State and federal agents are still investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl who vanished from a Washington, D.C., airport with an unknown woman Thursday.
“We are still looking for JinJing Ma,” Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Chief of Police David Huchler said at a press conference Friday. “We have conducted interviews across the country, tracing the footsteps of the tour group she was with.”
Virginia State Police and the Virginia Missing Children Clearinghouse issued an AMBER alert Thursday for a child abduction at Reagan Washington National Airport. Later that evening local authorities announced the FBI was involved in the search for Ma.
“The child is believed to be in extreme danger and was last seen leaving the airport,” according to the alert. Huchler confirmed to reporters Friday that she is still considered to be in “extreme danger.”
Calling their help “invaluable,” Huchler told reporters Thursday evening that authorities are working with the FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, the Virginia State Police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Police have also reached out to the community to assist in the search for the missing girl.
On Friday, Huchler added the Department of State and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the list of agencies coordinating efforts with local authorities.
Federal authorities are tracking down leads and conducting interviews across the country to trace the footsteps of the tour group Ma was with and to glean information on the three suspects at the center of the incident: the unknown Asian woman, an unknown Asian man seen with the woman in the airport before Ma disappeared and a man driving a white Infinity SUV with New York license plates that Ma was spotted getting into.
Huchler also told reporters that the threat of these suspects appears to be contained to this incident.
“We want to assure the community that there does not appear to be a threat to the greater community,” he said.
Ma arrived in the U.S. on July 26 with a Chinese tour group, authorities said.
“It wasn’t until the tour group started checking in to security that another child with the group alerted adults to her absence,” Huchler said Thursday.
The group’s name, which translates to “Delta,” has already continued on to San Francisco despite Ma’s disappearance.
Authorities, using surveillance footage throughout the airport, believe Ma was abducted by a middle-aged Asian woman wearing a black dress. Investigators said Ma met up with the unknown woman inside the airport, changed her clothes and walked out of the airport with the same woman. She was last seen in the arrivals area of the airport before disappearing out of camera view.
Huchler called the incident “very serious” during the Thursday press conference.
“We don’t know the circumstances under which she left, it didn’t seem to be forced,” he said. “We don’t understand why she left because of her age, and circumstances — this is a very serious incident.”
But in a twist, this may not have been the first time Ma has met with the woman in the surveillance footage. Investigators told reporters that during a stop in New York City prior to her disappearance, a witness reported that he may have seen the same woman in Manhattan handing Ma food.
Authorities are in the process of notifying the Chinese Embassy. Efforts to reach Ma’s grandfather in China have so far been unsuccessful, Huchler said.
It is unknown if Ma speaks English, authorities added.
“We are working every theory,” Huchler said. “For us, it’s our priority No. 1 … She needs our assistance until we can determine otherwise.”