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She Went Missing in 97; over 20 years later, Case is Solved

Missing girl found safe 20 years later but you will never guess where she was and why.

Cynthia Haag refused to leave her Baltimore home for 20 years. She was adamant about staying put, just in case her daughter would come back. Where did her daughter go? Crystal Haag had simply disappeared, without a trace, when she was 14 years old.

Why did Crystal leave? Where did she go? What happened? Cynthia prayed every day and hoped, deep down, that the day would eventually come when Crystal would reappear at her doorstep. And, as two decades passed with no word of Crystal, people lost hope. But not her mother. In the end, what she would learn about her daughter was nothing even close to what she ever could have imagined…

In 1997, Cynthia was a single mom with four kids doing what any caring parent does – she worked full-time at a store to make sure her kids had food on the table, clean clothes, and roof over their heads.

One day, while Cynthia was working a shift, her daughter, Crystal, came in to grab some milk and cereal before heading home. Since this was something Crystal often did, her mom didn’t think anything of it.

Cynthia said to her daughter, “Stay around the house today,” to which Crystal said she would. That moment in the store was the last time Cynthia saw her then-14-year-old daughter. That evening, when Cynthia came home after her shift, her daughter – whom she told to stick around – was nowhere to be found. Cynthia called friends, relatives, and anyone who might know where her daughter could possibly be. She refused to believe her daughter had simply vanished. There had to be a reasonable explanation. Finally, she realized that she had no choice but to call the police.

Cynthia’s mind was scanning through all the possibilities. What happened to her? From that moment on, Cynthia looked for Crystal in the face of every brown-haired girl she would see. “She always wore a baseball cap,” her mother said.

20 years have passed, and the police have stopped looking for Crystal. The way they saw it, the girl was gone. Then one day, Cynthia received a call from one of her other daughters. She said she got a message on Facebook… from Crystal.

Could it really be that her long-lost child had suddenly reappeared out of nowhere? Cynthia had a hard time believing the news, especially considering all these fake accounts on Facebook these days. But once she saw the Facebook profile, she immediately saw that it was, indeed, her daughter.

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In less than an hour, Cynthia’s older daughter, Bianca, was in her car, driving to New York City, where Crystal was said to be living. That night, Crystal appeared. Her family simply couldn’t believe their eyes. It had been two decades, so she obviously looked very different. Her hair was short. She even spoke differently. She now spoke fluent Spanish! Oh, and she was now a mother. Crystal Haag was now Crystal Saunders.

There were too many questions to even list here. But one thing stood out as extremely strange. Crystal wasn’t 35 years old, as she should have been according to simple math. Instead, she said that she was 44 years old. This raised some eyebrows. But, regardless, her family was just thrilled to see her. Their dear Crystal was finally home.

“Still my pretty girl,” her mother said, hugging her. But despite the amazing fact that they found her after 20 years, the discovery would prove to be a whole can of worms. There were questions left unanswered and stories left to tell. And not all of them were satisfying to hear, especially not to Cynthia.

There was a very specific reason for why Crystal disappeared. The teen had chosen to run away.

In fact, as she later explained, it got to the point where she just couldn’t take it anymore. She just had to leave. But why? And where did she go? And who just ups and leaves their family and entire life at the age of 14? Not only that – Crystal left with no money and nowhere to go.

Crystal was running away from something horrible – someone, actually. She was leaving behind a person whom she couldn’t be around for another second. Crystal recalled how on the night she left, she came up with her plan as she went along.

The first thing Crystal did was hop on a bus to New York. It was then that she became Crystal Saunders. She also decided to make herself nine years older and get a fake driver’s license to prove it. This, of course, explains the age discrepancy.

Crystal was out with her friends – a typical night for typical teenagers. They hung out together until midnight, which was the time Crystal decided to run away. She took whatever little she had on her and made her way to that bus.

Now in New York City, with a new identity, Crystal found odd jobs cleaning houses and a place to stay in the Bronx. It wasn’t long before Crystal made a new life for herself, as young as she may have been.

Since she had fake IDs, Crystal was able to get herself a Medicaid card. In New York, she became a part of the Dominican community. She had four children. Crystal was making real ties to people in her community – so much so that she called them “grandma” and “cousin.” She basically found herself a whole new family.

Still, Crystal was struggling with her past, haunted by what she left behind. As time went on, she learned to simply live her life. She had four kids, a new family, and she even learned to speak fluent Spanish. The way she was able to look back at her past and check in on her biological family was on Facebook.

As a kid, She used to sneak out of the house on a regular basis. She just wasn’t the happy kid her mother saw back then. On the night she ran away, she left the house, got to her friend’s place, and “decided to wait outside” while her friend gathered the children. This was the last time her friends and family knew about her whereabouts. Local authorities quickly came to the conclusion that Crystal willingly left home and they officially considered her a runaway.

On that day when Crystal and her mother finally got to talk about everything, Crystal gave in. She told her mother the real reason for why she ran away. Ever since she was nine years old, a neighbor had been sexually assaulting her. Sadly, it continued for the next few years. It happened so often that the young girl started thinking it was normal.

Cynthia sat there, utterly shocked. She had absolutely no idea and couldn’t believe what she was hearing. What makes matters even worse is that Crystal thought her mother knew about it all along.

Cynthia had to finally hear the truth about her daughter and realize that Crystal was suffering so much that the only way out was to run away and simply disappear. As a mother, I can’t even express how much of a shame that is. Cynthia sat there, listening to her daughter, silently crying. She thought to herself: what kind of mother was she?

Cynthia told her daughter that she had had no idea that that had happened and that if she had, she would have done something about it. But, regardless of how many times she told Crystal that she never knew, Crystal said she still isn’t sure that what her mother is saying is the truth.

Both of them are trying to rekindle their relationship. Crystal decided to move her family to Baltimore. These days, she lives with an aunt in the same area, volunteers at a local recreation center, and often sees her mother, who is on disability. It’s better late than never.

I bet you didn’t expect this story to end this way. What would you have done in Crystal’s shoes? Especially feeling like your mom knew this was happening.

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