What happened to Franchesca Alvarado?

Franchesca Alvarado, known as Cheka, in many ways, started a brand-new chapter at age 22.

She was a devoted single mom to her young daughter in Philadelphia and planning to take criminal justice classes at a local community college. She was trying to find her way after the death of her own mom, at only age nine, with the help of her two sisters: Tina, who took more of a motherly role and Frances, the closest to her in age.

"Her spirit was so bright. She was so beautiful. In the pictures, when you see her smile, that’s what she really was. You really couldn’t make her mad," Tina Ray said.

They talked just about every day.

For that reason, it did not take long for Franchesca’s sisters to quickly realize, in the days after St. Patrick’s Day, in March 2012, that something was very wrong.

Her sisters say Franchesca secured a babysitter for her, then, 3-year-old daughter and went to Atlantic City with an older man, an acquaintance. They didn’t hear from her.

Frances says she went to check on her sister at her home in Hunting Park the next day. "Her roommate answered and that’s when I asked her, ‘Where was Franchesca?’ She said, ‘She went to Atlantic City. She’ll be back in two weeks.’ And, I thought that was odd because Franchesca would have told me that she was going away for two weeks."

Tina followed with, "She always stayed in contact. Her daughter was away for the weekend. There’s no way she would’ve left her daughter."

They filed a Missing Persons report and jumped into action.

"We started having peace rallies. We started hosting events, we started giving out fliers. We handed out thousands of fliers. We sent them to shelters, sent them to hospitals all across the U.S. We explored every single option. We spoke to anyone who would listen to us and look at a picture of Franchesca. ‘Hey, did you see her?’ And, everyone said no. For months. We never gave up," Frances said.

Franchesca was last seen by the Borgata. She did not have her phone on her, which was either lost or broken, at the time, according to her family, so she took her laptop. Her sisters say it was never found.

They did everything they could for 18 months.

In August 2013, roughly 26 miles away, her family says a fisherman at Corson’s Inlet State Park, in Ocean City, found a foot, fully intact, inside of an Adidas high-top sneaker.

"I couldn’t stand those sneakers. I hated those sneakers. I told her they were so ugly. So, as soon as we saw that, we knew that was Franchesca," Frances stated. "I just couldn’t accept that reality. So, I said, you know, ‘She knew I hated those sneakers. She threw it in the water because she wanted me to find her. She’s fighting and she wants us to keep fighting.’ I was so in denial."

Somehow, her sisters found the strength to jump into action again. They repeatedly searched "human remains found" and "bones found" on the internet. That’s how they found out Franchesca’s femur and tibia also washed ashore.

"We had to go down the rundown. Call the medical examiner. ‘Hey, we’re from Philly. Our sister’s from Philly. You guys found the bone. Can you please return it?’ Six weeks later, we got a confirmation," Frances remarked. "It’s just frustrating how we had to find my sister. There were no authorities that found her. There was no search crew. No one searched the water. They all fell on, ‘She left willingly, so she will return willingly.’"

"It’s a pain that never goes away. It stays with you for the rest of your life. People says it gets better. No, it doesn’t. It never gets better. It doesn’t get old. It’s almost like you’re reliving it again and again, especially when you don’t get to find somebody to bury the whole," Tina said.

Franchesca’s family never got a cause of death. They didn’t find any more of her.

They chose to finally lay her recovered bones to rest on top of her mother in April 2016 at Greenmount Cemetery.

Franchesca’s daughter is now 13-years-old. There’s no known person of interested, no arrests, no answers.

"Franchesca was never this complicated, so why is it so complicated to solve this mystery?" Frances questioned.

Tina says they talked with various police departments in South Jersey. "We would go here, we would talk to different people. They couldn’t tell us nothing. And, even 10 years now, I don’t expect them to tell us anything," she commented. "But, what I do pray for is that there’s somebody who knows what happened and will, at least, just tell us something."

Her family says police questioned Franchesca’s roommate and the man she went to Atlantic City with. They are exhausted, but not defeated.

"Our soul still wants to search for her. We still Google bones found, remains found, washed ashore. We’re still searching for her. And, I think there’s a lot of people when it comes to missing people. You just never stop searching for the person," Frances explained.

The New Jersey State Police says, since 2012, they, along with several other law enforcement entities, have investigated the death of Franchesca Alvarado and her case remains open.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the NJSP Major Crime South Unit at 609-882-2000, ext. 3353.