The CNMI community was jolted yesterday by news that a 37-year-old female bartender had disappeared early Sunday morning and that police had received a 911 call from her cell phone just before it was cut off.
As of press time, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Public Safety agents were still searching for Emerita “Emie” Relata Romero, an employee of Godfather’s Bar. Her family members and friends joined the search that focused in the Marpi area.
This comes even as the disappearance of sisters Faloma and Maleina Luhk in May 2011 remains unsolved.
Romero, a Filipino, reportedly made a 911 call on Sunday at 3:02am, saying “Marianas Resort” then the phone was cut off.
Romero was reportedly last seen at approximately 3am boarding a green or blue tinted sedan in the parking lot of Call-A-Ride Saipan in front of Musung Building on Chichirica Avenue corner Kadena Di Amor St. in Garapan.
According to police, Romero was last seen wearing a gray sleeveless blouse with a flower on the left corner, black shorts, and sandals with jewels. She has a slender build, 5’3” tall, weighing 100 lbs, has long straight brown hair, and brown eyes.
According to Romero’s employers, however, she is about 5’6” tall and has black hair.
Scott Dottino, one of the owners of Godfather’s Bar, asked the public for information—even minor details—that would help authorities find Romero.
“Please help us in any way. We are all family here. We need everybody’s help,” Dottino said. “We’re begging everybody to help us with this search.”
A witness, Natalie Ocon, 43, told Saipan Tribune that when Romero got into the front passenger side of the car, she heard a man “with American accent” asking her, “What’s that?”
Ocon, who also works at Godfather’s Bar as a cook, said the man was apparently asking about the bag of bananas that Romero was carrying at the time.
According to information provided by Ocon, Dottino, and the bar’s co-owner, Ron E. Biggers, Romero and three other co-workers left Godfather’s Bar Sunday at 2:43am aboard a taxicab on their way home to Garapan.
The taxicab first dropped Ocon at her residence at Casa de Felipe, followed by Romero and their two other colleagues. The bar’s three employees live just a few blocks from each other. Romero’s house is behind Softland Computer, along the corner of Chichirica Avenue and Dama Di Noche St.
Ocon said that she noticed upon arriving home that she had mistakenly interchanged her bag of bananas with that of Romero’s so she called her on the phone.
Romero told her to just get the bananas tomorrow because she already wanted to sleep. Ocon, however, insisted and they agreed to meet outside.
While walking along Chichirica Avenue to meet Romero, Ocon saw Romero hurriedly walking toward her.
A car coming from the direction of Beach Road arrived and parked in the grassy area of the parking lot of Call-A-Ride Saipan. Romero told the person in the car to wait. Romero then approached Ocon and exchanged bags.
Ocon said she asked Romero why she hasn’t changed clothes yet and why she was in a hurry. Ocon said Romero stated that the one in the car was her Bangladeshi neighbor.
Ocon said she then saw her friend get into the front passenger seat of the car, which then left in the direction of Mobil Station on Middle Road.
Later that afternoon, Ocon sent a text message to Romero to ask her if she would walk with her to Godfather’s Bar to report for work but Romero never replied. Ocon said that when she arrived at Godfather’s Bar, she found out that Romero had not reported for work.
Biggers and Dottino said that when they opened the bar Sunday at 5pm, Romero did not show up.
“Very unusual. She’s been with us for three years and she’s never been late. She always calls and sends text messages,” Biggers said.
Biggers said they sent their maintenance worker to Romero’s house and found out from her brother that she did not come home that day.
That’s when they called the police and filed a missing person report.
Biggers said the FBI also came that night as the case has been categorized as a kidnapping.
Biggers said the police told them that once they learned Romero’s cell phone number, the officers checked their office and found that Romero made a 911 call Sunday at 3:02am, but the call was cut after she stated “Marianas Resort.”
Biggers and Dottino said they could only speculate that Romero was probably aboard a car that was driving at high speed.
Romero stays at a house with her sister, brother, and cousin. Her husband and two daughters are in the Philippines.
Eduardo Relata, 43, told Saipan Tribune that his sister, Romero, did not go inside their house that morning. He said that when Romero comes in, she would open the light and this would wake him up.
Relata said that their other sister was on the Internet until 4am and did not notice her come in.
Relata said they only learned that Romero did not return home when Dottino called on Sunday at 5pm and asked for her whereabouts.
“My sister did not send any text message. I don’t know if she has a boyfriend. I know she has many suitors, but I know she’ does not go out alone,” he said.
Relata said his sister is very kind and is the lone breadwinner for their mother, who lives in Plaridel, Bulacan.