Family holds out hope missing Delano woman is still alive

DELANO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - It's been more than one week since anyone last saw Erika Padron Lango alive.

The 26-year-old mother of four small children disappeared the night of Oct. 9.

"It's been a terrible week," said Franciela Guerrero, Erika's aunt. "We haven't been able to sleep ... it's just like a nightmare. We never imagined something like this was going to happen."

Family members are not standing by idle waiting for police to solve the case. They have been mobilizing with search parties since her disappearance. And, they are appealing to a higher power: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen."

Thursday evening, friends and strangers joined the family at a vigil to pray the rosary in the parking lot outside Lango's unit at the Sunnyview Apartments in Delano. They clutched the rosary beads and prayed in earnest. Among them was Trinidad Guerrero, Erika's grandmother.

"I raised her and this is extremely sad for me," said the grandmother. "My heart hurts very much to have lost her."

Despite her frail health and 73 years, the grandmother has joined others in the search for Lango. People have combed the outskirts of the city with shovels in hand searching for the missing mother.

"Every place we go and enter hoping that we can find something. And it's disappointing when we walk out of there and there's nothing," said Franciela Guerrero.

Delano police say Lango's husband, Julio Guerrero, told them he last saw his wife as she left their apartment to walk to a friend's house. She never made it.

Earlier that evening, Erika Lango was captured on surveillance video at a nearby convenience store. The video shows her inside the store talking on a cellphone. She makes a purchase and then exits the store and gets into an SUV driven by her husband.

Police say Julio Lango is "a person of interest" in the case. Erika Lango had a restraining order against her estranged husband. Julio Lango has refused to make any statements to the media, referring all inquiries to his attorney, but did not say who was his attorney.

Erika Lango's family continues the search and plan to continue the vigils as well. They welcome the public's help in searching for her.

The family said they meet every morning around 9 behind the Chevron gas station on County Line Road.

Though chances of finding Lango alive diminish with each passing day, at least one family member says she believes in miracles.

"Something in my chest, my heart ... tells me she's alive," said another aunt, Maria Guerrero. "They tell me she's alive, but I don't know where! The question is where? Where?"