Angela Jones takes out a Mother’s Day card that was created by her daughter a few years back, and breaks down when she reads, “Mother is such a special word, I toast you above the rest.”
She’s crying because daughter Asia left their Southwest Philadelphia home to go to the store on the afternoon of March 7 and never returned.
Asia is 21 and has never failed to return home before, says Angela. She opens her laptop and plays videos of her missing daughter.
Angela, 57, has had many short-term jobs, including working in the service department at Sears and selling subscriptions to The Inquirer.
Her ability to support herself ceased when she was struck down by asthma and arthritis. She now spends most days on the couch, surviving on disability payments.
Her two sons, Anthony, 29, and Almen, 24, also live in the three-bedroom rowhouse on a quiet street. Daughter Shana, 33, lives on her own.
“I cry every day,” Almen tells me.
Other Philadelphia families are crying, too. Almost 5,000 people, about a dozen a day, went missing last year in the city. That’s a lot of people, and fewer than half — only 2,203 — returned. Teenagers comprise the largest group of those who go missing.
Asia’s disappearance was investigated following procedure, according to a police spokesperson.
“We put out a missing persons report, and a bulletin with her information, and throughout the course of the day officers on patrol were notified and police visited places she was known to frequent,” the spokesperson says. Asia was added to the Police Department’s Missing Persons Blog.
Police checked surveillance video at the mini-market where Asia had said she was heading, as well as images captured by surveillance video at another commercial building.
Police also canvassed the neighborhood, checked hospitals and the Medical Examiner’s Office, in addition to interviewing Angela and other relatives.
The Jones family plastered the neighborhood with copies of the missing person report.
Angela says Asia “liked to do her hair and her nails and she liked to draw,” but had no close friends. “I was her friend and she was mine,” she says.
Asia was taking online courses to get her high school diploma. She had been in public schools, Angela says, but was bullied and dropped out. Asia was smart enough to learn Spanish so she could communicate with a young man next door whom she liked.
“She was babysitting for the people next door, she fell in love with this man after she had known him for a couple of years,” says Angela. That young man moved out more than a year ago.
Angela says the neighbors all like Asia. “People in the neighborhood were always asking if she could come live with them,” she says. Angela harbors dark suspicions that her daughter was kidnapped, but that is grief talking. She has no evidence to support it.
Until the day Asia returns, Angela will remain on the couch, tears running down her cheeks, looking at videos and a Mother’s Day card, her only contacts with her lost daughter.