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
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Lilly told the cops she "suffered from several medical conditions and that her medications were not working." They took her to Jackson South, the public hospital in South Miami-Dade. Meanwhile, DCF took her baby into custody until she completed rehab. In April, Lilly was accepted at Saint Luke's Addiction Recovery Center in Liberty City, where she stayed until May 29. She was kicked out after failing a court-ordered drug test, and returned to Christen's condo. Lucely was granted custody of Palden the same day. In the midafternoon of May 31, 2007, Garcia ran into Lilly in the parking lot outside Christen's condo. "She was really down on herself," Garcia recalls. "She complained that everyone in Christen's apartment was smoking crack, and she blamed him for making her smoke too. That was the last time I saw her."
Janet Forte met Lilly in 2004. During the first two years of their acquaintance, they would read books together at Borders in Coconut Grove. "We took our friendship to another level when she got pregnant," Forte says. "She would sleep over at my place, and we would meditate and practice dharma together. She would write poems and loved giving people flowers. She was like a child herself."
Christen knows far more than he has said about the disappearance, Forte alleges, citing the following evidence:
• During a visit one week after the disappearance, "Christen was acting aloof," she says. "He wouldn't make eye contact with us. He told us that she had walked out with no shoes, no money, and no cell phone, to pick flowers."
• Christen's criminal record: Since June 1, 2007, he has been arrested for trespassing, cocaine possession (twice), petty theft, and carrying drug paraphernalia. Two charges have been dismissed and the rest are pending. This past August 8, Miami Police busted him after he was caught holding two needles with heroin residue in Overtown.
• Forte received a tip on her blog that within days of Lilly's disappearance, Christen had driven his Escalade to North Carolina, where he had the vehicle destroyed at a wrecking yard.
This should be enough to spur a more serious investigation, she says. So for the past year, she has lashed out on the Internet against lead Det. Aaron Mancha and his bosses at the domestic crimes bureau. "It's been months and months of nothing," Forte says.
Mancha did not return six phone messages left on his office voicemail and four e-mails seeking comment.
From the beginning, the probe was marred by mistakes and bureaucratic hurdles. After Christen reported Lilly missing, the case sat on Mancha's desk for two weeks until he returned from vacation. Around that time, K-9 units swept the grounds of the Village of Dadeland condo complex but never searched the interior, Forte says.
Police didn't call in Starling — who was asleep at Christen's condo the night Lilly vanished — for questioning, though Mancha visited her mother's house and left word that she should contact him. (New Times tracked Starling down and met with her August 12.) She says she has left the detective several voice messages, but he's never returned the calls. "No one has been trying to do anything," Starling says. "I've been wanting to talk to the detective all this time."
Nor has Christen been interviewed, though Mancha and another detective visited the Dadeland condo last December 5. "They just knocked on the door," says Forte, who accompanied the cops. "When no one answered, they left their card." (Christen says he has spoken to a detective only once, by phone, since filing the initial report.)
Forte says Mancha is also responsible for sending inaccurate information about Lilly — such as listing her height as five feet eleven inches tall — to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's missing persons website. "Dealing with the Miami-Dade Police is like hitting a brick wall," she grouses. "Even the simplest thing like getting [Lilly] listed on the Crime Stoppers website was an issue." (Cops must give the crime-fighting agency their authorization.)
Forte recently appeared twice on the Internet-based radio show War on Crime (available on blogtalkradio.com). HelpFindTheMissing.org posted Lilly's information, her picture, and how to contact Mancha for information about her whereabouts this past March 2. The author wrote, "There has been nothing at all done on this young woman's case to help find her. Her case has been virtually ignored since the beginning."
This past April 21, ZeroGossip.com posted a picture of Christen and the address to his condo with the following text: "Ten months missing without a clue and leaving behind an infant, a mother, friends, and a man she said she was to marry." In a May post, the anonymous author of JurorThirteen.com wrote, "This case has a lot of questions that need to be answered."
The campaign also inspired Susan Murphy-Milano, a battered-women's advocate, to blog (murphymilanojournal.blogspot.com) about Lilly's disappearance 11 times since May. Several posts blast Miami-Dade Police for ignoring leads that could implicate Christen. "The Internet is bringing life to these cold cases when there was no hope," Murphy-Milano says. "It is helping identify people who wouldn't otherwise be identified or who are not considered special enough to look for, like Lilly."