By Kevin Keen. CREATED Aug 29, 2013
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - They've been on the case since the first days after Isabel Celis' abduction. They're not police. They're private investigators, and they might not work the way you think. They opened up this week, as Isabel celebrated a birthday.
The investigators are volunteers and they form a team of about 30, according to Jerry “Kelly” Synder, the founder and manager of Find Me.
“Our goal is to bring the person back alive,” said Synder, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
That's still the goal for Isabel's case, as the nonprofit pursues it.
They say this missing person case is different than the other dozens of past and current ones.
“Usually with our cases there's some kind of resolution within two weeks to six months before we have our answer,” Synder said.
More than 16 months have passed since Isabel’s disappearance. She turned eight earlier this week.
“Time is enemy here, and we just don't have that much time,” he said.
They haven't stopped searching.
“Pretty much, when we get a lead we go,” said volunteer private eye Kelly Townsend.
For example, they say they’ve searched certain suspect desert areas around Tucson.
“We had six teams there,” Synder said. “It's one dog, the dog handler and then the support person.”
Everything they find they share with the Tucson Police Department.
“It's not up to us to try and solve the case, but we are trying to assist the police solving the case,” he said. “That is our protocol. We do not do anything without their knowledge.”
That's what police told KGUN9 News they ask of any private investigator.
“If they do discover something, it would behoove them because ultimately we are the ones that are going to bring forward criminal prosecution,” TPD Assistant Chief Brett Klein said Wednesday.
The team also shared a concern Isabel's parents, Sergio and Becky, told KGUN9 earlier. They said a family member has refused to cooperate with Find Me volunteers.
“It's frustrating to run against a wall of: this person has an attorney and they're not going to let them speak a word,” Celis said.
“I'm concentrating on that one individual and anyone that is peripherally attached,” Synder said, adding he rejected that person’s alibi and said the relative had a key to the Celis home.
With the case not solved, they'll keep at it. It's personal.
“I've got daughters and I always figured if my kids went missing, I'd want somebody like us looking for her,” Townsend said.
Find Me is working with permission from the Celis family.
If you know something about Isabel's case, call 88-CRIME locally.