(CONWAY, Ark.) — It’s been more than 45 days since 14-year-old Tanvi Marupally went missing near the bus pickup area at her school in Conway, Arkansas, and there are still no publicly known leads as to where she went.
Tanvi’s parents initially told the Conway Police Department that the Indian-American teenager might have run away from home due to fear of deportation, according to police. She had run away previously at age 11 when her mother was deported, but in that instance, she was gone less than a day and was near her house for the entirety of her disappearance, officials said.
Her parents, Sridevi Eadara and Pavan Roy Marupally, have said deportation is no longer a concern. The couple expressed this assurance in a video posted to YouTube of them pleading for their only daughter to come home. Eadara, the mother, returned legally to the United States as a dependent on her husband’s visa, she told ABC News.
Eadara told ABC News that while transitioning to junior high this school year was stressful for her daughter, “she’s smart, hardworking, kindhearted, and always wanted to help people, especially in high school … all of her teachers are so proud of her.”
She also said that between Tanvi’s excitement for college and the ACT she was scheduled to take in February, it makes no sense that she’d run away.
According to CPD, Tanvi was last seen walking past her usual bus pickup area at Conway Junior High School on Jan. 17, 2023. When she did not arrive home by bus later that day, her parents contacted the police. She was not carrying any sort of trackable electronic device.
The community of approximately 65,000 people has rallied around her family and the cause to bring Tanvi home, searching the town for weeks, holding a vigil in February, and bringing home-cooked meals to Tanvi’s parents.
“You wish every community with a missing child would respond the way Conway has,” Rebecca Steinbach, spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), told ABC News. “They’ve banded together in such a loving, positive way to bring Tanvi home.”
Eadara said, “Our family, friends and community … they are helping us … literally they are taking care of my family.”
But Steinbach fears awareness of the case has not sufficiently reached beyond the small town. She hopes NCMEC’s latest effort will spread the word further.
“Tanvi’s face will be on TV screens at gas pumps throughout the state of Arkansas and surrounding states of Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Missouri over the next month,” she said. NCMEC also has a dedicated case manager working in conjunction with law enforcement and the family to offer resources and assistance daily, according to the spokesperson.
In February, the U.S. Marshals Service joined CPD in its efforts to search for the teen. But despite a multi-agency effort, the case appears to be running cold, leading some community members to criticize law enforcement’s response and begin their own sleuthing efforts.
Jenny Wallace is a lifelong resident of the Conway area, former teacher, and mom of six who organized the vigil in February and continues to advocate for more resources dedicated to finding Tanvi, as are other local parents. Tanvi’s mother confirmed Wallace has grown close to their family since her daughter’s disappearance.
Wallace told ABC News that she believes in the crucial period of the first two weeks of the case, CPD failed to address the teen’s disappearance adequately. Arkansas State Police confirmed neither an AMBER Alert nor Endangered Missing Advisory were sent out in January, which Wallace claimed she begged the police for.
In an email to ABC News on Thursday, CPD public information officer Lacey Kanipe said they were in contact with Arkansas State Police regarding issuance of an AMBER Alert, since that agency decides what cases qualify for alerts but added, “While ASP is sympathetic, ultimately, they determined that the information we have at this time does not meet the requirement for an Amber Alert.” In an email to ABC News, ASP stated, “Based on the information provided by the Conway PD on Feb. 17, the case did not meet the ASP requirement for an Amber Alert.” “We did not receive a call before Feb. 17,” they continued, which was a month after Tanvi went missing.
For cases to qualify for an AMBER Alert, the U.S. Justice Department requires specific criteria be met, including that there must be a reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred, and law enforcement must believe the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. An EMA alert, according to ASP’s alert guidelines, can be used when law enforcement has a case that does not fully qualify for an AMBER Alert. Neither CPD nor ASP responded to inquiries as to why an EMA was not issued.
The offense description box of the January 2023 police report reviewed by ABC News labels Tanvi’s disappearance as “harassment conduct that repeatedly causes alarm,” not “runaway” or “missing person,” but the narrative section of her report states that a BOLO was sent out and she was registered into ASP’s Crime Information Center as a runaway.
In an email to ABC News, Kanipe stated: “Typically when juveniles run away the incident is categorized as harassment.”
Kanipe did not respond to requests to explain “harassment” and why it is applied to missing children.
“Initially, we reported Tanvi as wearing tan pants based on a description given to us by her parents,” Kanipe said. “We later realized that Tanvi’s parents were mistaken when we received footage from the school district, and we put out an accurate release with photos from the day Tanvi left school.”
“I think they [police] felt like this was a runaway who was going to come home and that’s how it was treated. And so we applied pressure at two weeks … and then they started canvassing,” Wallace said of her experience. “I would say more stuff is being done [by police] now,” she added. But over a month into the case, law enforcement has not informed the public of any leads.
In reply to criticism that CPD’s response to Marupally’s case has been insufficient, CPD listed its efforts, ranging from park, town, and sewage canvasses by foot and drone, interviews with those who knew Tanvi, and surveillance footage requests. “CPD began our search for Tanvi as soon as her parents notified us that she did not come home from school…,” Kanipe wrote.
“Our concern lies with Tanvi’s family and ensuring that we remain in communication with them about any updates on the investigation,” Kanipe wrote.
Nevertheless, because of Wallace’s dissatisfaction with law enforcement’s response, she says she took matters into her own hands in those first two weeks, orchestrating her own searches in the area and reviewing door camera footage from the area where Marupally went missing. She was also pleased when the family hired a private investigator.
Eadara, meanwhile, simply had a message for anyone who may have taken Tanvi and for her daughter. “I’m begging, please let Tanvi go home,” she said. “And Tanvi, please understand your mother’s pain, and let us know you’re safe.”
Officials ask that anyone with information on Tanvi’s whereabouts call 911 or the Conway Police Department at 501-450-6120.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is also taking calls and texts at 1-800-843-5678. Information can be reported anonymously.
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