Gina and Jose Centeno, 50 and 53, have been arrested and are facing multiple counts of felony charges.
Trigger warning: Child abuse
There are many childless couples who see adoption as a blessing but there are also people who abuse the system, the children, and cause harm willingly. Feeling unsafe in one's own home can be traumatic for a child. It can scar them for life as well.
An estranged couple from California has become the main suspects in an investigation about a missing girl, who was last seen between 2010 and 2012. Gina and Jose Centeno, 50 and 53 respectively, adopted three siblings, Kaya Centeno and her sister, now 17, and her brother, now 15, in 2008. The 17-year-old and the 15-year-old faced "emotional, sexual and physical abuse that had occurred over an eight to ten year period of time," said a news release from Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. While investigating their abuse, the disappearance of Kaya came to light.
The family used to be residents of Rohnert Park before they were estranged. Kaya has been missing for eight to 10 years, which is when the abuse began for the other children as well. Kaya went missing and hasn't been heard from ever again by her siblings, who said she would have turned 18 in May 2020. She used to go to John Reed Elementary School until second grade, which is when she was withdrawn from school to be homeschooled, The Press Democrat quoted police as saying.
“We want to find Kaya,” Rohnert Park police Sgt. Keith Astley said. “We want to hear from anybody who knows Kaya. Have they seen Kaya? When was the last time they saw Kaya? Kaya was in the household and then she was not.”
The couple was arrested on August 19 and is facing multiple charges. They face aggravated kidnapping charges for moving the children to Mexico about 18 months earlier, according to People Magazine. Jose is facing nine felony charges alleging sexual abuse of the 17-year-old girl, who is identified as Jane Doe No. 1 in a 14-count complaint filed August 20 in Sonoma County Superior Court, reported the Press Democrat.
The investigation began after Mexican authorities contacted Child Protective Services (CPS), who sent a tip to Rohnert Park detectives about the alleged abuse. Kaya's siblings had been sent off to Mexico to live with relatives of the Centeno's. Neighbors of the relatives informed the Mexican authorities about the American children there. The children are in protective custody after alleging abuse by the parents. Gina and Jose also adopted twins and the adoptive mother had remained in the Rohnert Park home with the twins after they were estranged. The police are also investigating if the twins faced abuse.
The couple also hid the three previous children to access adoption assistance funding, according to The Press Democrat. Kaya's siblings were given an explanation about her absence which was not divulged by the police since it is an ongoing investigation and in its early stages.
Detectives and the FBI worked with CPS and the U.S. Embassy to ensure that the teens were brought back to Sonoma County. They were interviewed and during that investigation, the police realized that another child is missing. "The children said Kaya went missing from their Rohnert Park home approximately eight to 10 years ago and she has not been heard from or seen since," police were quoted by People Magazine.
The police have said that they found evidence that corroborates the abuse claims. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was able to develop a photo of what Kaya might look like now. Sgt. Keith Astley also added that he was not aware of any previous complaints against the Centenos before this. Their bail has been set at $18 million each.
Kaya, who went by Kaya Marie Centeno, may also be known as Kaya Whitney Kazzee, according to police. "The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety is asking for any information related to the whereabouts of Kaya Centeno or Kaya Kazzee. If you have seen Kaya or have any information, Please call the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety at 707-584-2612," the news release said.