Friday marks one year since the disappearance of Chula Vista mother, May "Maya" Millete, who was last seen at her home, Jan. 7th, 2021 around 5 a.m.
In the days, weeks and months that followed, her family and members of the community searched for her tirelessly. Millete's sister and brother-in-law have been leading the charge to find the missing mother of three this entire time.
“I couldn’t imagine myself doing it. I have been telling everyone else because I have been leading it, I’m not a leader. I am not meant for this,” said Maricris Drouaillet, Millete’s sister.
May ‘Maya’ Millete Disappearance
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Call her an unlikely hero, but Drouaillet has juggled the police investigation, her family, the community and very much missing her sister for a year now.
“It is very hard," she expressed. "It's one year of searching and one year of not having her around and one year of pain for the whole family."
This Christmas was the first Millete’s children had to spend without their mother.
“For the sake of the rest of the kids, we tried to be merry. I’m sure that was not easy. No, it was really hard but we tried,” Drouaillet said.
LISTEN: NBC 7's podcast dives into the disappearance of May 'Maya' Millete. Click here to listen and subscribe to "Vanished: The Maya Millete Story"
Drouaillet and her husband, Richard, were granted just five hours a week with Maya’s children. They lost the battle for Christmas Day but did exchange gifts with them the Sunday before the holiday.
“The fact that we were able to see them and hang out with them has been a blessing and we are thankful for that,” said Richard Drouaillet.
“They were all excited. It just gave them joy to see that they still have gifts from the family and from friends and the community,” Maricris said.
Last October’s announcement that Maya’s estranged husband, Larry Millette, was arrested and charged with her murder came with both relief and sadness for her loved ones. Maya is still missing but the district attorney said law enforcement presume she is dead.
Larry Millete pleaded not guilty to his wife's murder and maintains Maya went off on her own.
Searches continue for her, however -- sometimes weekly. Volunteers from as far away as Wyoming have joined the effort. The family believes she was left somewhere, possibly the dessert, within a two-and-a-half-hour drive from her home.
“Our goal is to still bring her home to find her and to get some closure. We still want to see her no matter what,” Maricris said with tears.
Since the arrest, the Drouaillet’s said they’ve heard no updates on the case nor any word from the defendant. They still hold out hope, though.
“We just hope that he gets his mind clear with whatever he is going through and he tells us the truth,” Richard said.
The past year has consumed all the family’s time, effort and energy. They are stronger and remain strong together and with the support of what they call the Team Maya community.
“It’s really hard work for me, but I have a very supporting husband here that keeps me going and tells me we can’t give up. We have to find my sister,” Maricris said.
The Drouaillets said a December hearing in the Millete murder case was postponed and rescheduled to February. There is some concern that the case could further be delayed because of rising COVID-19 cases. The family is holding out hope the case goes as scheduled.
A vigil is planned for Saturday at the Chula Vista Community Park at 4 p.m. honoring Maya.