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KGUN9 viewer sentiment on Celis missing child case evolves, turns more harsh

6 year old Isabel Celis, missing for 13 days

KGUN9 viewer sentiment on Celis missing child case evolves, turns more harsh

CREATED May 3, 2012 - UPDATED: May 3, 2012

Notes by:  Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director

The moment the news broke two weeks ago that 6 year old Isabel Celis had disappeared from her Tucson home, KGUN9 viewers began chiming in with heartfelt concern for the child and her family, and prayers for Isabel's swift return.  But now the tone of viewer feedback has begun to evolve.  Concern for the child has not changed.  But more and more viewers are saying that they want more from Isabel's parents.

A few days ago questions began to surface about why Sergio and Rebecca Celis haven't been more vocal about the plight of their child, and haven't been out front leading search efforts every day.   Police investigators said they've been urging the family to adopt a higher public profile.   After Ed Smart, the father of well known child kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, told KGUN9 News that parents in such cases need to be vocal and visible every day, some KGUN9 viewers weighed in with similar concerns.  But at the same time others ardently defended the parents and blasted those who would dare to criticize.

Here is a sample of that KGUN9 Facebook page message thread, from this past Tuesday:

Viki Cleveland Watson -- "Maybe they are so distraught they can't speak."

Armando Muñoz -- "That may be true.... But since the leads are drying up and TPD may cut the daily press conferences the only way to keep Isabel in the media is for them to speak up. It may be hard but it's something they need to do for Isabel."

Max Imus Whatts -- "Maybe the media should just relax.  If the family wants to speak, they will speak.  Give it a rest already. They have enough on their plate than to be judged whether or not they speak to your cameras."

Deborah Ingram -- "So hard to think of what they are going through right now.  My prayers are with them."

Lisa Tempe Estes -- "Does the public REALLY want to hear from the parents, or is it a sick thing that people want to see people in pain?  WHAT CAN THEY SAY???? 'PLEASE RETURN OUR DAUGHTER?'  ummmm HELLO.  That should go without saying.  Do you want to see them fall apart on TV?? We don't need to put them up on the news for all to see and think, 'Aw those poor parents.'  MY GOD what is wrong with people?  These two parents are going through the WORST nightmare of any parent's life.  LET THEM BE."

That was two days ago.

On Thursday -- the 13th day of the search for Isabel -- Sergio and Rebecca finally gave their first interview, choosing the NBC Today Show as the forum for an exclusive report and a question and answer session broadcast live to the nation.  They offered mild criticism of the way the Tucson Police Department has handled the case, thanked all of those in the community who have been praying for their child and who have been volunteering their efforts, and asked for continued prayers and vigilance.

After seeing that interview, the tone of viewer feedback to KGUN9's Facebook page changed dramatically, with critics now outnumbering defenders by a wide margin. 

Here is a sample of Thursday morning's feedback.

Patty Lopez -- "SPEAK!!!! THIS IS YOUR DAUGHTER, YOUR BLOOD!!!!! YOUR LIFE!!!!! ... MY PRAYERS ARE STILL WITH ISABEL AND HER FAMILY."

Doris Wood -- "'So,they won't talk to local media anymore, but they can talk to the Today Show?  .... No comment!"

Jenna Jones:  "If my child was missing, I'd be heartbroken, but I would be speaking to every media outlet, every person trying to get it out there that she is missing. I wouldn't be passive about this unless I was guilty.... SPEAK UP!!! THIS IS YOUR BABY GIRL!!!!! BE MORE PROACTIVE!!!!!"

Lola Bee:  "A PARENT WHO TRULY CARES ABOUT THEIR CHILD WILL BE OUT THERE LOOKING DAY AND NIGHT NOT CARING ABOUT NOTHING ELSE BESIDES FINDING HER. THE COMMUNITY HAS DONE MORE TO HELP FIND ISABEL THAN HER OWN PARENTS.  ANY TRUE PARENT WOULD BE OUT IN THE MEDIA IN THE INTERNET EVERYTHING BUT INSTEAD THE COMMUNITY IS DOING IT."

Some viewers clearly are struggling to sort out conflicting feelings.  They know that this ordeal has to be tough on Sergio and Rebecca in a way no one can truly understand who isn't walking in their shoes, yet they still feel that something is not right here.

Lea Castillo is one of those.  "I feel bad because it's easy for me to judge since I'm not at the other end of this picture.  And I do hate the fact that in my own heart I AM scrutinizing the parents. I understand that people grieve differently.  But if I had to guess -- and God, never let it happen -- if it was me and my husband, for myself, I know I'd have many sleepless nights.... I couldn't see myself functioning in any manner to comb my hair, put on my makeup.... I know they have other kids.  But I just want to know why my heart keeps telling me that I NEED to see MORE emotion from the parents?? What is sooo hard about saying the DIRECT words, 'We DO NOT have anything to do with Isa's disappearance?  WE would NEVER bring harm to our children.'"

Other viewers have been much more direct, sometimes to the point of being harsh.

Marie McGrath:  "Hold me back somebody. They give the first public statement then go into hiding letting the police and all of us good hearted people look for their child? Then criticize TPD? Has anyone seen them out looking for Isa? No."

Christina Montano:  "I agree with Marie.  Really, why are they not out there looking for her?  Why are they hiding?  I have 4 kids and I tell you if anything -- God forbid -- happened to my kids, I would not sleep till I found them and brought them home. You would see my face everywhere doing everything in my power."

But some viewers are still willing chalk up the complaints to self-serving media outlets whining about suffering a competitive disadvantage because the Celis family chose to give a single exclusive interview to a national news outlet, rather than cooperate with all the local Tucson media who have been covering the case and working to get the word out about Isabel.

Patricia O'Brien -- "Well they gave the much called-for interview. I'm sure the local outlets are upset over losing an exclusive. Perhaps you should review some of your reporting to see why."

Viewer Gloria R. Valenzuela offers this reminder of what's really important here. "A child is missing and that should be the utmost important thing on everyone's mind, not to criticize. Put yourselves in their shoes. Let us pray that little Isa is still alive and continue to look for her and pray for her and her family and the police as well."

After the initial version of this story went live on KGUN9.com Thursday afternoon, the viewer commentary continued, and evolved again.  By late Thursday afternoon additional viewers were defending the family and chiding those who've offered criticism.  Jennifer Thorp's comment is typical of this latest line of thought:  "It is sad how people can sit there and say the parents should do this or do that when they have NOOOOO clue what these parents are actually going through.  And I to pray they never endure what the Celis parents are going through!"

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