Elizabeth Ennen murder (Part 2): The night Elizabeth vanished
LUBBOCK, Texas — Elizabeth Ennen is the 15-year-old Lubbock, Texas teen who disappeared during the early morning hours of Jan. 5 while babysitting for family friends, 45-year-old Humberto Salinas, Jr. and his common-law wife, Carmen Manzanares at the Carriage House Motel just three miles from her home. Read: Elizabeth Ennen Murder: Her story begins to unfold.
This article is part two of a seven-part behind-the-scenes view of one family’s frustration and anguish when their loved one went missing and was, in their eyes, misclassified a runaway, and a police department’s frustration when they felt lied to, manipulated, and misled by the man who they now suspect kidnapped and killed Elizabeth.
Quick links to “Elizabeth Ennen Murder” series (as they are written):
Part 1: Her story begins to unfold
Part 2: The night Elizabeth vanished
Part 3: Runaway status impedes family’s efforts
— Lack of media support in ‘runaway’ teen cases
— Runaway, abducted? Factors show likely abducted
— Importance of police actions when child goes missing
Part 4: The missing link
Court documents show the man Elizabeth babysat for that night, Salinas, Jr., is also the man who drove her home early the next morning.
Salinas, Jr. told police he arrived at the Ennen home at 1:30 a.m., watched Elizabeth open the screen, and drove away. He said he noticed Elizabeth’s purse on the floorboard, turned around, and was back at her house at 1:45 a.m. That’s when, he said, he learned she never made it inside.
That was his story – a story Elizabeth’s family and police later learned was a lie.
Salinas, Jr. now sits in the Lubbock County Jail on $250,000 bond suspected of kidnapping and murdering 15-year-old Elizabeth.
When Salinas, Jr. told Elizabeth’s mom, Virginia Ennen, that he’d dropped Elizabeth off 15 minutes earlier, no one in the house remembered hearing the screen door open or shut though they were all in the living room, Elizabeth’s aunt, Lily Huckabee said.
Virginia said it wasn’t like her daughter to take off. She didn’t have her coat and it was freezing outside. She didn’t have her cell phone, purse, medications, or other personal belongings with her. Besides, she said, Elizabeth was deathly afraid of the dark. So much so that she made someone go with her if she had to go out after dark.
Virginia said Elizabeth was happy and had no reason to want to run away. Elizabeth hadn’t discussed running away with any of her friends or family, her mom said.
Elizabeth was doing well in school, and all of her Christmas presents were still in her room. “She had plans to go shopping with her mom the next morning,” Huckabee said. “She was excited to be getting a new pair of shoes.”
Elizabeth was babysitting that night because, Huckabee said, she was saving money to buy her older brother, Kevin, a nice gift for his upcoming 18th birthday.
A mother’s account of what happened the night Elizabeth vanished
Within minutes of learning her daughter hadn’t made it inside the house, and having nothing to go on but Salinas, Jr.’s account of what happened earlier that night, Virginia rushed back to the last place her daughter had been, the Carriage House Motel. She arrived there just after 2 a.m.
Virginia ran to the motel room shared by Salinas, Jr., Manzanares, and their family. She said, “I had to see for myself that she [Elizabeth] wasn’t in that room.”
Once she confirmed Elizabeth wasn’t there, fear turned into sheer panic. The reality had set in – “My baby girl was gone!” she said.
Surveillance video later obtained from the Carriage House Motel showed Virginia running down the hallway and exiting the motel at 2:13 a.m.
She said she rushed home and immediately called police. Salinas, Jr. followed behind, she said.
The officer, Jason Nuss, arrived and took the missing person report at 2:29 a.m., just moments after Virginia was seen leaving the Carriage House Motel – indicative of how concerned she was for her daughter’s safety (see slideshow, left, for photo of Crime Report.)
The report was taken on the front porch because, Virginia said, her younger son had fallen asleep on the couch. Her 17-year-old son, Kevin, and his friend, Lewis James both said Sunday they were standing in the doorway while the officer took the report.
Virginia said Salinas, Jr. stood by, interjecting his thoughts while the responding officer took the report.
Salinas, Jr. told the officer he thought Elizabeth might have run away with his son, Humberto Salinas, III.
Virginia says she told the officer she did not believe her daughter ran away, and that Elizabeth was not dating Salinas, III. She said the two liked each other, but she would not allow Elizabeth to date a 19-year-old boy.
Still in all, though Virginia called to report her daughter “missing”, Nuss classified Elizabeth a “runaway.”
“He gave me a slip of paper with her case number and told me to call after 24 hours if she didn’t come home,” Virginia said.
Virginia said she called the Lubbock Police Department the following day hoping they would change the classification to “missing.” Elizabeth remained classified a “runaway” until two days before her body was found. Read: Runaway status impedes family’s efforts.
According to a Jan. 26 Lubbock Avalanche-Journal article, police said they searched the area around Elizabeth’s home the morning she vanished but didn’t find anything.
