From the moment you hear the first notes of May “Maya” Millete’s guitar ring out and the pitch of her voice, you immediately understand why her mother gave her the nickname Maya.
Born in the Philippines, Maya -- the 39-year-old sister, wife and mother of three -- was nicknamed after the Eurasian tree sparrows that fill the skies and ears of Filipinos living in their home country. Now her family's yearning to hear her songs in person again.
Maya has been missing since Jan. 7, 2021. Chula Vista police began investigating her disappearance three days later but have released few details about the case.
Meanwhile, Maya’s family and friends have been searching fruitlessly for any sign of their loved one, retracing her steps at her favorite trails, parks and even campgrounds they once visited together in a much more joyous time.
Maricris has asked for people to say a prayer or remember her sister at 5:01 -- symbolizing Maya's May 1 birthday -- every day until she returns home.
“Whatever it takes to find her, we’re going to do it,” said Maricris Drouaillet, Maya’s older sister.
Drouaillet and her husband, Richard, admit that they’re getting very little sleep these days. If they aren’t busy printing flyers, making T-shirts or sharing photos of Maya, they’re glued to the news, hoping for any kind of information or update.
“It’s unthinkable,” Richard said. “It’s unimaginable that one of us is missing, you know? One of our family members is missing. We never thought in a million years we’d be in this situation.”
The couple recounted the last time they saw Maya, on Jan. 3, 2021, on a family camping trip to Glamis Dunes, in Imperial County, to celebrate the new year. Maricris and Richard said things were tense between Maya and her husband, Larry Millete.
“There were a lot of arguments between them during the camping trip,” Maricris said. “It was really hard. They had been having marital problems for the last year. They tried to work it out. They did have, you know, marriage counseling, and we did try to kinda help them out, to work out their relationship. But it’s been on and off, on and off.”
Chula Vista police have explicitly said Larry is not considered to be a suspect in their investigation. However, Lt. Miriam Fox, a spokeswoman for the department, added that he is no longer cooperating with their investigation and has not had a role in the search parties tasked with finding his missing wife.
Larry declined to comment for this story. His uncooperative actions, Maricris said, have been another hard blow to the already strained family.
“I felt heartbroken, in a way,” Maricris said. “It’s more painful because: Why is he not willing to cooperate to find my sister?”
Fox said Maya was reported missing to Chula Vista police by her sister, Maricris, late on Jan. 9, 2021, just after 11 p.m. Police arrived at the Millete home after 1 a.m., the time earlier cited in the media for the report of a missing person.
Maricris and Richard told NBC 7 recently that after Maya’s disappearance, Larry accessed Maya’s Facebook page and began removing photos and videos from her account. Other family members said it’s one reason they have been trying to archive every image or video of Maya and her children for their memories.
They said Maya’s life revolved around her family, especially her kids, and that they believe she would never willingly leave them.
“She loves her kids -- a very caring mother to her three kids,” Richard said. “She was very supportive. She kept her kids in active karate, piano lessons -- always on top of it, keeping the kids busy.”
Maya’s brother Michael told NBC 7 last week that at family gatherings, there was always time for karaoke, with Maya standing by, ready to sing her favorite covers, including Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Videos Maya recorded herself playing and singing acoustic versions of the songs were shared with the world on YouTube.
For now, family members are bracing one another and hoping for the best. They have created a GoFundMe to raise money for search parties and to hire a private investigator. Donations have poured in, totaling more than $11,000 at the time this article was published.
Maya’s family is urging the public to share any information about her disappearance with the Chula Vista police on their website or by calling 888-580-8477.
Family members are also hoping people will spread the word and share their sister’s story so that interest in the case continues.
“I’m hoping that she’s still with us,” Maricris said. “And if she does hear this, ‘Maya, please come home. Or just let us know that you’re OK. Mama and Papa miss you. They’ve been devastated by all of this. All we want to know is that you’re OK.’”