Parents refuse to give up hope in search for missing 26-year-old daughter

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(DALLAS) — Mercedes Clement was last seen in surveillance video on Oct. 11, 2020, walking across the parking lot of the Koko Apartments in Dallas, Texas, with a man.

She hasn’t been seen or heard from again.

“In the beginning, it didn’t matter if it was a street lead or if it was an anonymous tip or if it was a psychic, we followed the lead,” said Clement’s mother, Alicia Gazotti.

She and her husband, Clement’s stepfather Emiliano Gazotti, have been searching for their 26-year-old daughter for a little over a year. They haven’t given up.

“Mercedes, she was just a gift. She was always saving her money for the homeless people, always just had this huge heart of gold, always,” said Alicia Gazotti.

On the night her daughter went missing, Gazotti said that around 10:30 p.m., Clement made some worrisome phone calls to friends.

“She called a couple of her friends and she told one girl in particular she was scared, she needed a ride to her car. Her friend said it was just eerily quiet,” said Gazotti. “And the phone disconnected and that was it. About the fourth day, when there’s no anything. Then I got worried.”

“The next day we got a piece of mail that her car had been towed and a lot of alarm bells went off for me then,” said Gazotti.

Gazotti said she went to the tow yard that same day to pick up the car, and she was alarmed to find most of her daughter’s belongings still inside.

“Her purse was in her car, her wallet was in her car, her car key was on the front seat, her bra was on the passenger seat,” said Gazotti. “We just knew something was wrong.”

In the following days, she said she tried to retrace her daughter’s steps and visited the Koko Apartment Complex where her daughter’s car had been towed from. She found crucial surveillance video she would later provide to the police.

On Oct. 26, 2020, Gazotti said she and her husband officially filed a missing persons report.

“Mercedes Clement’s case victimology, that’s very important in an investigation,” said Patty Belew, a homicide detective with the Dallas Police Department.

After nearly nine months, Belew was assigned ro Clement’s case after it was transferred from a missing persons case to homicide. She said the case was transferred because investigators suspect foul play.

“A missing persons is a warrant to locate and usually they’ll canvas a little bit and then that’s pretty much it and then they’ll move on. When it’s a homicide, then we’re out just constantly digging, trying to get information,” said Belew. “I believe that [what] we’re looking at is something has happened to her.”

During their investigation, detectives found that the surveillance camera, which captured the last time Clement was seen, had stopped recording the night of her disappearance for seven hours.

“The video we had, we’re told that it had a glitch in it. So it stopped recording, unfortunately,” said Belew.

According to Belew, she had asked the camera’s video company if glitches were normal and they said, “Not so much.”

Also in the surveillance video, detectives said they noticed the purse Clement is seen with while walking into the apartment complex is the same purse that was later found in her car.

“So either she brought it back or the people who took her put it in the car, and their intentions were to come back to the car, but the car was towed before they were able to do that,” said Belew.

The detectives with the Dallas Police Department said they are currently investigating multiple people of interest, including acquaintances from her past she knew when she was involved in drug use. They’ve also identified the man Clement was last seen with as 36-year-old Tanner Losson.

“We’ve tried to question him and he’s basically refused to speak with us,” said Belew.

Losson is currently in Dallas County Jail on unrelated charges. He did not respond to a request for comment.

“The guy that she was with, he’s not talking. He’s not talking to anybody. He maintains he doesn’t know anything,” said Gazotti.

Gazotti said she’s afraid her daughter’s case may run cold.

“I think that the media, police, missing persons units- there’s always a stigma around certain people, if they look a little different or if they’re living a different life,” said Gazzotti. “They don’t get treated with that same urgency or that same consideration or that same care.”

Of the 500,000 reported missing persons, almost half were people of color, according to the FBI.

The Dallas Police Department told ABC News that shining a spotlight on Mercedes Clement’s case could bring in tips they need to solve it and that if anyone has information about Mercedes Clement, they can call the North Texas Crime Commission at 1-877-373-TIPS.

Gazotti said she refuses to give up the search for her missing daughter.

“My daughter’s life mattered,” she said. “Everyone deserves to be found. Everybody deserves closure.”

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