LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– The fear of a missing child is something far too many have felt in Las Vegas and all around the world.
A good amount of kids are found safely, but many never return home, leaving those who love them to eternally wonder.
“The not knowing,” Lonnie Paulsen said. “Is just living in hell.”
It’s been 700 days since Paulsen saw his daughter smile, heard her laugh, or knew she was safe.
“She was always smiling,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen told 8 News Now that Audrey Paulsen vanished from Las Vegas in November 2020, when she was just 16 years old.
“The last footage we have,” he explained. “Is of her getting into a red car.”
Since then, his entire family has done everything possible to find her, looking for leads, wishing, wondering, and always worrying.
“It’s like when you are waiting for someone to come out of surgery, you know there is going to be either extremely good news or extremely bad news,” Paulsen said. “But imagine having that anxiety and just never getting that answer.”
Audrey is unfortunately one of many children missing in Las Vegas and across the world.
According to Nevada Child Seekers, 8,000 children or teenagers go missing in the state every year, with the majority disappearing in Las Vegas. Many do return home, but some are never heard from again.
“If you don’t find that child in three hours,” Daniel Minor, former police officer, and current co-host of Problem Solver said, “there is a chance you’re never going to find that child.”
Minor said police departments and other agencies work hard to bring missing kids home, but as time ticks on, it becomes more difficult to move forward.
“If that case is old,” Minor said, “usually, it goes on the back burner unless a new lead comes up.
He said that’s where non-profits and private organizations come in, keeping these cases fresh in peoples’ minds.
“If you keep that out there in the public eye,” Minor said. “Somebody saw something, someone has seen something, so you have to keep that out there.”
As of January, Nevada ranked ninth in the nation for human trafficking, according to data released by the City of Las Vegas. Nearly 25 percent of those victims start as children or teens, according to the Child Liberation Foundation.
Minor said it’s important for parents to do what they can to know who their children are associating with, both in person and online.
Paulsen told 8 News Now he hopes the pain of sharing his story will help at least one other person, as he hopes to reach his daughter, wherever she is or whoever she’s with; to know she’s okay.
“I just want to know that she’s safe,” he concluded. “I want her to call me and tell me that she’s safe.”
Paulsen said he’s worked with several non-profit organizations here in Las Vegas, in addition to Metro Police to find Audrey, but her case changed a few months ago when she turned 18 years old.
If you would like to learn more about Metro’s missing persons department, click HERE.
For more information on sex trafficking in Las Vegas, click HERE.