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Update: The original version of this story referenced a baby found in a Chicago alley that the family of Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui, one of the missing women, hoped was hers and could provide clues as to her whereabouts. Police now say the baby belonged to a 16-year-old girl.
Community activists and family members are searching for answers in the mysterious disappearances of three Chicago-area women, two of whom were pregnant and would now be passed their due dates.
“All three of them have been missing without a trace,” community activist Andrew Holmes told The Chicago Tribune. “We know they’re probably not connected, they just happen to be similar circumstances.”
All three women have disappeared from Chicago’s south side in recent months, leaving investigators baffled and the families of the women desperate for information.
Kierra Coles, 27, a Chicago postal worker, was the first to disappear in October 2018. She was three months pregnant at the time and was due April 23, according to her family. Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui, 19, vanished after being seen leaving her high school two weeks ago. She was nine months pregnant at the time and was due Sunday, the local paper reports.
A third woman, Chaunti Bryla, who is the mother of an 11-year-old boy, has also been missing for about three weeks, police said.
The families of the three women held a news conference on Sunday to try to draw new attention to the cases.
Coles was last seen on Oct. 2 near her neighborhood and called in sick to work the following day—but hasn’t been seen since.
While it was initially reported that she was seen on surveillance footage wearing her postal uniform the same day she called into work, Julie Kenney, a public information representative at the United States Postal Inspection Service, told Oxygen.com that the department doesn’t believe it was Coles in the footage.
"There's other postal employees that live on that block, so the postal inspection service does not believe that is Kierra Coles on that video," she said shortly after Coles vanished.
The Chicago Police Department also told Oxygen.com that they believe “possible foul play” could be involved.
“Based on the length of time of Kierra Coles’ disappearance and the fact that she has fallen off the grid, police suspect possible foul play,” they said in a statement.
A reward for information about her disappearance recently jumped to $46,000.
“We hope someone can bring her home in one piece, her and her baby. I just don’t want my sister gone forever,” her sister Kianna Coles said at the press conference.
Coles’ mother, Karen Phillips, said she is still hopeful her daughter is alive.
“It’s hard—I wish we could get answers one way or the other; not knowing is worse than dead,” she said Sunday.
The reward money was pooled together from multiple sources including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the head of a Chicago-based loan company known as Sir Finance and the local letter carriers union.
Mack Julion, head of the local letter carriers union, urged anyone with information to come forward and said they don’t plan to stop searching for the missing woman.
“We’re not going to go quiet, we’re not going to let this rest. We’re going to continue to have vigils,” he said.
Coles has been described as 5'4" and 125 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. She has a heart tattoo on her right hand and a "Lucky Libra" tattoo on her back.
While investigators were initially getting frequent tips in the case, Holmes told The Tribune that leads have begun to dwindle in the case.
“We just need more information. We need the community to remain involved. The call volume has started to be low,” Holmes said. “We’ve been searching, but now we need anyone who has been holding on to information — no matter how small of a clue they have — we need them to call in.”
Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui, 19, was just weeks away from her due date when she disappeared after leaving the Latino Youth High School in Pilsen on April 23.
The married mother of a 3-year-old son never showed up to pick her son up from Teddy Bear Day Care as she had planned and hasn’t been seen since, The Tribune reports.
“People need to keep communicating about it—with police, or calling the hotline,” he said. “No one has heard from her, not at all.”
She was last seen wearing a gray sweater, a maroon top with the Latino Youth High School logo and sweatpants. She was driving a black Honda Civic, license plate number AW27865.
The teen’s family hoped a newborn baby discovered abandoned in an alley could be Ochoa-Uriostegui’s child and asked investigators to do a DNA test to determine whether there is a connection, however police confirmed Thursday that the baby belonged to a 16-year-old girl who's not being questioned in that case, according to ABC7 in Chicago.
Forty-three-year-old Chaunti Bryla was last seen March 14 at her home—but in the weeks that have followed there have been ominous signs that the mother of an 11-year-old son may have met with foul play.
Her family discovered milk and other perishable items left outside the fridge, suggesting she may have left the home in a hurry, WGN reported in March. Bryla’s bank accounts had also been depleted—with money taken from her account at six or seven different bank and ATM locations.
The withdrawals are particularly suspicious to Bryla’s family because she had just recently deposited her income tax return check into her account.
They also don’t believe the mom would leave her son and believe the sudden disappearance is out of character.
Her family has also said there has been no activity on her Facebook account since she disappeared, WBBM-TV reported shortly after she vanished.
"Every day you think about it, every day and night," Bryla's aunt Eileen Sterling Ross said according to WGN. "It's just tough."
She is described as a black woman with brown hair, brown eyes, and a heart shaped tattoo on her ankle. She is approximately 5’2” and weighs 200 pounds.
Anyone with information about any of the missing women is urged to contact police.
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