Despite murder charge, Illinois woman believes missing sister is still alive

GARY, Ind. — A Gary man has been charged with murder in connection to a missing Chicago Heights woman. But her family hasn’t given up hope she’s still alive.

Jessica Flores, 36, and Melina Cottrell, 26, were reported missing from Gary, Ind., in late February. The pair disappeared after meeting up with 41-year-old Drew Carter III, nicknamed “Tiny,” authorities said.

Police later found Cottrell, who said she was able to escape Carter after he held her captive with a weapon.

Cottrell told police Flores was shot in the head after she told Carter she did not want him to have sex with Cottrell, according to court documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune.

Carter, of Gary, Ind., has been charged with murdering Flores and kidnapping Cottrell.

According to court records, the amount of blood found in the backseat of a car where Flores was sitting made investigators believe she did not survive.

But Flores’ sister, 36-year-old Mady Perez, said she believes Flores is still alive because detectives haven’t found her body — and because the story just doesn’t add up.

“I have faith God is good,” Perez said. “Everything happens for a reason. We have to be strong for her and her kids and her mom.”

Perez believes her sister, a mother of six, is hurt but still alive and possibly caught up in a sex trafficking ring. The car the women and Carter were found in was burned.

“We haven’t found her,” Perez said. “We are still waiting for DNA results to come in, so I just hang on to my faith that she is okay.”

Carter is slated to appear in court in Lake County, Ind., on Monday.

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