She’s a very spiritual girl, optimistic, always with a good attitude,” he says. “Never in her life has she been one to get into trouble.”

Laguna-Salgado, who is described as 5-ft., 4-in. tall, 120 to 130 lbs., with long black hair and brown eyes, was last seen by some of her classmates walking to her apartment, 18 blocks from the language school. A part-time waitress at a local Mexican restaurant, she was wearing a denim jacket, blue jeans and brown or black knee-high boots, and was carrying a denim purse with red straps, according to Lt. Brandon Post of the Provo City Police Department.

“We’ve interviewed everyone at the school and her three roommates,” says Post, “but so far, we don’t have any answers. That’s why we’ve asked the public to help find her.”

One day before 300 volunteers searched throughout Provo for Laguna-Salgado, Smart and her father, Ed Smart, held a press conference to urge everyone to support the search effort.

“I do believe that she’s alive and we can find her,” Elizabeth Smart said at the press conference. “The one thing that I continually hope and pray for is that every child that is missing can have the same coverage, have the same prayers and have the same support that I had.”

Rosemberg Salgado says that his niece had complained recently about a young man in her English class, who was constantly asking her to go out with him. “He was asking aggressively and she told me she got upset,” he said. “The police have talked to him, but nothing came of it. As far as I know, there still aren’t any leads.”

Police are asking that anyone with information on Laguna-Salgado’s disappearance contact Provo police.

“All that solving this case will take is for one person who knows or sees something to come forward,” Smart says.

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