After a Friday out with friends just outside of Tampa, Florida, 23-year-old Veronica Reyes-Diaz tucked her children into bed during the early morning hours of January 18, 2020. Her kids hear their mother go outside, and that was the last time that she is seen or heard from. For months now, her young children have been without a mother. We take a look back at Veronica Reyes-Diaz's disappearance, in hopes that you can help us solve this "Unfinished Business."
Fidencio Minjares, Father: We miss her. Just the fact that it is that I got to sit there and raise her boys. Every time I get them, they're not the same. They miss mom. They want her home as much as I want her home.
Merissa Lynn, Host: 23-year-old Veronica Reyes-Diaz tucked two of her kids into bed during the early morning hours of January 18, 2020. It was the last time they saw their mother.
Detective: At some point, those kids are going to grow up and they're still going to be like, "Where's mommy? What happened to mommy? She was here, she tucked us into to bed, and that was it." That's all they ever saw."
Merissa Lynn, Host: The mother of three went missing after spending a Friday night out with friends. The next day, her husband found her car outside their home. Some of her personal belongings were still inside the car, but she was nowhere to be found. For months now, her young children have been without a mother. We take a look back at Veronica Reyes-Diaz's disappearance, in hopes that you can help us solve this "Unfinished Business."
Detective: A mom usually just doesn't leave their kids from what we've seen in the past
Merissa Lynn, Host: Tony Watson has been with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for 24 years and has worked as a detective for more than a decade.
Detective: I guess what stands out about me on this missing person is obviously we work active homicides, and cold case homicides, and very rarely do we get a missing person that is confusing to the part that we really just have nothing to go off of, and this is one of those cases that we never really had a lot to go off of from the very beginning off of it, so it stood, and especially because it's a mother, she's got children.
Merissa Lynn, Host: Veronica's father, Fidencio Minjares, says she's a proud mom, and often shared pictures of herself with the kids.
Fidencio Minjares, Father: She enjoys spending time with all three of her kids. And yeah, the smallest one, he just turned two and she would constantly send me pictures of them. Every time they did something, accomplished something, I would get pictures as the grandfather. And she just enjoyed being with them.
Merissa Lynn, Host: On the night of January 17, 2020 Veronica went out with some friends.
Detective: Her, another female, and a male decide that they want to go out to a local establishment. It's a bar/restaurant. She takes two of her children and she drops them off at her sister-in-law's house prior to going out, and then they go out for the evening ... I'm sorry, she goes out for the evening with her friends.
Detective: She leaves her youngest child at home with her husband, okay? They stay out until approximately one o'clock on the 18th, the morning of the 18th, and after they decide that everything's fine they go home, and by they, I mean, Veronica goes home and she picks up her children on the way home. She picks up her two older children, she drives back to her residence. Now, we know that she's fine at about 1:10 in the morning, because she stops and picks up her children from her sister-in-law's.
Detective: She picks them up, she goes back to her residence, and when she gets to the residence she takes both the children inside, tucks them into bed, everything seems fine, her husband's asleep in his room with the other child, and the two children have been interviewed, and they say they hear mommy go back outside. After that, that's it. Veronica's never seen or heard from that we know of, that we can verify, again.
Merissa Lynn, Host: And then, the next morning her husband found that her car was outside, but she again was nowhere to be found, so can we kind of move from that night around 1:10 to maybe later that morning when her husband sees that...
Detective: And that's the thing, we really don't know what happened between that 1:10 and that 6:30 timeframe. He wakes up in the morning, he realizes that their family car's there, but he doesn't see Veronica. He realizes that that's a little weird, not weird so much that she's not there, but if she wasn't there he wouldn't expect to see the car there. You know, maybe she stayed out with friends, or something else like that, but that wasn't the case.
Detective: So he starts looking around for her a little bit, gets her family involved, actually looks in the car, and in the car he sees a lot of her personal belongings. Her wallet's there, her purse, ID, and some clothing is there that he knows belonged to her. The only thing missing was her cellphone. Again, he thought it was very strange that why would she leave her purse, wallet, or anything else here, but take her cellphone only.
Detective: So the family becomes involved, and then ultimately we get contacted, and we begin our investigation at that point.
Merissa Lynn, Host: The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is notified January 20, two days after Veronica is last seen.
Detective: She had had a history where she had left before, and had been gone for a couple days. She had even made some comments of "Being a mother, it's tiring on me. God, sometimes I just wish I wasn't a mother as much," or "I need a break," so I'm sure that the family thought as well as anyone else that maybe she did. Maybe she just needed a break.
Detective: I could understand that, or I could see that, for a couple of days maybe, although not normal, but hey, if that's what you need, that's what you did, but we're going on five months, six months, no Veronica. That's something that obviously is concerning to us.
Merissa Lynn, Host: So are there any viable leads at this point that can help you solve this?
