The devastated family of Zuzu Renee Verk, a 22-year-old college student who mysteriously vanished in West Texas three weeks ago, is desperately seeking information on her whereabouts.
“Someone knows something,” Verk’s mother, Lori Verk, told The Huffington Post. “We just want to find her. For God’s sakes, someone speak up and tell us where to find our daughter.”
Zuzu Verk, a student at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, has been missing since Oct. 12. Police have named her boyfriend, Robert Fabian, 25, a suspect in her disappearance and say he is not cooperating in the investigation.
Lori Verk said her daughter was last seen on Oct. 11, when she and Fabian went to the movies with friends.
“She had called me at 5 p.m. that day and I missed the phone call,” Verk recounted. “I called her back at 6 p.m. and her phone went straight to voicemail.”
Police said Fabian told investigators he was with Zuzu Verk on Oct. 11 and they remained together until around 3 a.m., when she left his home. Witnesses told police they had heard the couple arguing, and saw Verk’s car at the apartment later that morning.
Verk missed a midterm exam on Oct. 12 at school and failed to show up later that day for her job at Sul Ross Borderlands Research Institute.
“By Wednesday evening, I was very worried, but I kept thinking, ‘No, she’s just studying and very busy,’” Lori Verk said. “But by Friday, I finally started getting in touch with people to find out if they’d heard from her, and that is when it was discovered she was missing.”
Zuzu Verk’s father, Glenn Verk, drove seven hours that night to reach Alpine by morning.
“I checked in with police,” Verk told HuffPost. “They were very forthcoming about everything that was going on. There were searches going on … there were missing posters everywhere.”
By Oct 21, the investigation had advanced. Police said they had executed multiple search warrants and had interviewed more than 100 potential witnesses. But there was still no sign of Zuzu Verk.
The search warrants, obtained by WFAA-TV the following week, revealed that among those interviewed by state police were Fabian’s friends: Brittney Marie Gasca, Christopher Estrada and Joshua Cobos.
Gasca, according to police, said Estrada showed up at her house early Oct. 12 and “was very distraught pacing back and forth, acting nervous.” Gasca said she asked if he was okay and he replied: “I’m fine. I did not do anything. If they interview me I have nothing to say.”
Gasca said she had no idea what Estrada was talking about. She told police Estrada used her cellphone to contact Fabian.
Estrada told police he gave Fabian a ride on Oct. 12, according to the search warrants. Police then searched Estrada’s 2016 Ford Mustang.
“It is [the] belief of affiant that Christopher Estrada and Robert Fabian have used said vehicle to conceal ... physical evidence tending to show that Robert Fabian has personal knowledge and involvement in the disappearance of Zuzu,” one of the search warrants states.
Cobos, owner of Cobos Gas and Lube Center in Alpine, told police Fabian came to his shop on Oct. 14, acting nervously. He said Fabian borrowed his cellphone to contact Estrada.
Estrada allegedly visited Cobos’ shop three times that day to have his Mustang cleaned and detailed, but the shop was too busy.
“Cobos advised that he thought [Estrada’s] behavior was odd at the time, given that Zuzu had just been reported missing,” the court documents state. “Cobos advised that by Saturday Oct. 16, 2016, Estrada’s vehicle was clean.”
Police also searched a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup registered to Fabian’s brother-in-law, according to a warrant, which said police were looking for DNA, blood and other potential evidence. Police said Fabian had borrowed the truck in the early morning hours of Oct. 12.
Four other search warrants filed in the case sought cellphone records and Fabian’s laptop.
Authorities say Estrada has been cooperative, but a polygraph test was inconclusive.
Fabian has been uncooperative, authorities said. He has hired attorney Liz Rogers to represent him.
Rogers recently met with Zuzu Verk’s family.
“It was the opposite of helpful,” Glenn Verk said of the meeting. “It was hard to shake her hand because we were already upset that she was advising him not to speak with the police anymore, and we were wanting to know why. We had very simple questions and she said that she was not there to answer our questions.”
Alpine police did not return a call for comment from HuffPost. In a recent interview with KOSA-TV, Chief Russell Scown said he might involve the state Attorney General’s Office, in an attempt to compel Fabian’s family to cooperate.
“The family knows more information and we need them to tell us,” Scown said. “If they won’t tell us, then we will bring them before a grand jury and hopefully we can get the information from them that way.”
Since Zuzu Verk’s disappearance, hundreds of investigators and volunteers have conducted searches that have covered roughly a 400-mile radius from Alpine, using drone aircraft and search dogs. No clues have been found.
The Verks said they named their daughter after Zuzu Bailey in the Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In the 1946 film, 6-year-old Bailey’s rose petals, stuffed into a pants pocket by Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, become a symbol of life.
“I know every parent sees their children as special, but it’s always been reaffirmed to us by how other people react to her,” Glenn Verk said. “She’s loved by everyone that she meets and she has a real brilliance about her. Not only her mind, but her personality. She’s fun loving, but also has a serious side. Very motivated, fascinated by the world, engages with everyone and everything in a very fun but a passionate level.”
The missing woman’s family and friends recently took the search to the internet by creating a page about her disappearance on Facebook. They describe her as 5 feet tall, weighing 110 pounds, with newly-dyed blonde hair and hazel eyes.
“You go through all of the possibilities in your mind simultaneously and you don’t know how to feel, so you feel everything and nothing,” said Verk’s father.
Zuzu Verk’s parents said a $200,000 reward is offered for credible information leading to their daughter’s whereabouts. Anyone with information is asked to call the Alpine Police Department at 432-837-3486. Callers may remain anonymous.