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Family members and supporters of missing Chula Vista mother May “Maya” Millete gathered Saturday evening to mark the first anniversary of her disappearance and pray for her remains to be found.

Millete’s husband, Larry Millete, pleaded not guilty in October to murder and felony possession of an assault weapon. His wife, a 39-year-old contract specialist for the U.S. Navy and mother of three, was last seen Jan. 7, 2021, and is now presumed dead.

Wearing a black face covering with Maya Millete’s picture and phone number to call with tips about her whereabouts, the missing woman’s older sister, Jane Fetalvero, said a prayer during the vigil Saturday.

“To lose a daughter, sister, mother, friend, family — near and far — is unbearable, and not knowing what happened is much more painful,” Fetalvero said in the prayer.

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Fetalvero also asked God to bless and forgive Larry Millete, who, she said, “does not know what he is doing, as he has been controlled by an evil spirit.”

“Touch his heart so that he will tell the truth and the truth will set us free,” she prayed.

A button and candles on display at a prayer vigil for Maya Millete

A button and candles on display at a prayer vigil for Maya Millete in honor of the first anniversary of her disappearance Saturday.

(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

More than 100 people gathered for the vigil in Chula Vista Community Park. Some of the attendees wore lime green T-shirts with “#TeamMaya Search” printed on the front and back. They were among the volunteers who have spent months searching for her remains in remote areas of San Diego County.

As the sun sank behind the park’s tennis courts, a friend of Maya’s sang “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle, a song that vigil organizer Lucy Cordero said had become something akin to the “Team Maya” theme song.

At the vigil, volunteers handed out an assortment of small candles during musical numbers by a local group, Undercover Jams. Later, they handed out 40 neon green balloons for people to release at 5:01 p.m. to signify Maya’s birthday, May 1.

Neon green was her favorite color, and they were releasing 40 balloons because that is how old she would now be, Cordero said.

Cordero said that her hope of finding Maya alive faded with the arrest, but she and other members of the missing woman’s community are not going to stop searching and praying until she is home.

“It’s so many emotions,” she said of the arrest. “Like, ‘Yes, somebody finally got arrested! Maybe we’re going somewhere now and we’ll find her quicker!’ But it hasn’t happened yet.”

Police and prosecutors allege Larry Millete killed his wife on or around Jan. 7, 2021, the day she was last seen. The last call she made before her phone went dark early Jan. 8 was to a divorce attorney.

Family members and friends release balloons in honor of Maya Millete.

Family members and friends release balloons in honor of Maya Millete.

(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Also the morning of Jan. 8, surveillance footage showed Larry Millete backing his SUV up to the garage at an angle out of the camera’s view, then driving away with their 4-year-old son, authorities said in court filings. He was gone for more than 11 hours and his cellphone was off or not with him the entire time.

Investigators told the court they were unable to account for his whereabouts during the hours he was away from home Jan. 8.

At a press conference in October, District Attorney Summer Stephan said investigators suspected Maya’s desire to leave her marriage triggered the alleged killing.

More details emerged later in declarations investigators filed in court.

Investigators told the court Maya wanted to leave her husband after 20 years of marriage, but he wanted to stay together. Larry allegedly turned to online businesses that provide so-called spellcasters. He allegedly paid them to cast spells to make his wife fall back in love with him and stay married.

By late December 2020, Larry’s requests had taken a darker turn, investigators alleged, and he started asking for spells that would force her to stay with him.

On New Year’s Eve 2020, he sent a message to spellcasters while he was apparently riding dirt bikes and off-road racing in the desert with his wife and children.

“Can you hex to have her hurt enough that she will have to depend on me and need my help,” the message read, according to court records.

The day Maya disappeared, her husband allegedly sent a desperate message to spellcasters, according to court records. “I think she wants me to snap,” the messages read. “I’m shaking inside ready to snap.”

Bonita Martinez, a defense attorney representing Larry, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in October that prosecutors had not provided key pieces of evidence to support the charges — namely, they had not located Maya or found remains.

Prosecutors have said they have enough evidence to support the murder charge, even without her body.

Authorities have asked anyone with information about the case or anyone who may have seen a black 2015 Lexus GX460 with personalized plates on Jan. 8, 2021, to contact authorities. Tipsters may call Chula Vista police at (619) 691-5151 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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