Azia Diane Saldana is still missing, and her family hasn’t seen her in months. However, the Wyoming woman is no longer considered a missing person after she made a cryptic phone call to her mother this week.
The 33-year-old mother of four left her parents’ Torrington home in the early evening Aug. 26 to play the slot machines at the Western Travel Terminal truck stop. That was the last time she was seen by anyone in her family.
Other than a few errant text messages that couldn’t be verified, there hadn’t been any contact with Azia in more than two months since her disappearance.
On Monday afternoon, Azia’s mother Lisa said she received a phone call from an unknown number. She thought it was a spam call until she heard her daughter’s voice for the first time since her disappearance in August.
“It was a very short phone call, almost like it was set up,” said Stacy Koester, a volunteer private investigator with Road Warriors for the Missing. “She said, ‘I don’t know where I am or how I got here,’ but that she was OK.”
The call lasted only seven minutes. Koester said Azia didn’t disclose her location, but stated she thought she could be in Tucson, Arizona. There were several male voices in the background of the call, but Azia didn’t say who she was with.
“She kept saying, ‘I want to come home,’ and then (the call) ended,” Koester told Cowboy State Daily.
Koester was the first person Lisa Saldana called when the phone call with her daughter abruptly ended. After getting the details, Koester contacted the Torrington Police Department.
The Torrington Police Department confirmed Azia Saldana contacted her family Monday. Soon after, members of the investigating team also wereable to exchange text messages with the same contact number used to call Lisa Saldana.
“We reasonably believed that we were communicating with Azia,” Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson told Cowboy State Daily.
Johnson said Azia didn’t disclose where she was or who she was with any of their exchanges. But there was one point she was very clear about.
“She made a very clear statement that she did not wish to be listed as ‘missing,’ and her missing person status was not beneficial to her,” he said. “She also made it clear to us that she did not require assistance at this time.”
Following these requests, Azia Saldana is no longer considered a missing person by the Torrington Police Department. There are reasons to be concerned about her unverified status, but Johnson said they are doing due diligence based on the messages received.
“We’re working to maintain a balance between addressing potential risks to (Azia’s) safety, honoring her requests and respecting her right to privacy as an adult,” he said.
Nobody involved in the search for Azia disputes the authenticity of the Monday call she made to her mother, but the circumstances of the situation aren’t sitting well with anybody.
Still unknown is how and why Azia went missing. Was she abducted or forced somewhere against her will, or did she disappear on her own and made Monday’s call to stop people from searching for her?
“Lisa knows her daughter’s voice,” Koester said. “But if you look at it from a dangerous perspective? She’s got all these headlines. How easy would it be to force her to call home, say she’s safe and get any kind of documentation taken down? She’s not on websites anymore, and they can move freely without her face being known as a missing person.”
The “they” that Koester referred to are human traffickers. Lisa Saldana believes Azia could have been kidnapped by sex traffickers, especially with all the male voices she heard in the background of the brief phone call she had with her daughter.
Furthermore, the number Azia called from was a spoof number used to hide the real number of the phone making the call. It may be possible to ping the number to determine Azia’s location, but it would be much more difficult to do so.
The Right Classification
Koester is concerned that saying Azia is no longer a missing person will hamper the efforts to safely find her and get her home to her family. She doesn’t believe the Torrington Police Department had enough confirmation to remove her from its missing list.
“Nobody in that police department spoke to Azia, heard her voice or saw her face,” she said. “I do not understand how they can say she’s not missing based on a text message from a TextNow number.”
Johnson said the Torrington Police Department may have changed the nature of its investigation into Azia’s disappearance, but there is still an active investigation and they’re determined to bring her home to her family.
“We still have some concerns for her welfare,” he said. “Those statements are a potential indicator of risk, but we don’t know what that means or what level of risk that is for her. We do know we don’t want to make the situation worse for Azia.”
The investigation is transitioning from a public information campaign to a “more focused” effort to determine where Azia is and if she needs help, he said. If she is in danger or requires any assistance, that information will be relayed to law enforcement agencies near her location.