By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Lilly Aramburo and Christen Pacheco were hanging out in the living room of a first-floor condominium in Kendall shortly before 2 a.m. June 1, 2007. Empty bottles of Budweiser beer, Patrón tequila, and Belvedere vodka littered the kitchen counter and living room table. Cockroaches and flies swarmed rotting food, and garbage littered the grimy floor.
Lilly was a Lilliputian young woman — just shy of five feet tall and a featherweight 100 pounds. Yet the 24-year-old had a voracious appetite for hard liquor and harder drugs. As she plopped onto the sofa and took a hit from a glass pipe, her sleepy brown eyes glazed over and strands of long, silky, straight black hair covered her face.
She handed the pipe to 31-year-old Christen, an athletic, 168-pound, five-foot eight-inch tall ex-Marine. He took a long toke and blasted off into the same netherworld.
A few minutes later, the couple began arguing. Lilly accused Christen of being cruel to her and then stormed out. He went to sleep, woke up around 10 a.m., and discovered she hadn't returned. He waited 24 hours to tell police she had left, wearing a long nightgown and holding "two bungee cords and no other property." She "has a history of attempted suicide and is diagnosed schizophrenic and suffers from depression," he added.
No one knows what happened to Lilly, though a sighting was recently reported in downtown Miami. Her disappearance and the intense efforts of bloggers to find her speak volumes about new ways of tracking down the missing in the Internet age. It also suggests police indifference to such cases when they involve the less fortunate or drug addicted.
Although there are hints that Christen knows more than he told the cops, and that the argument between the two might be an important clue, the case remains unsolved.
"The police aren't doing anything," says Janet Forte, a blogger who has spent months searching for Lilly. "She has been my priority for more than a year. For me, she was a special human being."
Lucely Zalvidar sits at a table inside Barnes & Noble near Stirling Road and I-95. An olive-skinned 41-year-old with straight brown hair, she speaks in a low, tender voice. "Lilly wasn't the kind of girl who was into dolls," she recalls. "She liked to be outdoors, playing with insects. She was also very creative. She'd make her own clothes by ripping one piece of clothing and sewing it onto another."
On November 16, 1983, Lucely gave birth to Lilly in San Francisco. Soon they moved to Miami and Lucely split from Lilly's father. "He's never had any communication with Lilly since we divorced," Lucely says.
Growing up, Lilly loved classic rock bands such as the Beatles and the Doors, Lucely says, noting that her daughter read rock biographies and kept a journal. She was a gregarious, earthy girl who loved flowers and playing outdoors.
In the summer of 1997, they moved to Hollywood and opened a flower shop on Stirling Road. Problems began to crop up when Lilly started her freshman year at Hollywood Hills High School. "She didn't have her father around," Lucely says. "She didn't want to be in Broward because all her friends were in Miami. And those kids didn't really have any parental supervision. So it was easy for them to start using drugs."
Soon Lilly was smoking marijuana. She would hang out with her Miami friends until the wee hours of the morning. Around the same time, Lucely recollects, her daughter was diagnosed with depression. "The school psychologist told me it was due to a chemical imbalance," Lucely says.
By the time Lilly turned 16, things worsened. She dropped out and began experimenting with Ecstasy, ketamine, and other designer drugs. "She'd go hang out with her friends from Coconut Grove," Lucely says. "She would sleep in the streets, in a park, at the beach. I'd go out looking for her in all these places until I would find her."
Kelly Rae Starling is a 22-year-old unemployed vagabond who has known Lilly since they were classmates at Ponce de Leon. A slender girl with short, wavy hair and a ring through her septum, Starling says she and Lilly sampled drugs daily. "We enjoyed just being out in the streets doing whatever we wanted to do," Starling says. "Lilly was the closest girlfriend I ever had. At one point, me and her were living inside a Toyota. We had a pet bunny too."
The two girls would crash at friends' pads, squat inside vacant houses, or sleep in open spaces such as the park or the beach. Lilly stayed in touch with her mother but would go home only when she wanted to sober up. "It was very tough for me," Lucely says. "I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't concentrate on my business."
In 2003, when she was 20 years old, Lilly met heroin addict David Lamaso. They began dating and taking the drug. Soon they moved in together, and Lilly did not contact her mother for a month, the longest she had ever gone without communication.