Crime

Mom thinks missing UMKC student is a victim of human trafficking

Mother thinks missing UMKC student is a victim of human trafficking

Toni Anderson, a 2014 East High graduate, went missing on Jan. 15 and was last seen in Kansas City. Her mother, Liz, talked to Wichita Eagle reporter Bryan Horwath in February about how difficult the search for her daughter had been and what she b
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Toni Anderson, a 2014 East High graduate, went missing on Jan. 15 and was last seen in Kansas City. Her mother, Liz, talked to Wichita Eagle reporter Bryan Horwath in February about how difficult the search for her daughter had been and what she b

The mother of a missing Wichita woman is convinced that her daughter was taken as part of a human trafficking conspiracy.

Liz Anderson said Monday that Toni Anderson’s family and Kansas City, Mo., police remain bewildered as to how and why the 2014 East High School graduate went missing last month.

I believe she’s been taken, and I believe it’s human trafficking.

Liz Anderson, Toni Anderson’s mother

“I believe she’s been taken, and I believe it’s human trafficking,” Liz Anderson said. “They can’t find her. The Kansas City detectives have been amazing, but they’re perplexed.”

Despite Liz Anderson’s suspicions, police don’t seem to have much to go on.

Darin Snapp, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, said authorities are continuing to follow up on leads but that they do not have any new information to share. He said they have found no evidence yet suggesting foul play.

We’ve searched by land, air and water and there are no signs of her vehicle.

Darin Snapp, Kansas City police spokesman

“We’ve searched by land, air and water and there are no signs of her vehicle,” Snapp said in an e-mail sent on Monday.

Toni Anderson, 20, was last heard from on Jan. 15 in Kansas City. Brian Anderson, Toni’s father, told The Wichita Eagle previously that the last contact he had with her was a text message exchange on Jan. 14.

Toni had just left her job at a Kansas City strip club called Chrome at around 4 a.m. on Jan. 15 and was on her way to meet friends at a location near downtown, the Kansas City Star reported on Jan. 18.

She was scheduled to start spring semester classes last month at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, according to the school, and was a full-time student at Wichita State University during the 2014-15 school year.

Since her daughter’s disappearance, Liz Anderson, who works at the Kansas Star Casino, said life has been difficult.

“It’s been a horrible nightmare,” she said. “We’re trying to maintain.

“At times, the grace of God is the only thing keeping us together. You just try to not let it totally consume you, but I know we’ll find her.”

Looking for clues

Liz Anderson said she and her husband both returned to work recently, though Brian Anderson is working at a resort in northern Minnesota while she stays in Wichita.

She said the Andersons sold their home here in January, though she has no immediate plans to leave Wichita.

Liz Anderson seems convinced police have all but ruled out the possibility that foul play was not involved in the disappearance, though Snapp wouldn’t go that far when asked.

“We investigate all cases as if a crime occurred until proved different, which is why we spend endless hours investigating missing persons cases,” Snapp said. “It makes sense to conduct a full investigation now rather than having to backtrack later.

“With that said, there’s still no evidence of foul play.”

Snapp added that Toni’s boyfriend has never been a person of interest in the case and that he has been cooperative with police.

After leaving work in the early-morning hours of Jan. 15, Toni was pulled over by a North Kansas City police officer for an improper lane change, the Kansas City Star reported.

That officer gave her a warning and watched as she drove her 2014 Ford Focus to a nearby QuikTrip, Snapp said. That’s where the picture gets murky, because nobody seems to know what happened next.

Speculation

In comments on stories published online and on social media by news organizations since Toni’s disappearance, some people have speculated that she fabricated her own disappearance.

There’s even a Facebook page called “Toni Anderson Missing Scam,” which is the first result that pops up when “Toni Anderson missing Facebook” is searched on Google.

“I’ve seen those rumors, and they’re absolutely false,” Liz Anderson said. “Toni would never do something like that. For what? She had so much going for her. She was in school, and she had the apartment in Kansas City that she always wanted.”

On a GoFundMe fundraising webpage dedicated to Toni Anderson – set up by her mother – more than $10,600 was shown to have been raised as of Tuesday by 160 people. The page was created on Jan. 17.

Liz Anderson said the money is in an account that “hasn’t been touched yet.” The money was originally supposed to go toward hiring a private investigator, though she said police have advised against that so far.

Maureen Reintjes, a spokeswoman for Missouri Missing, a nonprofit organization based in Jefferson City, Mo., said it is rare to find that a reported missing person faked their own disappearance.

$10,615 has been raised by a GoFundMe page created after Toni Anderson disappeared

“About 99.9 percent of missing cases are due to mental or physical illness, accident or something criminal done to the person or by the person,” Reintjes said. “We have all seen that asinine ‘scam’ site, and that person should have criminal charges brought against her.

“We call those people haters – the families and friends of the missing have to put up with trash like that all the time.”

Staying positive

Liz Anderson returned to Wichita on Monday from Kansas City, where she said she was being interviewed by the makers of the TV show “Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen.”

She said she’s thankful for the support her family has received, from loved ones and strangers, in Wichita and beyond.

“We’ve received endless love, kindness and prayers,” she said. “I don’t think I could get through this without that love. I’ve gotten cards from people all over the country.”

Liz Anderson said she plans to stay in Wichita until her daughter is found, which she firmly believes will happen. She said police are still waiting on the iCloud information to be retrieved from Toni’s Apple phone.

Though she’s an adult, Toni’s profile has been added to the database for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“There are two detectives working 24/7 on Toni’s case,” Liz Anderson said. “Where her phone last pinged, they’ve searched every inch. They’ve used drones, ATVs, dogs – everything. They just can’t find her.”

Bryan Horwath: 316-269-6708, @bryan_horwath

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