"They are wasting time with us" - Celis parents criticize police, thank community
13 days after their daughter's disappearance, Sergio and Rebecca Celis grant their first media interview, going live on the NBC Today Show
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's been nearly two weeks since 6-year old Isabel Celis disappeared from her Tucson home. On Thursday morning parents Sergio and Rebecca gave their first media interview about their case, choosing the NBC Today Show for an exclusive report and live question-and-answer session. In the broadcast, seen nationwide, the parents criticized Tucson police, thanked community volunteers for their actions and prayers, and expressed hope for the return of their child.
NBC Today Show anchor Ann Curry, in subdued tones, began the live interview with a question about Isabel's personality.
Rebecca answered, "She is a girlie girl. She loves to get her makeup on and paint her nails, do your nails, do my nails, do her hair. She loves to go out and play with her brothers, play hard in the dirt and then come back in and get all girlied up again. She is a very caring, loving little girl. Loves to come and give mom and dad hugs all the time, tell us we love her, or that she loves us. Beautiful baby girl."
Before long Curry turned to more difficult questions. Curry asked, "There is no easy way to ask this question. But because this is your first live television interview, Sergio let me ask you this question: What do you want to say about questions about whether you had anything to with your daughter's disappearance?"
In his initial response, Sergio expressed frustration but did not directly answer the question. "Gosh. I wish I knew where to begin," he said. "We are so frustrated to try to understand why this is happening, why this had to happen. Why Isabel had to be targeted. We just don't understand that."
Sergio then directed his comments to whomever might have taken the girl. "To whomever did this, please. Look at her. Look at her. She is beautiful. She doesn't deserve this. She deserves to be home in her room, playing with her brothers, and just loving life the way she does." Then he added, "There are so many things that are so frustrating and difficult to deal with."
But later, Sergio circled back to the issue Curry had raised, offering criticism of the way Tucson police are handling the case. "We do feel sometimes that they're wasting time with us, even though we know we have to be under the closest scrutiny. Absolutely understandable. But my goodness, she's still out there."
Sergio expressed mixed feelings about whether police are keeping his family properly informed. "The detective and the investigators have been good in communicating with us every day. But at the same time, there is only so much they can tell us. There is only so much that they do tell us. They keep us at bay. All of that is frustrating."
He added, "We understand that they can't bring false hope. But at the same time, we are desperate. We are desperate in finding out information. We are extremely frustrated that it is taking so long."
Curry asked Sergio what he remembers about the last time he saw his daughter. "Just that sweet little face," he said. "She had just gotten her hair done just before she went to bed. She had a baseball game early the next morning, and Becky had braided her hair up so she was going to be ready for early morning. And I was asking her if she was hungry. And she just had that little sleepy look as she was walking by and she said, 'No, Dad. I'm tired.' And she was just walking by."
Then he added, "She is, she was, she is just so full of life, and she is just so wonderful. And we do miss her so much, and her brothers miss her so much."
Toward the end of the interview Sergio and Rebecca thanked the community for efforts to date, and asked for continued prayers and vigilance. Rebecca said, "Please keep praying for her so that she comes home to us. And keep your eyes open. And as many prayers as you guys can do to help us bring her home. Prayers to have whoever took her to have a change of heart and want to bring her home. Prayers for the investigators to please have a break in the case and be able to bring Isabel home where she belongs, her favorite place in the world."
Sergio agreed, repeating that home is Isabel's favorite place. And he noted that southern Arizona is not the only community praying for his daughter's return. "This is the most unbelievable unity of prayer around the world, as we understand it. It's not just across the nation. We understand it's worldly. We want to thank everybody from the bottom of our heart, our community, everyone that is so involved, the volunteers, their endless efforts. Endless. It's unbelievable."
Rebecca added, "And continue praying please."
Sergio and Rebecca's demeanor throughout the interview was somber.
In addition to providing Sergio and Rebecca Celis' first public interview, the NBC report also presented another first. It broadcast the first clip of home video of Rebecca that has been seen in public. The value of such video in helping the public search for the missing child and remain on the lookout for her is obvious, but no such video has been released to Tucson media. KGUN9 News is among those media outlets that have been seeking it for days.
Tucson Police are expected to hold another media briefing today. Officers have said it may be their last for a while, unless investigators have something new to report.
Video of the NBC interview can be found at this link.
KGUN9's complete coverage of the Celis case can be found at this link.
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Watch for updated coverage on Thursday night's 5pm, 6pm and 10pm KGUN9 Newscasts and on KGUN9.com