Police continue investigation into missing Torrington woman following mysterious phone call
By Jess Oaks
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
TORRINGTON — The Torrington Police Department has taken a bit of heat from the public in the last week regarding statements the department released on social media concerning a local missing woman, Azia Saldana.
A call from Saldana to her mother earlier this week further deepened the mystery, prompting criticism of the department when it posted a text exchange in which Saldana claimed she was okay and declined law enforcement assistance.
“It doesn’t feel like there is a lot of informed conversation going on right now,” Chief Matt Johnson of the TPD said. “And it hurts a little bit.”
Saldana went missing from the Torrington area in late August when she left her parents’ home and headed to play Cowboy skill machine games at the local truck stop.
The last word her family had with her was that she would be home soon, but she never arrived.
Since then, family and friends of Saldana have grown even more concerned about the young mother’s whereabouts.
“This is a very challenging investigation,” Johnson explained.
“There is a lot of gray – and I mean a lot – and not a lot of black and white,” he said. “We have tried really hard to stay focused on that and stay committed to help and push through that. I wish there were easy and perfect answers or that I had a magic wand that I could wave to make the situation better, but I don’t. It’s just a lot of hard work, treading through unclear situations to try to find the little pieces you can use to help.”
Very little information regarding Saldana’s disappearance has been made public by the police department.
“We felt like it was an encouraging sign when Azia called her family, and we had that [confirmation] from them that it was indeed Azia and she was able to talk to them,” Johnson explained.
The wording Saldana used in her text with police, however, only sparked more concern for her safety and whereabouts, Johnson noted.
But he declined to elaborate.
“…In terms of the details of the investigation that feasibly could be used in trial, it would be irresponsible of me to provide that information from the stand-point of trying to settle a disagreement,” Johnson said.
“The focus that we have is that we are glad Azia called. We’re glad for a lot of the statements she made, but we still have concerns,” he told the Telegram.
The department continues to gather information.
According to Johnson, Saldana said she did not want to be listed as a missing person as ‘this is not beneficial for me right now,’ which has prompted a change in circumstances within the investigation.
“That information was shared with us, that obviously raises concerns but there are some things we need to think about,” Johnson said. “First, whatever circumstances Azia is in, we don’t want to make them worse. Secondly, we now have a responsibility to move forward with an investigation that doesn’t make things worse, that recognizes the statements she has made and that recognizes her rights as an adult to say ‘yes, no, maybe I want my privacy’ but also that doesn’t ignore there are some real safety risks here that we want to try and help with if we can.”
Authorities no longer believe Saldana is in the area.
“Azia’s nowhere near us, that we think,” Johnson explained. “We don’t have any information that indicated that Azia is close to our jurisdiction.
“Our focus has changed from a traditional ‘missing persons’ case where we are trying to blast information out to everybody and let everybody know this person is missing to a much more focused and less public investigation where we are taking every little tidbit we can find about where Azia might be located and trying to connect her with law enforcement and other resources that might be present in her location,” Johnson said.
“It’s certainly possible that Azia is the victim of crime. Unfortunately, if that crime is occurring, it’s not occurring in our jurisdiction,” he added.
Every missing person’s case entering the police department has its own set of circumstances, and each one of the cases is handled according to those circumstances, according to Johnson. “If we are the entering agency for an NCIC or CJIS record, we can modify that record or change that record or delete that record when we feel like the burden of proof has been met or if we feel like we need to make a change in the direction of the investigation,” Johnson told the Telegram.
“Azia’s statements, indicating that she wants us to not have her enter [into NCIC or CJIS], are a big impact for us in this because there has been this crushing force of trying to find Azia that she seems to not be in alignment with, for whatever reason,” he explained. “We felt by continuing that traditional missing persons investigation that we were doing we had the potential to make that situation worse.”
A change in status does not necessarily mean the end of investigation, he clarified.
“While we have changed her status, in terms of how publicly viewable that is and how we are focusing on it, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t still communicating with law enforcement in areas where she may be and making it clear to law enforcement that there could still be risk for Azia,” Johnson added.