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Authorities in California are ramping up the search for a young girl who went missing more than four years ago — around the same time that her mother was found dead — and are offering a new reward for pertinent information.
The San Francisco Police Department announced on Friday a $100,000 reward for “information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person(s) responsible” for the murder of Nicole Fitts and the disappearance of her then-toddler daughter, Arianna Fitts. Employees found Nicole dead in McLaren Park on April 8, 2016, three days after her family reported both Nicole and her 2-year-old daughter missing, according to police. Arianna was never found, having last been seen alive in February of that year while she was being looked after by her babysitter Helena Hearne Martin and her husband, Devin Martin.
During the course of their investigation, police learned that, prior to Fitts' disappearance, she received a call on the night of April 1, 2016, to “go meet the babysitter,” which prompted her to leave her home, police said in a bulletin. It was reportedly the last time anyone saw the young single mother alive.
Arianna was known to spend ample time in the care of her babysitters while her mother worked at her job at Best Buy, police said in 2017, according to NBC Bay Area. Police questioned Hearne Martin multiple times following the discovery of Fitts' body, but she later decided to stop speaking with the authorities, her lawyer said, according to the 2017 report.
Hearne Martin had “given them all the information she can,” her attorney said, adding, "Now that they changed from her being a witness to a possible suspect, I’m not going to let her give anymore statements.”
Fitts’ family was suspicious of the Martins, and Fitts had allegedly been involved in conflict with the couple —as well as a third caregiver, Siolo Hearne — on April 1, 2016, the day she would vanish, according to a 2017 SFist report.
Police previously said that Hearne Martin and Hearne, who are sisters, were “uncooperative” and had provided police with statements that were “inconsistent,” according to SFWeekly. However, in the years since, there has been little development in the case, despite Best Buy, who employed Fitts, offering a $10,000 reward of its own the month after Fitts was found.
Police supplied the public this week with an artist’s rendering of what Arianna could look like today, at the age of 6. They ask that anyone with information on the case contact the SFPD 24 Hour Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444 or send a text message to TIP411.
Today, Hearne Martin maintains her innocence, with her attorney, Darryl Stallworth, telling PEOPLE on Monday, “I appreciate the investigation and the family wanting to do everything they can to find that beautiful young child. My client has and continues to communicate that she had nothing to do with Arianna’s disappearance. There wasn’t enough information developed by law enforcement to change that position.”
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