May "Maya" Millete wanted to spend her 40th birthday with her family at the Grand Canyon. Instead, her family will spend May 1 at Fiesta Island praying for her safe return.
After nearly four months, Millete's family knows the chances are slim they’ll see her again.
“It’s really, really hard for me this week,” said Millete’s sister Maricris Drouaillet. “I’m feeling it more, heavier."
Millete’s birthday isn’t the only thing making her sister’s heart heavy. May 7 will mark four months since the missing Chula Vista mother vanished without a trace, leaving her three young children behind.
Chula Vista police are investigating the disappearance as a missing persons case. Maya’s brother-in-law said that doesn’t make sense.
“I feel like it should have been a homicide a long time ago,” Richard Drouaillet said. “This whole 'her getting up and leaving her kids' would never happen. It’s just so obvious what’s going on, and, unfortunately, it’s too bad that they don’t see it that way.”
Investigators say Millete’s husband, Larry, is a witnesss -- not a suspect -- in her disappearance, but family members say the couple had marital problems and Maya planned to divorce Larry and that she visited a lawyer’s office the day she disappeared.
Larry told NBC7 he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance. Chula Vista police, however, say he's not cooperating with their investigation and has hired an attorney.
“I’m still hoping he doesn’t have anything to do with my sister’s disappearance,” Maricris said. “I still, in a way, want to believe his story, but it’s tough for the family to really believe him.”
The Drouaillets said that Chula Vista police have been keeping their family at arm’s length, rarely sharing any details about the investigation into Millete's disappearance. Most of the information they get comes from former Navy investigator and defense attorney Billy Little, who’s been working independently to find her.
Little told NBC7 that if Maya is found, he can “guarantee she won’t be alive.”
Little began investigating just days after Maya’s disappearance. He shared an audio recording of what appear to be eight gunshots fired on the night Maya vanished. The sounds, he said, were part of a home security video collected from an unnamed neighbor.
Chula Vista police say they also have the recording and are looking into it.
Police announced last week that NCIS and the FBI would be helping in the case. Little said those agencies have been working with CVPD the whole time. It makes sense, he said, to have NCIS track down any interactions involving the Milletes since Maya worked as a civilian on a Navy base and Larry works at Balboa Medical Center, which is run by the military.
Little said NCIS would be able to track the comings and goings of Larry Millete on base and provide video uploads that show who enters the base and when. NCIS could also be helpful in securing interviews with co-workers of both Maya and Larry, Little said.
Little said he wishes the FBI would take over the case, since that agency has the most tools and experience in handling situations like this. He said Chula Vista police appear to be taking a very “conservative approach” to solving the case.
“There’s an old saying about justice delayed is justice denied," Little said. "There’s a victim’s family out there that is hurting and grieving, that’s stopped their lives. Their lives are on hold until this case is resolved.”