Friends, colleagues and family of Maya Millete knew that it was unusual behavior for her to just disappear, but that is what happened in January 2021, just days before her eldest daughter’s birthday. Her husband Larry offered investigators and her family various stories of why Maya was gone. Did the real answer lie in something Maya may have told her husband in an argument right before she disappeared?
Searching for Maya Millete” airs Saturday, February 19 at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+., the unusual details surrounding her disappearance and her husband’s arrest is the focus of this week’s all-new “48 Hours” reported by CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti. “
On a chilly night in January 2021, I caught the local news coverage of a missing mother of three, Maya Millete, who suddenly disappeared from her Chula Vista, California, suburban home. Maya, who also went by the name May, had been planning the birthday celebration when she seemingly just vanished. Her family last heard from her on January 7.
Larry Millete gave her family different accounts about where Maya could have gone, from hiking to visiting wine country. But according to Maya’s family, friends and colleagues at the naval base where Maya negotiated contracts for the U.S. Navy, she was not the kind of person who would just take off.
Maya’s sister and brother-in law, Maricris and Richard Drouaillet, explained that they immediately believed something was wrong. They were sure Maya would never miss one of her daughter’s birthdays. Maricris reported her sister missing to the Chula Vista Police Department on January 9. Maya’s family and friends were adamant in local news reports that she did not leave her children voluntarily. Maricris and Richard would later tell “48 Hours” that they grew suspicious of Larry almost from the beginning.
In a matter of days, the family’s pleas for help turned into weekly physical searches for Maya. The search parties were made up of dozens of friends, family members, colleagues of Maya’s and also strangers. They called themselves Team Maya and began looking for her in vast desert areas east of Chula Vista, near the Arizona border. They were focused on this area because Maya and Larry had gone hiking there and Larry was familiar with the area. Local media followed these searches with the hope that Maya might be found. Months later, I discovered for myself how vast, wild and desolate this location was. To search for Maya on such a terrain was a testament to Team Maya’s dedication to finding her.
The Chula Vista Police Department declined “48 Hours'” request for an interview but told local media last April that it had been conducting its own investigation since mid-January and was keeping its findings close to the vest. As I watched this case unfold over the following months, the family, and now a growing community of friends and strangers, were demanding answers about the investigation into Maya’s disappearance from authorities. Their weekly searches were also turning into gatherings of protest at Chula Vista Police headquarters.
Although Maricris and Maya’s family say they were not getting many details from the police department, there was someone giving them some information. That person was Billy Little, an attorney and a former criminal defense investigator for the U.S. Navy who was asked to look into the case by his wife Lou, who worked at the naval base with Maya. “Somebody asks for help you just do it, right?” says Little.
Little had stepped into the case just days after Maya went missing, visiting Larry at his home on January 11 and noticing some odd things. Little says it appeared that Larry was airing the house out and he noticed what he says were a couple of recently repaired holes in the bedroom door and wall. Little also obtained numerous texts from Maya and Larry’s friends and family indicating the couple was having trouble in the marriage.
And Little says Larry was taking some unusual approaches to try to avoid a divorce; Larry had contacted spellcasters in an attempt to get his wife to stay in the marriage. Little explains, “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.”
Maya’s family and the public would learn a lot more about these alleged tactics when Larry was arrested for Maya’s murder on October 19, 2021. According to authorities, the month before Maya disappeared Larry was getting increasingly panicked, and in one message to a spellcaster Larry wrote, “Please punish May and incapacitate her enough so she can’t leave the house. It’s time to take the gloves off.”
What’s more, authorities announced that the last known call that Maya had made was to a divorce attorney on the day she went missing. They believed that was the triggering event which led to her alleged murder.
Larry Millete has pleaded not guilty. He maintains that Maya left on her own, and his lawyer, Bonita Martinez, addressed reporters after a bail hearing, saying, “His wife was used to leaving the house in the past. You cannot rule out that she’s alive.”
Maya’s advocates bristle at some of the allegations that Larry’s attorney filed in court that suggest that she was a party girl and may have abandoned her family. They argue that Maya was a devoted mother who was dedicated to her job and family and would never leave her children.
Larry’s arrest was not the end of the weekly searches. In fact, it was just the beginning of a new pinpointed search because volunteers were now armed with evidence revealed by law enforcement which indicated that Larry may have travelled to an area two and a half hours from Chula Vista the day after Maya went missing. The family believes that area was one of the camping locations they were all familiar with in the Anza-Borrego Desert or at the Glamis, California, sand dunes in Imperial County. I joined several searches in these areas to document them on camera for “48 Hours.”
These dozens of volunteers, most of whom never knew Maya, try to meet this challenge every weekend, battling the extreme weather, the rough landscape and sometimes even rattlesnakes to try to find her and keep her story alive in the media.
To learn more about the search for Maya and the unique evidence gathered on this case, watch “Searching for Maya Millete” Saturday, February 19 at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.