Detective: Unfortunately, no. And I mean, we are tracking down everything that we can. We get little bits and pieces that come into us constantly. We've flooded social media. We've asked for the public's assistance at this point. We have gotten a couple of sightings of who they believe to be Veronica. We've followed up on those, but ultimately those have panned out to be another individual that looks similar to her, or "Oh yeah, I think Veronica was in the Circle K," and then we watched 10 hours of video of the Circle K, and "Oh no, that's not her. Sorry I don't know. Maybe it was just I saw her on your social media page.
Detective: So we do have tips and we follow up on those immediately, but at this point nothing's panned out. You know? And we've done searches. We've done foot patrol searches. Her family's done searches. We've had horseback. We've had our SIRT team out there. We're out there on four wheelers. There's just been multiple, multiple searches of the area and things like that, and we've not been able to locate her whatsoever.
Merissa Lynn, Host: Detectives have been in constant contact with Veronica's father, Fidencio, in the months since her disappearance. HCSO has received tips and calls of potential sightings, but so far, nothing has given detectives any clear answers of what happened to Veronica during the early morning hours of January 18.
Fidencio Minjares, Father: Only three people seen her that night. The two people she went out with and her husband. That's the only three people she seen. I find it weird she got home at one in the morning, 1:00 AM, left, picked up the two boys, brought them home at 1:45 and then from there she vanished.
Merissa Lynn, Host: Veronica and her family had plans for the week after she went missing. What can you tell us about that?
Detective: So my understanding is, and what we've found out so far, is Veronica has three children. She has a younger child, and then two older children, that were not fathered by her current husband, and it's our understanding that the current husband even in the relationship that they were having had plans on adopting the two children, so later on that week, keep in mind, all this occurred over the weekend that she went missing, later on that week she had appointments within the county court system along with her husband to adopt the children.
Detective: That never happened, obviously. She went missing before those children were ever adopted, so her current husband was going to adopt the children that were fathered by other men. Why set up a court date? Why arrange all this that you're going to adopt children if you have plans on leaving, or plans on disappearing?
Merissa Lynn, Host: HCSO has submitted DNA to a database in Texas in case Veronica's remains are ever found. Detectives have also contacted the IRS to see if she's re-routed money to someone else, but nothing has come up at this time. It's a heartbreaking reality for everyone involved in the search for Veronica.
Detective: When I speak to the dad, and I see how much he cares, and I see how involved he is, and I see that he's just not written this off as that's just Veronica, that's just something she does, it's bothersome for me. And again, there's three small children out there. At some point, those kids are going to grow up and they're still going to be like, "Where's mommy? What happened to mommy? She was here, she tucked us into to bed, and that was it." That's all they ever saw.
Detective: At least, give me the answers. No one wants to go without answers. There's nothing worse than just having that case out there, or being that family member, and going we don't know what happened. And trust me, us as an office, and especially in my squad, there's nothing worse than sitting in that room and not knowing the answers. At least give us something that we can have a theory of what occurred, and then follow up on that, or an idea, but when you've got nothing to go on it's hard. It's very difficult.
Detective: And you start pulling your hair out, and just going back over everything over, and over, and over. What did we miss? What if there's something out there that may be wasn't deemed important in the beginning? And there's several of us. There's seven, eight of us right now that pour over these cases almost on a daily basis that go, "Hey, have you thought of this? Have you done this? Have you done this?"
Detective: We try everything, and it is personal. It's personal.
Detective: I just want to make sure that if people understand that she is a mother, and she's someone's daughter, and I know that you get that mentality of I don't want to talk about this, this is not my problem, this is not my issues. It is somebody's problem, and it's somebody's issues out there, and that those children, and those parents, and that husband, they have to go to work, wake up every day, go to school, and carry on their life not knowing those answers, and I think that that's important that they get the answers one way or the other.
Merissa Lynn, Host: Fidencio Minjares is asking the public to put themselves in his shoes. He's a father whose daughter has disappeared, and there's no real trace of what happened or where she may have gone. That's why he wants you to help if you can.
Fidencio Minjares, Father: I would want the public, I would do it for anybody else, for their kids, keep your eyes open, keep your ears open for whatever you see or hear. I always thought it would never happen to me, but reality kicks in and I ask for people to help.
Merissa Lynn, Host: And I'm assuming that if anybody had any piece of information, no matter how little you would want them to call the Sheriff's office to discuss, correct?
Fidencio Minjares, Father: Yeah. Anything. Any small detail. For all you know a small detail could lead to something too big. We need the help.
Merissa Lynn, Host: If Veronica was listening right now, she's listening to this podcast, what would you want her to know right now?
Fidencio Minjares, Father: Well, we miss her. Just the fact that it is that I got to sit there and raise her boys. Every time I get them, they're not the same. They miss mom. They want her home as much as I want her home.
Merissa Lynn, Host: If you have any information on this case, or any other cases that are being investigated by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, please call 813-247-8200. Be sure to follow us on social media at @HCSOSheriff to follow along with any updates we have on this case in the future.