14-year-old Houston girl at center of Amber Alert found, Texas DPS says

Before she was found, 14-year-old Marisol Avila was last seen at Marshall Middle School, located at 1115 Noble St.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Houston girl at center of Amber Alert found, 2 arrested
A 14-year-old at the center of an Amber Alert was found safe. But questions arise at HISD about why it took 36 hours for an alert to be issued.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A 14-year-old girl who was reported missing after she was last seen at a Houston ISD campus on Monday has been found, according to Texas DPS.

An Amber Alert was issued for Marisol Avila on Tuesday night. In an update Wednesday morning, officials said the teen had been found. No further information about the circumstances of where or how she was found was released by authorities.

ABC13 reporter Jeff Ehling spoke to Marisol's mother, who said her daughter was located in the Fifth Ward area before she was taken to the hospital to be checked out by medical staff. She said two people were questioned.

Houston police were treating Marisol's disappearance as an abduction. She was last seen at 9:23 a.m. Monday at Marshall Middle School, located at 1115 Noble St. on Houston's northside.

Family friends said Marisol's phone and all of her belongings were found in her locker and that her social media was no longer active.

The Texas Department of Public Safety shared a stock photo of a car they were searching for in connection to her disappearance. It's a tan 1990 Subaru Forester with Texas plates. The exact license plate number was unknown.

Eyewitness News learned that the gold Subaru belongs to a woman named Leticia.

She said Monday morning, her 14-year-old neighbor asked her to pick up Marisol from Marshall Middle School, and she did.

"I brought them back, and they went into the house," Leticia said in Spanish Wednesday morning. "That was all."

Leticia said the teen and his mother moved in next door about three months ago. She did not say why the boy asked her to pick the girl up from school or his relationship with Marisol.

"Tuesday, around 6 p.m., I heard the Amber Alert, and I saw my car appear in it," Leticia said. "It said the last time the girl was seen was in a car like mine. That is why I called the police to let them know the girl was here."

According to Leticia, the boy's mother came to her home after the Amber Alert came out and said Marisol had been at her home until the alert went out.

"The boy's mom told me that when the girl heard the Amber Alert, she took off running in the street," Leticia recalled.

After she called the police, Leticia said officers came to her street in the Fifth Ward and took her 14-year-old neighbor in for questioning, but he was released shortly after. Leticia said she went with his mother to pick him up around 2 a.m.

According to Leticia, no one from her street has been arrested or charged in the case.

Leticia did not know where the girl was found.

ABC13 has asked HISD, whose police department is the lead investigating agency on the case, numerous questions, including where Marisol was found, if anyone was arrested, and why the alert was delayed about 36 hours after her last sighting.

With each question, a spokesperson for the district did not answer the questions and referred to an ongoing investigation, and citing Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA).

FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of students' education records.

ABC13 pointed out that this is a police matter and not related to education records and received no response.

Earlier this month, 13 Investigates reported similar issues our team has faced when dealing with other districts when trying to get information about criminal matters their police forces have investigated.

School districts will send public information requests to the Texas Attorney General's Office for an opinion, and they typically side with the districts, prohibiting the media from receiving information.

Before she was found, Marisol's mother told reporters in Spanish, "Neighbors, gas stations, anyone who might have seen her, please talk to the police so that she can return home. We're waiting for her, her sisters, her dad. We just want her back. We want her back with us."

HISD didn't provide many details but did say, "We take these situations very seriously, as the safety of our students is always our absolute top priority," in a statement on Wednesday morning.

The following is the district's full statement:

"The Houston Independent School district is aware of an incident that occurred Tuesday, 5/23/23, involving a Marshall Middle School student. HISD police and the Houston Police Department are currently investigating, and extra officers have been assigned to patrol the area surrounding the school. Please know that we take these situations very seriously, as the safety of our students is always our absolute top priority. If you see any suspicious activity or have any information about the incident, we ask that you contact the HISD Police Department immediately at 713-892-7777 or call 911.Due to the ongoing investigation and the Family Education Right's Privacy Act (FERPA), HISD will not be providing additional information at this time."