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Lucia Chilel Perez
(aka Mary Rodriguez Figueroa)
Age at Report: 41
Weight: 120 – 140 lbs.
Height: 5′ 2″
Residence: Worthington, Minn.
Went Missing From: Sioux County and Dickinson County (Iowa)
Investigating Agency: Worthington (Minn.) Police Department
Case Number: 11-4571
NamUs MP # 13874
Missing Since: June 27, 2011
Lucia Chilel Perez, 41, of Worthington, Minnesota, vanished under suspicious circumstances on June 27, 2011, while searching for employment in northwest Iowa. She was traveling with a man, Bernardino Ramirez-Perez, who allegedly drove her to Iowa from Worthington in a maroon Buick Century.
Ramirez-Perez is wanted on a 2005 warrant for kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct, and is considered a “person of interest” in Lucia Perez’s disappearance.
In a Worthington Daily Globe article dated July 5, 2011, Det. Sgt. Kevin Flynn of the Worthington Police Department said the two were last seen together at a northwest Iowa business June 27.
“They were stopping at businesses applying for jobs,” Flynn said. “Family members spoke with her later that day, but since then, no one has spoken with or seen her.”
Lucia Perez is described as Hispanic, approximately 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 120 to 140 pounds, and having long black hair.
On the last known day seen alive, she wore an ankle-length denim skirt, a black short-sleeved blouse with white decorations and had in her possession a black back pack. Flynn said the contents of the back pack are unknown.
Bernardino Ramirez-Perez is described as a short, dark-skinned Hispanic male with a full beard and long hair. He is believed to be approximately 35 to 40 years old and from the Worthington area.
Investigators from Minnesota and Iowa met in July 2011 to coordinate efforts and released descriptions of Lucia Perez in all areas she may have been — where she saw her brother-in-law and where cell phone records show she last used her phone.
Lucia Perez was named as an endangered missing person by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on June 27.
“We have a missing person and are concentrating our efforts in northwest Iowa,” Flynn said. “Hopefully we’ll have a conclusion where she’s found with friends or with some people in the area.”
Worthington officials and the Sioux County (IA) Sheriff’s Office in July issued a public plea for help in locating Perez. Sioux County Sheriff Dan Altena, whose office is assisting the Worthington Police Department with the investigation, said Ramirez-Perez fled the area in an attempt to evade authorities.
In a press release dated Tuesday, July 12, 2011, the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office announced they also were assisting Worthington police with the investigation. On July 13, the Dickinson County News reported the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation had joined Minnesota law enforcement officials in their search for Perez.
Investigators said Lucia Perez may have been in the Lake Park area searching for employment on Monday, June 27. Authorities said she also may have traveled to Rock Valley with a friend that same day.
A Worthington Daily Globe article dated June 24, 2012 said Ramirez-Perez was questioned by authorities after family members reported Lucia Perez’s disappearance. Ramirez-Perez had returned to Worthington without Lucia Perez the evening of June 26, 2011 — bearing a large scratch on his face — but he told officials Lucia Perez had been taken into custody in Hull, Iowa, for some kind of immigration problem.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension processed the maroon Buick Century Ramirez-Perez had been driving but couldn’t find evidence pointing to clues in the woman’s disappearance.
“To date, we’re still searching for a clue or a sign of where she might be,” Worthington’s Det. Sgt. Flynn told the Daily Globe. “We have no crime scene and absolutely nothing on which to base a physical search.”
The Daily Globe article also reported that Lucia Perez — who has an adult son, two young boys and a sister in Worthington — was last seen in Sheldon, Iowa, when she and Ramirez-Perez stopped by a possible employment location. Lucia Perez allegedly saw her brother-in-law at a hog facility and then called her sister around 4 p.m. to say she would be home in a while, and would call when she got back.
Her sister never heard from her again.
Flynn said his department made contact with departments in Iowa and spoke with immigration agencies, all of which had no knowledge of Lucia Perez or her whereabouts. Ramirez-Perez described the place of her custody as a private residence in Hull, but officials found nothing there.
“You can speculate about what took place, but it is just unknown,” Flynn is quoted as saying in the Daily Globe story. “Nothing was ever found — not a cell phone or a purse. Nothing.”
Flynn described the investigation as looking for a needle in a haystack, but without the haystack.
Ramirez-Perez returned to Guatemala shortly after Lucia Perez went missing. Authorities contacted the Guatemalan embassy and got U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) involved, but with no results.
“If past history repeats itself, he’ll wander into the U.S. at one point and we may have an opportunity to speak to him,” Flynn said. “Until we find some more of the puzzle pieces, we have a mystery on our hands.”
According to authorities, Ramirez-Perez was deported from the U.S. in 2004.
Lucia Perez’s family remains devastated by her unsolved disappearance, and authorities said they have no reason to believe the mother of three simply abandoned her family.
“She’s not that kind of person,” Flynn said.
The same could not be said of Ramirez-Perez.
Ramirez-Perez has a long criminal history of alleged sexual violence and physical abuse, and four known aliases.
Around the time of Lucia Perez’s disappearance, Ramirez-Perez worked at a hog processing facility in Hospers, Iowa, and drove back and forth between there and Worthington on a regular basis. Also known as Bernardino Ramirez, Ramirez-Perez allegedly threatened, raped and beat his domestic partner in 2005 after he came home and became upset.
According to the Daily Globe, the victim said Ramirez-Perez would not allow her to call for help or leave, threatening to kill her and pulling her back inside their apartment by the hair when she tried to escape. The victim told authorities Ramirez-Perez was a violent man.
Ramirez-Perez was convicted in 2004 of disorderly conduct, and in 2006 a second warrant for his arrest was issued on separate domestic assault charges.
He also has used the aliases Jose Rafael Santiago Torres and Omar Merero Torres.
A DNA sample has been submitted for Perez and tests are complete.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Lucia Chilel Perez or Ramirez-Perez is asked to contact one of the following agencies: