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One year later, family, friends continue search for missing mom

▶ Watch Video: Sneak peek: Searching for Maya Millete

Maya Millete, a young wife and mother of three disappeared from her Southern California home in January 2021. From almost the beginning, Maya’s family and friends grew suspicious of her husband Larry.  Investigators say the couple had been having marital troubles and shortly before Maya’s disappearance, Larry had been contacting spellcasters to try and put a hex on his wife so that she would stay in the marriage. Where is Maya Millete?

A DESPERATE SEARCH

More than a year has gone by since 39-year-old Maya May Millete, mother of three young children, vanished in Chula Vista, California.

Maricris Drouaillet: I still have hope. I still have that hope that we’ll find her alive.

Maya Millete, a mother of threee, was last seen in January 7, 2021 in Chula Vista, California.

Maricris Drouaillet

Maya’s sister, Maricris, and her husband Richard Drouaillet have fought hard so Maya’s disappearance doesn’t become a cold case.

Richard Drouaillet: It’s been a really, really tough year for the whole family … we still don’t have answers yet.

Maya was 13 years old when she immigrated to the United States from the Philippines with her parents and five siblings in 1995. Maricris says her sister thrived in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the family settled to build a new life.

Maricris Drouaillet: She’s always been, you know, the smart one. And — she’s very active at school. … education — it’s very important to the family. … I’ve always been so proud of her.

Maya met her future husband Larry Millete when they were both working at a fast-food restaurant in Honolulu. Larry’s family had also immigrated from the Philippines. When Larry turned 18 and joined the Navy, the couple decided to get married. 

Jonathan Vigliotti | CBS News correspondent: They were so young.

Maricris Drouaillet: Yeah.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Teenagers.

Maricris Drouaillet: Yes …  She’s the first one to get married so it was a shock for everyone, but we respected her decision.

Larry and Maya Millete

Maricris Drouaillet

Maya and Larry moved to Southern California and built their careers working for the Navy. Larry was an optician at the Naval Medical Center, and Maya worked as a supervisor contract specialist at Naval Base San Diego.

Claudia Julao: She was my mentor from day one.  

Allison Alexander: She was like this little, tiny person but she was a big personality.

Claudia Julao and Allison Alexander worked with Maya at the base and became friends.

Claudia Julao: We actually negotiate contracts for the U.S. Navy. … And she was very good at it. … I used to you know joke around with her because she had a photographic memory.

Allison Alexander: I had a lot of respect for her. … She was a very strong and confident leader. A lot of the women in the office really looked up to her.

Claudia Julao: There was no glass ceiling. We could get wherever we wanted, didn’t matter where we came from.

Maya and Larry decided to wait 10 years before starting a family. The couple eventually welcomed two daughters and a son.

Maricris Drouaillet: It’s joy to see them, you know that they have their own family, too. … We’re always out camping … We’re always outdoors.

Richard Drouaillet: Larry was a good dad … always attentive to the kids, great parents.

Jonathan Vigliotti: What kinda mother was she?

Maricris Drouaillet: Very caring, loving mother. She, hands on. … She’s always teaching them somethin’, especially, you know, music. … she has some videos with her son … singing with her.

Richard Drouaillet: Word by word. Word by word. Brings us to tears every time we watch it.

Claudia Julao: Her kids were everything. … She enjoyed her kids. 

In early January 2021, Maya was focused on planning a ski trip to Big Bear for her daughter’s birthday. But her family grew concerned when she suddenly stopped communicating on January 7.

Maricris Drouaillet: For her not to tell us … what’s gonna happen for her daughter’s birthday, you know, that was a big deal.

Maricris says when their brother J.R. drove over to check on Maya the next day, her husband Larry told him Maya had been in the bedroom for several hours. J.R. knocked on the door but got no response. 

Maricris Drouaillet: He kinda just thinks, “OK, maybe she’s just, maybe she’s sleeping” … Larry did say that they had an argument. … He left it at that.

Maricris Drouaillet: We believed Larry … they had an argument and she just, she just wanna be left alone.

The following day, when there was still no news from Maya, Maricris and Richard drove over to the Millete house.

Richard Drouaillet: When we walked in, the house was a mess which I’ve never seen their house messy … and it was cold. … It was January … and he had the AC running, which was really odd.

This time, Larry told them Maya was out.

Jonathan Vigliotti: So, Larry says Maya’s been where?

Richard Drouaillet: Hiking. She went hiking.

Suspicious that something wasn’t right, Maricris reported her sister missing to the Chula Vista Police Department that night.  

Jonathan Vigliotti: How did the police react? 

Maricris Drouaillet: They sent — three officers … went through the house. … They questioned us …

Maricris and Richard were upset with what they say was a lack of concern from the police.

Richard Drouaillet: It seemed like there was no urgency from the police department to investigate it properly.

By January 10, Maya had now been missing for three days. Her family gathered at her home to celebrate her daughter’s birthday, hoping against hope.

Maricris Drouaillet (sobbing): We’re all, like, looking at the door, hoping she’ll walk in on her daughter’s birthday. She never did. I felt so bad … After that she said, “Mommy didn’t show up for my birthday.” I didn’t know how to comfort her.

As Maya’s family tried to keep some normalcy for the sake of the children, Richard was watching Larry during the party.

Richard Drouaillet: Just laid back, wearing his Navy sweats on a Sunday, no shoes.

Richard Drouaillet says he was watching Larry during the party. ” Larry had no concern whatsoever on his face for his missing wife.  … Not even for his daughter’s birthday.”

Maricris Drouaillet

Richard Drouaillet: Larry had no concern whatsoever on his face for his missing wife.  … Not even for his daughter’s birthday. 

That night, Claudia got the distressing news that Maya was missing and drove over to the Millete house. By now the birthday party had turned into a search party.

Claudia Julao: So, they were outside with babies and blankets, trying to look for their sister, their daughter. … Her parents are elderly … The brothers and the brother-in-law were out knocking on doors, giving out flyers.

Claudia Julao: He had no interest in helping.

As word spread that Maya was nowhere to be found, more friends stepped in trying to help.

Billy Little: My wife… Lou was working at the 32nd Street Naval Base. … said that a friend of hers went missing. … the family is concerned … would you help them? …, somebody asks for help, you just do it, right?

Billy Little: So, if she was still alive, I needed to get to her quickly. … that’s why I went straight to the last place she was seen, which was that house … I had no idea that it would turn into what it was.

A TREASURE TROVE OF CLUES

On January 11, 2021, four days after Maya Millete was last heard from, attorney Billy Little – a former criminal defense investigator for the U.S. Navy – decided to step into the missing person’s case.

Billy Little: I knew what had to be done, and I did it.

Billy Little: I went straight to where the last place she was seen, which was that house.

Little wanted to talk to Larry Millete. Amongst other things, he had found it odd that Maya’s husband wasn’t the one who initially called the Chula Vista Police Department.

Billy Little: In fact, when the family wanted to call 911, he discouraged it.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Were there police around also investigating at this point? No?

Billy Little: No. According to the family, the police had come. He had given them I guess the same story.

Larry Millete

Maricris Drouaillet

In news reports at the time, a Chula Vista Police spokesperson stated that Larry was being cooperative, they were treating it as a missing person’s case and had found no indication of foul play. Little says after he showed Larry his naval civilian ID, he let him in.

Billy Little: I started looking for things that I thought might be suspicious in the house.

Just like Maricris and Richard, he noticed something strange.

Billy Little: Most of the windows in the house were open. … It was clear he was trying to air the house out.

Little knew from Maya’s family that the couple had had a fight on the day she was last heard from.

Billy Little: I was … looking to see … if there’s any damage in the house that would indicate some domestic violence.

Billy Little: I’m also looking for defensive wounds on his hands, which I don’t see.

But Little says he did see something outside the Millete bedroom.

Billy Little: We went upstairs where her bedroom was, the first thing I noticed was the hole in the door right next to the handle … cause it’s right in the area where, if you need access to a locked room, you’re going to punch right through there.

Billy Little: And I touched the patch and it felt new; it felt wet. … I made a comment to Larry about, “Hey what’s this?” And he says, “Oh yeah, Maya punched a hole … in the door there.”

Inside the bedroom, Little says he noticed another hole on the wall that also appeared to have been recently repaired.

Billy Little: That would’ve been too high for Maya to punch because she was smaller … and I said, “Larry, what about this hole?” … And he said, “Oh yeah, she got mad and punched that, too.”

Jonathan Vigliotti: Larry’s creating a picture here of a woman who is violent … Is this adding up to you? 

Billy Little: No … none of this story is adding up.

Jonathan Vigliotti: When you left the house that day after collecting those puzzle pieces, what were you thinking?

Billy Little: I thought Larry killed her and we need to find out what he did and what he did with the body.

Billy Little: But … I wasn’t ready to tell Maricris yet because I didn’t know, right? I could be wrong.

Little began canvassing the neighborhood and knocking on doors to track down home security footage to see if anything suspicious was caught on camera around the Millete house.

Billy Little: So, I knew we had to get that quickly and preserve it quickly.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Time was of the essence.

Billy Little: Oh god, yes. 

What little found was a treasure trove of clues. He says a camera from a neighboring house recorded the voices of the Millete children playing in the yard, at 1030 p.m., on the night their mom was last heard from.

Billy Little: On … a school night … and it’s cold outside … and the weather — I believe it was in the … high 40s that night.

Another camera recorded Larry backing their Lexus into the garage at 5:58 a.m. the next morning.

Billy Little: So, you can’t see what’s going on, but you can see it going in the garage.

Larry then leaves the house at 6:45 a.m. and doesn’t return home for almost 11-and-a-half hours.  

Jonathan Vigliotti: You could have … moved on. Why did you stay on this case and take matters into your own hands?

Billy Little: In my mind, my job wasn’t nearly complete.

Jonathan Vigliotti: It was just beginning.

Billy Little: It was just beginning (tears up) … When I see Maricris and I see her crying, I’m just like, I got to figure this out.

Billy Little: It’s just not in me to quit, so I don’t.

As Billy Little continued investigating, Maricris and Richard turned to local media and organized the first search for Maya on the hiking trails behind her house.

Richard Drouaillet: We’re desperate for answers … We wanted action and we wanted to do something. Stayin’ at home, sitting down wasn’t gonna bring us answers.

Aleida Wahn: Her sister goes on television and is begging the public for help, “help me find my missing sister” and that really moved people.  

Aleida Wahn, an attorney and true-crime author, saw Maya’s case on the news and started following it closely.

Aleida Wahn: You realize that this was somebody that was very vibrant … was really out there living her life. And that is part of why it’s all so shocking that she’s missing … It shocks your conscience. 

As the case gathered steam in the media, on January 23, 2021, two weeks after Maya’s disappearance, the Chula Vista Police Department searched the Millete house.

Aleida Wahn: And what they did find was that Larry had a lot of firearms. They seized two Glock handguns, a rifle and a shotgun. … and they found that he was in possession of an illegal assault weapon.

Investigators had found this image of Larry’s guns on his phone.

San Diego Superior Court

Investigators also downloaded images from Larry’s phone. Three days later, the police were back.

Aleida Wahn: On January 26, they served another search warrant … and the police take the navigation system, the GPS, from Larry’s Lexus

Meanwhile, Maya’s friends had been revealing details about the couple’s relationship.

Claudia Julao: I will say March or so of 2020, the obsession became obvious.

Larry’s behavior had grown alarming before his wife went missing. 

Claudia Julao: He would do subliminal messages for her to be that perfect spouse. And it was everywhere she walked, at different times, they would turn on.That is insane. …  It sounds like from a movie.

SIGNS OF TROUBLE

Claudia Julao: She didn’t just walk out. That’s something she would never do.

About a month after Maya’s disappearance, her husband Larry Millete hired a lawyer and stopped cooperating with investigators.

Claudia Julao: I believe that he did something to her.

Billy Little was told by Maya’s friends and family that troubling signs in the marriage began emerging the year before.

Billy Little: And it started back in January of 2020 when they started having marital problems.

Maricris Drouaillet: Larry would call every single one of us … trying to ask for help to intervene, you know, into the marriage.

Maya and Larry Millete

Maricris Drouaillet

Larry was complaining that Maya was having a midlife crisis.

Richard Drouaillet: He’s like, “Well, she’s been going out with her friends more often. And she has a lotta single friends.”

Maricris Drouaillet: But my sister is saying you know, “It’s not me, it’s Larry.”

Maya’s friend Claudia spent time with the couple socially.

Claudia Julao: His relationship was very, kind of to the side and just very watchful. … From what my observation of him, he always had to be in control.

Claudia recalls an instance when Larry couldn’t get a hold of Maya at work.

Claudia Julao: You know when … somebody might be agitated or you overhear their voice … I did hear, you know … “Where are you? …it takes you this long to get from your car to your office …Who were you talking to?

Maricris Drouaillet: He wants her … to be submissive for her to comply to him … to be the same person as, you know, she used to.

Maya Millete

Maricris Drouaillet

But Maya’s loved ones say that Maya was changing.

Richard Drouaillet: She was growin’ into someone new. A strong woman, for sure.

As the months passed in 2020, Larry’s grip on Maya tightened.

Billy Little: He’s now tracking her spending habits. He’s gotten into all of her social media accounts. … She doesn’t have any privacy.

And he claimed she was straying.

Billy Little: Larry … accused her of having affairs with several men at work, wrote emails to her boss at work … he knows that, if he tells the boss that she’s having an affair with somebody at work, that she will get fired.

Maricris and Richard say NCIS launched an investigation.

Richard Drouaillet: They didn’t find any evidence of her having an affair. So, they closed that.

Maricris Drouaillet: Yeah. Right.

But Larry seemed fixated on the idea that Maya was unfaithful.

Billy Little: He tells all of Maya’s family, she’s cheating, she’s sinful, help me get her back on the Christian religious way … starts forcing her to go to church.

These are texts that Larry sent to Maya’s family.

Billy Little: He’s quoting the Bible … and it says “for the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey … Her feet go down to death. … Her steps lead straight to the grave” … He’s talking about Maya.

Billy Little: In his own words … he said that he was “getting desperate” … And he felt that the “devil was tempting him.” 

At some point, Maya’s family says they told her they were concerned about what was unfolding.

Maricris Drouaillet: At that time, we knew … that my sister is ready to move on. … We told her, “Whatever your decision is, we’re here to support you.”

By the fall of 2020, Billy Little says Larry was growing increasingly desperate to hold onto Maya.

Billy Little: And, so, what does he do? He goes to witchcraft.

Billy Little: There are people on the internet that’ll sell you for five bucks, you know, how to make a spell that will get her to be attracted to you … to bind your marriage in blood. And that’s what he tried to do … does a witchcraft blood altar.

A photo of Larry Millete’s bloody altar.  Billy Little says he found evidence that Larry Millete purchased spells online. According to Little, Larry first tried spells to get Maya to fall back in love with him. But as the couple’s marital problems worsened, police say, Larry eventually wanted to harm her. 

Billy Little

Billy Little [referencing photo]: That is the picture that he took of the altar … An old photo of them with blood thrown on it.

Little says Larry contacted numerous spellcasters and even wrote a review for one.

Jonathan Vigliotti: And he writes of this spellcaster … “She is kind, professional and courteous. My casting has not yet manifested, but I’m really hoping and counting on it.” …leaving a review like one would leave on Yelp for a food order.

Billy Little: Like, it’s an Uber ride. … Like, “Oh, five stars. Good job spellcaster.”

Billy Little: So, he’s not quite as smart as he thinks he is. He doesn’t realize that all of that stuff is pointing the finger at him. 

By December 2020, Maya and Larry were sleeping in separate rooms. Little says Maya found speakers in her room and confronted Larry. He admitted he had been playing subliminal messages while she slept. Maya messaged a friend and said her marriage was definitely over.

Jonathan Vigliotti: What was that message that was coming out of those speakers under the bed?

Billy Little: It’s right there.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Oh, “No more men.”

Billy Little: “No more men.”

On New Year’s weekend, Maya told her family her decision.

Maricris Drouaillet: She’s ready for divorce, she’s finally made up her mind. … I just told her, “Just be careful. Just be careful.”

On January 7, the last day she was heard from, Maya filled out a divorce intake form and made an appointment with a divorce attorney.

Allison Alexander: I think she told him that she was going to file for divorce.

Claudia Julao: He snapped when he found out that he was finally losing her.

Two weeks after Maya’s disappearance, the Chula Vista Police Department searched the Millete’s Chula Vista, California, home.

CBS News

What had happened in the house that night? Little thinks he knows after a neighbor reached out with some information.

Jonathan Vigliotti: The neighbors, do they say, oh yeah, we heard gunshots?

Billy Little: Yeah. Not only did they tell me that they’ve got gunshots, but they’ve got the … audio.

A home surveillance system from the neighbor captured loud bangs around 10 p.m. that night. Little also believes they are gunshots.

Billy Little: It’s coming from Larry and Maya’s house.

Remember, Billy Little had tracked down that other home security footage that police agreed captured audio of the Millete kids playing in the backyard at 10:30 p.m.

Billy Little: The picture is becoming more and more clear. … He’s got to clean up, and he’s got to move the body … so he needs to send those kids outside on a school night … at 10:30.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Do you try to speak to law enforcement?

Billy Little: I did. … I told them what I had found. … And time and time again, there was just no follow up by the police.

The Chula Vista Police Department declined “48 Hours”‘ request for an interview, but in April 2021, they told local media that it had been an active investigation since mid-January, and they were keeping their cards close to the vest.

Richard Drouaillet: It’s tough … there was very minimal details. And that was part of our frustration working with the police department.

Aleida Wahn: The family now is having various rallies in front of the Chula Vista Police Department, basically demanding answers. But … the police are not going to release a lot of information to the family. This is potentially a murder investigation.

In May 2021, the police served Larry Millete with a gun violence restraining order. Among the reasons: investigators had found an image of guns on Larry’s phone.  Another photo, which had been redacted, featured the couple’s 4-year-old son surrounded by weapons. 

Authorities retrieved more firearms from the Millete house.

Billy Little: I think that was a smart move by the police … it protects the children while they try to buy a little bit of time. … but it also protects them if they have to go in and arrest him.

In the summer of 2021, investigators named Larry Millete a person of interest in his wife’s case.

Aleida Wahn: You keep wondering … is this going to be the time that they are going to arrest Larry?

On October 19, nine months after the disappearance of Maya, investigators did just that.

CHIEF KENNEDY (press conference): Today at 11:42 a.m., the Chula Vista Police Department SWAT team … arrested Larry Millete for the murder of his wife Maya Millete.

And with that, even more evidence came to light.

A LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE

Maya’s family and friends anticipated the news of an arrest for months.

Allison Alexander: I understand that there is a case that needs to be built. There is only one shot. But it just seemed like it was too long.

In October 2021, Larry Millete was arrested for his wife’s murder. He pleaded not guilty

CBS News

Yet when Maya’s husband Larry Millete was arrested for her murder in October 2021, it was still a mixed range of emotions.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Claudia, what was your reaction?

Claudia Julao: Relieved, yet at the same time, sad … and so although you keep that hope up now it became real.

Richard Drouaillet: I think we had different reactions. I said, “Finally” (emotional). She started crying.

Maricris Drouaillet: He’s been with us for 20 years. My sister did love him. She gave him three kids. He just couldn’t let it go. 

In a press conference, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan laid out some of the details of the months-long law enforcement investigation.

SUMMER STEPHAN: In homicide cases, there’s often a triggering event. In this case, the last call recorded that May made was to a divorce attorney.

That call was at 3:48 p.m. home security cameras captured Maya arriving at her house at 4:42 p.m. There were no images of her leaving.

Investigators had also turned up more evidence of Larry trying to keep Maya in the marriage through the supernatural before she went missing.

SUMMER STEPHAN: I’ve never had a case where that was involved.

But the spells they discovered went beyond more than asking Maya to be attracted to him. According to the arrest warrant, Larry now wanted Maya to be harmed.

Aleida Wahn: Before Maya went missing, Larry sent this message to a website that claims to cast spells … “Please punish May and incapacitate her enough so she can’t leave the house. It’s time to take the gloves off.”

It was evidence, they say, of his “unbalanced mindset” and “homicidal ideation.”

Aleida Wahn: The day Maya went missing, Larry sent countless emails to spellcasters. “I think she wants me to snap … I’m shaking inside, ready to snap.”

What’s more, according to the arrest warrant, Larry had allegedly snapped before.

Jonathan Vigliotti: One of Maya’s friends said that Maya told her Larry choked her, to the point where she was unconscious.

Maricris Drouaillet: I just heard that. … Oh, I was mad. How could he do that?

Sisters Maricris Drouaillet, left, and Maya Millete. “I want her to be found. I want to bring her home to her kids, to our families,” said Maricris.

Maricris Drouaillet

Maya had never shared that with Maricris.

Maricris Drouaillet: She didn’t share … what she’s going through, ’cause she didn’t want the family to worry about her … she was also protecting Larry … and she was protecting the children.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Were you aware of any physical abuse?

Claudia Julao: No.

Allison Alexander: No.

Allison Alexander: She would say little things here and there, but … not always to the same person.

Claudia Julao: There were already incidents that were huge red flags that if we all knew it at the same time, it would have been a bigger picture.

Claudia Julao: I feel guilty, you know, after the fact, once she went missing it was a very harsh reality for me (cries). … I wasn’t able to help her … And I will forever live with that.

Evelyn Rodriguez: Nobody had the full picture right besides the two of them.

Evelyn Rodriguez is an associate professor of sociology who teaches on topics of race and identity at the University of San Francisco. She reviewed the case for “48 Hours.”

Evelyn Rodriguez: The signs of domestic abuse can be so hard to identify … because we as a society … are unable to distinguish the line that divides that kind of, like zealous, passionate love from controlling behavior.

Evelyn Rodriguez: Larry Millete checks all the boxes for domestic partner abuse.

Evelyn Rodriguez: He knew what Maya’s pressure points were. … And so he weaponized her work … He weaponized her children, her family, her religion before he got desperate enough to try these other means of controlling her and keeping her in that marriage.

Rodriguez suggests when Larry turned to spellcasting as another method to control Maya, he may have been inspired by an old-world form of folk magic in the Philippines. 

Evelyn Rodriguez: And this is stuff of, like, the old world to our parents even.

Evelyn Rodriguez: Somehow that has evolved into what I think Larry was able to find.

But Rodriguez points out that it is important not to lose sight of what the issue is here.

Evelyn Rodriguez: Really the story here is that this was an abusive partner, regardless of his culture, who was exhibiting every single … sign of domestic abuse.

With Maya’s alleged killer behind bars, her family knew their work was not done. They were more determined than ever to find her — energized with new information that had come out after Larry’s arrest. Aleida Wahn was part of that search.

The search parties were made up of dozens of friends, family members, colleagues of Maya’s and also strangers. They began looking for her in vast desert areas east of Chula Vista, near the Arizona border. 

Help Find Maya/Instagram

Aleida Wahn: The thing that this case really needed was to be able to know where to search. That was the problem here. You can’t just search the entire world.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Where are we right now? 

Richard Drouaillet: It’s a hot spot that Larry could have brought Maya’s body out here.

Like Billy Little, investigators obtained footage that showed Larry leaving the house in the couple’s Lexus for almost 11-and-a-half hours the day after his wife was last heard from. They analyzed the car’s navigation system.

Richard Drouaillet: According to the information that we have now … he was about two-and-a-half hours out from his house when he put his address in.

Somewhere two-and-a-half-hours away from his house, Larry had entered his address to find his way back home. That information was enough to center the searches on places Larry was familiar with, like the desert area where he and Maya had gone hiking.

Jonathan Vigliotti: What are you specifically looking for as you comb this area?

Richard Drouaillet: At this point, unfortunately, I hate to say it, but we’re probably just looking for clothing or bones. 

Maya Millete’s sister, Maricris Drouaillet, right, during a search in the Anza-Borrego Desert on October 23, 2021.

CBS News/Cindy Cesare

Over the months, droves of volunteers have responded to her family’s calls to the community and have joined Team Maya.

Richard Drouaillet: We’re just so thankful and blessed to have everybody here.

James Shelby | Volunteer searcher: I’m San Diego City retired firefighter … I got a team, and we go out and we systematically cover … areas where someone could possibly hide a body. And it’s very sad to even talk about but you have to do it. And it’s the proverbial needle in a haystack. 

Jonathan Vigliotti: Why are you here today?

Damien Hurt | Volunteer searcher: Really just to support the family. … Hopefully we can bring peace to the family.

Jonathan Vigliotti: What drives you to do this for a total stranger, somebody you don’t even know?

Keri Park | Volunteer searcher: It felt that it should be a community effort … you just want closure for this family so much. … And that’s why we’re out here. It’s why we keep coming. They deserve it. … Maya deserves it.

As the search for Maya continues in the vast lands of eastern San Diego, the quest for justice is just beginning in the halls of the San Diego court system.

Aleida Wahn: The problem with this case … is you don’t have a body.

THE SEARCH CONTINUES

Larry Millete has been behind bars since his arrest in October 2021, awaiting trial. He pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and illegal possession of an assault weapon. If convicted, Larry could face up to 25 years to life in prison.

Billy Little: His ego was so damaged by the fact his wife didn’t want to be with him anymore and he couldn’t handle it. So, he killed her.

Although there is still hope Maya could be found any day, a victim’s body is not required to convict someone of murder.

Billy Little: This is one of the strongest circumstantial cases I’ve ever seen… you don’t have a body. So what? … You don’t get to get away with murder because you’re good at disposing of bodies.

But Larry maintains Maya left on her own. His defense attorney Bonita Martinez turned down “48 Hours”‘ request for an interview but spoke with reporters after a hearing where Larry was denied bail.

BONITA MARTINEZ [to reporters]: … his wife was used to leaving the house in the past. … And you cannot rule out that she’s alive.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Larry maintains that Maya voluntarily left him, left the children to start her own new life. Do you believe that? 

Claudia Julao: No.

Allison Alexander: Nope.

Claudia Julao: Not at all.

Allison Alexander: I would never believe that. Never.

Claudia Julao: Maya loved her kids. There’s no way she would have … up and left.

Aleida Wahn: The best argument for the defense here is Maya is not dead. They don’t have a body. She’s alive and well.

Attorney Aleida Wahn says a “no body” defense has worked before in other cases. She says without a body, the prosecution may be at a disadvantage.

Aleida Wahn: They need strong evidence … And the question is what do they have? Do they have something that they’re going to bring out in a courtroom that definitely ties Larry to murder?

Those loud bangs recorded on the neighboring security camera may not be proof of anything. An FBI analysis was inconclusive.  

Aleida Wahn: They couldn’t definitively say those were gunshots because the sound quality was not good enough.

In November 2021, Larry’s attorney filed documents with the San Diego Superior Court with more allegations about Maya.

Aleida Wahn: They believe that she had this wild lifestyle, that she was out there having affairs, she’s dating different men off the internet … that she’s drinking excessively, that she’s become this completely different person. And so, they’re pointing to third party culpability. If she’s harmed, it was somebody else.

But those close to Maya say none of this is true.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Larry and his parents claim in court documents that Maya was essentially a party girl.

Claudia Julao: Definitely not. … the Maya that I know … was a devoted mother … when she was not at work she was with her kids, her family.  

Not long after Maya’s disappearance, Maricris and Richard say Larry cut off contact between the children and Maya’s side of the family.

Richard Drouaillet: We’re just trying to see them. … Going from hangin’ out, hugging ’em, jumping on my back … seein’ them at least once or twice a month — at least, to not seein’ them at all for nine months.

The Millete children are still living at home in the care of Larry’s parents.  But after months of not seeing them, Maya’s family was granted visitation rights in November 2021 and now spends time with them every other Saturday. But the fight is not over. Maricris has filed a petition for guardianship of her sister’s children.

Maricris Drouaillet: … just show them that the whole entire family are waiting for them. And, you know, are eager to be with them again.

Allison Alexander: What those children will go through, all those moments in life when they need their mom and she’s not going to be there. … It breaks my heart.

In January 2022, Maya’s family and friends held a vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of her disappearance.

Claudia Julao (cries): There’s somebody out there that knows something, that’s seen something … They should come forward. … Have it in your heart to help us bring her home.

Maya Millete

Maricris Drouaillet

Claudia Julao: She will forever be my hero. that’s what I’m going to take with me, is a bright, shining star of a woman that gave every other woman, regardless of what she was going through an inspiration to be whoever they wanted. … That’s who Maya is.

If you have information on the case, contact the Chula Vista Police Department at 619-691-5139.



Produced by Asena Basak. Cindy Cesare is the development producer. Hannah Vair is a producer, and Lauren Turner Dunn is the associate producer. Ken Blum, Jud Johnston, Atticus Brady and Gary Winter are the editors. Lourdes Aguiar is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.



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