Local News

Missing Lee County Woman's Mother 'Won't Give Up Hope'

Posted February 9, 2006
Updated December 31, 2006

— The mother of a 23-year-old woman missing for almost six weeks said Thursday that she is still hopeful that her daughter will be found alive.

"I won't give up any hope until I'm told differently," said Karen Riojas of her daughter, Michelle Bullard, who friends said was taken from a home in Sanford in the early-morning hours of Jan. 2

Riojas was at a daylong prayer vigil for Bullard at Swan Station Baptist Church in Lee County -- the latest effort in the search, in which they distributed fliers for people to hand out to help keep the disappearance in the public's eye.

"We have not lost hope," Riojas said. "We are still very, very hopeful that Michelle will have a safe return back to us."

The three-week investigation into Bullard's disappearance has spanned across three counties -- Lee, Harnett and Cumberland -- and has captured the national spotlight, with a profile of the case airing on CNN.

Riojas also said Thursday that she is trying to get a private investigator to work on the case.

"I want to know where my baby is," Riojas said. "And we're not going to stop until we find you, Michelle."

Bullard is 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighs about 125 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes. A $10,000 reward is being offered to anyone who has information leading to her recovery.

Anyone with information that may help solve the case is urged to contact the Lee County Sheriff's Office at (919) 775-5531 or local law enforcement.

"Michelle, if you can hear us, we love you, we miss you," Riojas said. "Baby, we are looking frantically for you, and we want you back home. That's where we need you."

Twenty-three candles burned at the church Thursday, signifying Bullard's age. Pink ribbons were also hanging in observance -- pink, because it is Michelle's favorite color, her mother said.
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