April 15, 2020 was the last day that Stephanie Mayorga and her fiancée, Paige Escalera, were seen alive. The couple was classified as “missing persons” for 19 days after their fatal car accident. Over a year after this tragedy, the Wilmington Police Department (WPD) is still being scrutinized for its massive delay in finding the women’s bodies.
On May 14, 2020, Deputy Chief Alex Sotelo held a press conference confirming the WPD discovered the car with the two dead women inside on May 4. That announcement was made, despite a witness calling 911 and reporteing seeing their 2013 Dodge Dart run off the road moments after it occurred.
Sotelo claimed that the search lasted more than two weeks for several reasons. First, he emphasized that the couple was not reported missing until April 19. Then, Sotelo stressed that there were “no obvious signs of a wreck. The only evidence of the crash was a faint tire imprint near the curb, as well as scuffmarks on the curb itself.” This was contested by friends and family of the two women, who pointed to the 911 call on April 15, at 11:45 p.m. In the press conference, Sotelo professed that police, firefighters and the EMS crew surveyed the area for only eight minutes, determining that there was nothing that warranted further investigation and “there were no skid marks and no debris.”
A Facebook page titled “Missing Girls: Paige Escalera & Stephanie Mayorga” was started by the couple’s family members as a way to garner information on the women’s whereabouts. Once the discovery of their bodies was made, most of the members were shocked and heartbroken, leaving messages that indicated as much.
That cop completely disregarded the eyewitness,” wrote one. “So many questions swirl now. Could they have been saved? I’m incredibly disgusted at their lack of investigation and follow up.”
“Just as we had suspected, they didn’t take the 911 caller seriously. Cannot believe the officer didn’t even get out of the car to search. It’s no wonder they were only there a total of eight minutes,” a friend posted.
The couple’s sexual orientation has not been addressed by the Wilmington Police Department but does not seem to have any bearing on the case.
Wilmington’s LGBTQ community, however, continues to question whether or not Escalera and Mayorga’s sexual orientation and race played a factor in the delay of the eventual discovery of the wreckage and their bodies, which had remained inside the car for over two weeks.
Sotelo has remained adamant there was no wrong doing in the initial investigation, pointing out that it was later discovered the car battery broke in half on impact, which shut off any lights or sounds that could have made the crash visible to police and that thick foliage at the back of the car completely covered the taillights and prevented any reflection from searchlights.
“This crash happened in the blink of an eye,” Sotelo explained.”From the time the vehicle hit the curb to the time of the collision, only 0.99 seconds elapsed.”
Investigators believe that the vehicle was traveling over 100 miles an hour on Independence Boulevard when it hit the curb to the left of Wilmington’s Watermark Marina entrance, and likely went airborne, completely clearing the ground by about 20 feet.
While it has been a year since their deaths, the love and support their parents felt for the two women as daughters and as a soon-to-be-married couple is evident in this post from their Facebook page:
Official statement from Stephanie Mayorga & Paige Escalera’s parents
It is with our deepest sorrow that we inform you all of the untimely death of our beloved daughters, Paige Escalera and Stephanie Mayorga. We are all heartbroken and trying to process the devastating news. We want to thank each and every one of you for all of your amazing support and love. It meant so much to us and will never be forgotten…
Thank you and God bless. Be safe, be kind and love one another.
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