Virginia says she never saw police searching around her house the early morning Elizabeth went missing, or at any other time, and said after the officer took the initial report he went back to his car and left. At that time, Salinas, Jr. was outside with the officer for a few moments before the officer drove away, Virginia said. According to Virginia, the officer never called for another officer to come to the scene.
What others said about the night Elizabeth went missing
Virginia’s older son, Kevin, and his friend, Lewis James, said Sunday they were present while Virginia spoke with the officer taking the missing persons report.
During a Feb. 1 phone interview I asked Kevin how many officers came to the house the night Elizabeth went missing. He said one.
Did your mom say she thought Elizabeth ran away? I asked. “No,” Kevin replied. Did your mom mention the Carriage House Motel while the officer was there? Kevin said, “Yes, my mom told him she [Elizabeth] was at the Carriage House and he [Salinas, Jr.] said the same thing.”
“My mom said she didn’t think Elizabeth could run away,” Kevin said, “she was so afraid of the dark she always had to have one of us out there after a certain time. I didn’t think she ran away. I thought she was taken or kidnapped.”
“I was in and out of the house,” Lewis said. Asked what he heard Virginia tell the officer, he said, “I heard Virginia tell the officer that Elizabeth had babysat at the Carriage House that night.”
Lewis said no other officers were called to the Ennen house that night, and that police did not search the area around the house that he’s aware of.
Asked if he heard Virginia tell the officer she thought Elizabeth ran away that night, Lewis said, “No, but Salinas, Jr. did. He said that he thought Elizabeth ran away with his son [Humberto Salinas, III].”
What Salinas, Jr. told police that night was not the truth — as police would later discover when they finally obtained surveillance video footage from the motel of the night Elizabeth went missing.
Surveillance video the night Elizabeth vanished
Surveillance video from the Carriage House Inn & Suites the evening of Jan. 4 to the early morning hours of Jan. 5, 2011, showed what happened from the time Elizabeth first arrived at the motel until she was forced to leave the motel against her will. It also shows Virginia arriving at and leaving the motel, and Salinas, Jr.’s comings and goings.
Detectives quickly discovered that what Salinas,Jr. told them when they finally interviewed him on Jan. 21 conflicted with what they saw on the surveillance video that day.
Lubbock Police Officer Jeremy Winters viewed the video footage and reported his findings. Below is an account of what happened, per court documents:
6:18 p.m. – Elizabeth was seen entering the motel with Salinas, Jr.
6:45 p.m. – Salinas, Jr. leaves the motel with his common-law wife Carmen Manzanares, and her sister [According to Elizabeth’s aunt, Lily Huckabee, it was not Manzanares’ sister who left with them that evening, it was Salinas, Jr.’s teenage daughter who was living with the couple at the motel.]
10:48 p.m. – Salinas, Jr. returns to the motel alone.
11:47 p.m. – Elizabeth is seen exiting room #113 and rushing down the hallway in a hurry. She is carrying her shoes and trying to put on her coat. Salinas, Jr. is following her.
11:52 p.m. – Salinas, Jr. returns holding Elizabeth’s arm under her jacket.
Midnight – Salinas, Jr. and Elizabeth exit room #113 and walk down the hallway. Half way down Elizabeth bumps the wall in the hallway. At the end of the hallway there is an exit to the right and left. Elizabeth Ennen turns to the right and walks quickly towards the exit. She looks over her shoulder to see Salinas, Jr. Salinas, Jr. turns to the left towards the second exit. Once he determines Elizabeth went the other direction he turns and runs towards her. Elizabeth turns and sees Salinas, Jr. coming toward her. Elizabeth then cowers into the corner as Salinas, Jr. approaches her. Salinas, Jr. grabs her arm and escorts her to the south parking lot.
12:01 a.m. – Salinas, Jr.’s vehicle is seen leaving the parking lot.
12:29 a.m. – 28 minutes later, Salinas, Jr. is seen returning to the Carriage House Motel alone.
12: 33 a.m. – four minutes later, Salinas, Jr. is seen exiting the motel again.
12:58 a.m. – 25 minutes later, Salinas, Jr. is seen returning to room #113.
1:23 a.m. – Salinas, Jr. leaves the Carriage House Motel with his two young children.
2:01 a.m. – Salinas, Jr. is seen returning with his wife, sister-in-law [per Lily Huckabee, the sister-in-law was actually Salinas, Jr.’s teenage daughter], and children
2:04 a.m. – Virginia was seen on surveillance video entering the motel
2:06 a.m. – Virginia is seen entering Salinas, Jr.’s room #113
2:13 a.m. – Virginia is seen running down the hall toward the parking lot
4:16 to 4:19 a.m. – Salinas, Jr. paces the hallway
Ongoing investigation – Tips still welcome
The family asks everyone to keep in mind that this is an ongoing investigation.
Elizabeth was kidnapped in the early morning hours of Jan. 5, around midnight. Her body was not found until Mon., Jan. 24.
Anyone with information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, about Elizabeth’s disappearance, or anyone who believes they saw Elizabeth between the time she disappeared Jan. 5 around midnight, and the time her body was found Jan. 24, are also asked to contact Lubbock Police at 806-775-2811 or 806-775-2865. They can also dial 911.
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Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal