PHILADELPHIA CREAM – Franchesca Alvarado, known as Cheka in many ways, started a whole new chapter at 22.
She was a devoted single mother to her young daughter in Philadelphia and planned to take criminal justice classes at a local community college. She was trying to find her way after the death of her own mother, at only nine years old, with the help of her two sisters: Tina, who assumed a more maternal role and Frances, the closest to her in age.
“Her spirit was so bright. She was so beautiful. In the photos, when you see her smile, that’s who she really was. You really couldn’t drive her crazy,” Tina Ray said.
They spoke almost every day.
Because of this, it didn’t take long for the Franchesca sisters to quickly realize, in the days after St. Patrick’s Day in March 2012, that something was seriously wrong.
Her sisters say Franchesca found a babysitter for her 3-year-old daughter and went to Atlantic City with an older man, an acquaintance. They haven’t heard of her.
Frances says she went to see her sister at her house in Hunting Park the next day. “Her roommate answered and that’s when I asked her, ‘Where was Franchesca?’ She said, “She went to Atlantic City. She’ll be back in two weeks.” And I thought that was weird because Franchesca would tell me she was leaving for two weeks.”
Tina added, “She always stayed in touch. Her daughter was away for the weekend. There’s no way she left her daughter.”
They filed a missing person report and swung into action.
“We started to organize peace rallies. We started to organize events, we started to distribute flyers. We distributed thousands of flyers. We sent them to shelters, to hospitals all over the States We explored all the options. We talked to everyone who listened to us and looked at a picture of Franchesca. “Hey, have you seen her? And, everyone said no. For months. We never gave up,” Frances said.
Franchesca was last seen by the Borgata. She didn’t have her phone on her, which was either lost or broken at the time, according to her family, so she took her laptop. Her sisters say she was never found.
They did everything they could for 18 months.
In August 2013, about 26 miles away, his family says a fisherman at Corson’s Inlet State Park in Ocean City found a foot, fully intact, inside an Adidas high-top sneaker.
“I couldn’t stand those sneakers. I hated those sneakers. I told him they were so ugly. So as soon as we saw that we knew it was Franchesca,” Frances said. “I just couldn’t accept that reality. So, I said, you know, ‘She knew I hated those sneakers. She threw them in the water because she wanted me to find her. She beats and she wants us to keep fighting.’ I was so in denial.”
Somehow, her sisters found the strength to get back into action. They repeatedly searched for “found human remains” and “found bones” on the Internet. This is how they discovered that Franchesca’s femur and tibia had also failed.
“We had to do the count. Call the medical examiner. ‘Hey, we’re from Philadelphia. Our sister is from Philadelphia. You found the bone. Can you return it please?’ Six weeks later we had confirmation,” Frances remarked. “It’s just frustrating how we had to find my sister. No authority has found it. There was no search party. No one searched the water. They all came up with, ‘She left of her own free will, so she’ll come back of her own free will.'”
“It’s a pain that never goes away. It stays with you for the rest of your life. People say it gets better. No, it never gets better. It doesn’t get old. It’s almost like you’re reliving it over and over again, especially when you can’t find someone to bury the whole thing,” Tina said.
Franchesca’s family never had a cause of death. They couldn’t find anything from her.
They ultimately chose to lay her recovered bones from her mother in April 2016 in Greenmount Cemetery.
Franchesca’s daughter is now 13 years old. There’s no known person involved, no arrests, no response.
“Franchesca has never been so complicated, so why is it so difficult to solve this mystery? Frances questioned.
Tina says they have spoken with various South Jersey police departments. “We were going here, we were talking to different people. They couldn’t tell us anything. And, even 10 years now, I don’t expect them to tell us anything,” she commented. . “But what I pray for is that there is someone who knows what happened and who will at least tell us something.”
Her family says police questioned Franchesca’s roommate and the man she went with in Atlantic City. They are exhausted, but not defeated.
“Our soul still wants to search for it. We still google bones, found, stranded remains. We still search for it. And, I think there are a lot of people when it comes to missing people. You don’t ‘never stop looking for the person,’ Frances explained.
New Jersey State Police say that since 2012 they, along with several other law enforcement entities, have been investigating the death of Franchesca Alvarado and that her case remains open.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the NJSP Southern Major Crimes Unit at 609-882-2000, ext. 3353.