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It’s been almost two years since 15-year-old Rachel Natacha Owens got off the school bus at South Brunswick High School and into a small, dark-colored car. No one has heard from or seen her since.
Rachel would now be 17 years old. A $500 reward is offered for information on her whereabouts.
Investigators with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office recently formed a major crimes unit. One of the first cases the newly formed unit has been revisiting is Rachel’s disappearance.
“We have been working on it constantly,” Lt. Donna Simpson said Monday. “But about three weeks ago we developed the major crimes unit, and Rachel was one of the first cases.”
Rachel is the only long-term missing juvenile case in recent years for the BCSO. She is from the Holden Beach area. Everyone associated with the case has been re-interviewed in recent weeks.
According to investigators, Rachel was a repeat juvenile runaway.
“She had run away several times prior to May 2011,” Simpson said.
Each time, law enforcement would search for her and bring her home. She was often found in the company of a Hispanic male. This has led investigators to be on the lookout for Santos Pacheco-Sarmiento, a man she was found with prior to May 2011. Pacheco-Sarmiento is considered a person of interest in the case, and investigators would like to speak to him.
Simpson said he is no longer living at his last known address, nor is his family at its last known address.
Rachel has had no contact with her family or friends since May 5, 2011. Video footage shows her arriving at school.
“She got up wanting to go to school early that day,” Simpson said. “She rode the bus as normal. She arrived at school. A video shows her being the last student to get off the bus and getting into a small, dark-in-color car.”
During recent interviews with family members, a fictional story Rachel wrote in the months before her disappearance has come to light.
“In the story she talked about going to Mexico,” Simpson said. “She often altered her hair and skin color.”
The story also talks about personal items Rachel would take with her if she were to go to Mexico. The morning Rachel left, she took only a small handbag and her book bag.
Investigators believe she may have gone to Mexico or even possibly to a community in North Carolina with a “heavy Hispanic population.”
Now that Rachel is 17, she can’t be made to return home.
“We want her to call home so we can make sure she is OK. She has had no contact with her family or friends since the morning she disappeared,” Simpson said.
Investigators are still looking at the case as though Rachel ran away. The video indicates she got into the car on her own without force.
The BCSO has been working with the FBI since the start of this case. Investigators are also working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The BCSO is hoping someone will come forward with information or that Rachel herself will contact her family.
Rachel may be going by the name Raquel. She is described as a white female with hazel eyes. She was last known to be 5-foot-5 inches tall and weighing around 120 pounds.
The BCSO is offering a $500 reward for whereabouts of Rachel.
Anyone with information about Rachel or Pacheo-Sarmiento is asked to call Detective Holly Locklear at (910) 880-4950 or Lt. Donna Simpson at (910) 253-2777. Citizens may submit tips anonymously at http://brunswicksheriff.com.