Disappearance of Zaria Marlow
June 11, 1996|
Randall, Perro Rocosso
24 April 2016 (aged 19)|
|Status||Missing for 4 years, 2 months and 13 days|
|Known for||Missing person|
|Height||5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)|
Zaria Annabelle Marlow (born June 11, 1996) is an Alcenian woman who has been missing since April 24, 2016, having been last seen leaving her boyfriend's house in Terrance, Iluvia. Believed to have been kidnapped, the only evidence of her whereabouts or fate have been a photograph of Marlow tied and gagged that was mailed to her parents Bill and Cheryl Marlow by an unknown sender. After a thorough investigation by both the Perro Rocosso and Iluvia state police and the National Police Bureau, no further sign or trace of Marlow has been recovered. The case remains active.
Her disappearance has been featured on numerous true crime documentary series and nighttime programs which have led to thousands of tips being submitted to law enforcement, however none of them have proved substantial.
In June 2015, Marlow started a long-distance relationship with Brandon Cullen. Marlow lived in Randall, Perro Rocosso while Cullen lived in Terrance, Iluvia. Because they were both attending university and working part-time, they only saw each other in person about twice per month. Their relationship was primarily over the internet. In April 2016, Marlow told her friends and family she was going to be staying at Cullen's house for the spring break week. She arrived on April 18 and was last seen leaving Cullen's house on April 24 at around 6:31 PM. Cullen began to suspect something was wrong when Marlow failed to call him by the time she was expected to return home, which she had promised to do. He attempted to call her instead but received no answer. He then contacted her parents who said she had not arrived home. Mistakenly believing 24 hours of no contact must elapse before a person can be reported missing, they did not contact authorities until the morning of April 26. A search promptly began in Iluvia before moving along the route Marlow would have taken into Perro Rocosso but no trace of her was found. A BOLO (be on the lookout) for her blue 2005 Chevrolet Impala was issued but it remained for two weeks with no confirmed sighting reports, only false positives. No activity on any of her debit or credit cards appeared.
As the case crossed state lines, the National Police Bureau opened its own investigation into Marlow's disappearance. They immediately focused their attention on her boyfriend, Brandon Cullen, who denied any knowledge or involvement in her disappearance. When requested to take a polygraph test, he declined and refused to answer any more questions. He came under further suspicion when Marlow's family told authorities their relationship had been strained and, in fact, Marlow had spent much of the spring break at a motel after having a bitter argument with Cullen. Marlow's family could not say which motel she stayed at, but after the NPB checked all the local motels in the area, discovered she had paid for four nights at the A1 Lodge & Inn. Management at the motel were unable to offer any leads to the NPB.
On May 6, 2016, Cullen was arrested for credit card fraud after police discovered he had stolen Bill Marlow's card details and used them to make purchases totaling over $540.
Photograph and letter
On May 22, 2016, Zaria's parents, Bill and Cheryl, received a letter with no return address that contained a photograph of Marlow half-naked, bound, and gagged. The letter read as follows, grammar and spelling errors included:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Marlow,
I have your daughter, and no, your not getting Her back. Shes mine forever. I cant say she's doing good, she's in a lot of pain because of what Ive bee doing to her since april. What is the worst thing you can think of that I could be doing to her? i probably am doing it. don't worry, soon her pain will end. I'll kill her and hide her body where they won't ever find it. not ever. You won't Find me either. But I bet you want a clue though right? Something to keep that spark of hope? okay Then, Brandon is behind all of this. he put me up to this. he knows Everything. I wouldnt lie. I Never lie. I enclosed a cute picture of Zaria. Put it on your fridge.
Anyway I do know where you live and I keep watch. hope you got Georgia locked up tight because if you make me mad I'll do to her what I'm doing to zaria.
Sincerely, No one.
The same day the letter was postmarked, a post made to 4chan's /b/ board was made anonymously containing the same image of Marlow. The post had no accompanying text and received little attention before being archived and deleted. A trace of the IP address placed the location of the poster in Bermuda, indicating the poster was using a VPN.
As the letter made a threat against the Marlow's younger daughter, Georgia, their family was placed under protective custody for three weeks. The family elected to move as the National Police could not protect them indefinitely. The letter also implicated Brandon Cullen which prompted authorities to investigate him further, but no conclusive evidence linking him to the letter or kidnapping was found. Handwriting analysis did not find anything that could help identify the author and no fingerprints were found. A DNA sample was recovered from the seal, meaning the sender licked it. However, it did not match any DNA profile on record.
The photograph was kept confidential by the National Police Bureau and was not released to the general public. In June 2016, close to Marlow's 20th birthday, a Freedom of Information Request submitted to the NPB by United Alcenian Broadcasting Company (UABC) asking for the image to be released for journalistic purposes. The NBP denied the request, citing it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation and that releasing the photo could compromise that investigation. The UABC filed a suit against the NBP in the URA District Court for the At-Large District of Sunalie, arguing the photograph has "significant public interest." The NBP reiterated its reason for denial and asked the suit to be thrown out, which was denied. On November 14, 2016, the court ruled the image was within the realm of a FOIA request and the NBP was not in its rights to deny the request. The court ordered the National Police to release the photograph under the Freedom of Information Act of 1993. As a result, the family of Zaria Marlow sued UABC for $2.1 million in damages, arguing that by forcing the release of the image, the organization had caused "extreme emotional turmoil and distress." They also appealed the district court's decision in the URA Court of Appeals for the Federal District Circuit. On April 12, 2017, the URA Court of Appeals for Federal District Circuit upheld the lower court's decision, meaning the photograph was free to be published by UABC. In May 2017, UABC reached a settlement with Marlow's family for an undisclosed amount and agreed to only publish a cropped version of the image. However, a full-sized version of the image is still available on the NBP's website under public domain.
Besides the letter, no new evidence as to Marlow's fate has been found. Her car was never recovered and her parents have not received any further letters. Brandon Cullen plead guilty to the credit card fraud charges and was sentenced to two years in prison, two further years of probation after release, and ordered to pay $5,500 to Bill Marlow in restitution. He was released in 2019 and is still considered a suspect in the case, which remains open. Although the author of the letter stated they would kill her, under Perro Rocosso law, it is up to the family to file a petition to declare her dead in absentia unless her body is found. Legally, she remains alive.