May 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

Close-knit family torn over disappearance

Within hours of Randa Jawhari failing to call her daughter as usual or answering her door the morning of Feb. 11, 2009, relatives filed a missing person report.

"We just knew that there was something not right," said her sister, Naheda Jawhari.

Randa Jawhari, 46, vanished from her apartment in Fenton, near Flint, the night after speaking with one of her seven siblings on the phone.

Earlier that evening her mother, Anisse Jawhari, stopped by while Randa was in the shower. Anisse Jawhari returned the next morning to find the clothes she had laid out for her daughter undisturbed.

Diagnosed as bipolar and battling health issues, Jawhari was unemployed and lived alone. At the time of her disappearance, Mattilyn, Jawhari's young daughter, was in her parents' care.

Jawhari usually called before the girl went to school, but when they never heard from her, relatives became worried.

At her apartment, little seemed out of place. Cigarettes and other items were untouched.

Jawhari did not drive and had recently stopped using her cellphone. On Valentine's Day, a taxi arrived at her apartment complex to pick her up for an outing, Naheda Jawhari said.

Relatives were unaware of major plans she might have had. Because of Mattilyn and health issues, Jawhari kept in close contact — often calling many times a day.

"That's why we don't think she just walked away on her own," her sister said.

Authorities searched her apartment complex, brought in a canine to follow her scent, pored over surveillance video, traced cellphone records and interviewed acquaintances, "but we still haven't come up with anything significant," said Fenton Police Det. Ron Skarzynski, who is heading the investigation.

Jawhari's relatives have created a website and Facebook page; talked to local media; turned to Crime Stoppers; and paid for a billboard.

They printed thousands of posters and sent them as far south as Florida — one of Randa's favorite places.

"We sent packets to every homeless shelter we could think of — doing anything we could think of to find my sister," Naheda Jawhari said.

Meanwhile, Mattilyn — whom Randa was "absolutely nuts" about, her aunt said — grows up without her mother. "When she went missing, it's like a bomb went off within our family," said her brother, Sam Jawhari. "We're a very close-knit family. … There's been nothing but turmoil there on."

For now, a family portrait Jawhari painted hangs at her parents' house, and some of her belongings are with siblings.

"You just try to hold on to whatever you can," Naheda Jawhari said.

"You just take whatever you can … but nothing is satisfying. Pictures don't even satisfy what your soul longs for. Nothing can replace a loved one. Nothing."

mhicks@detroitnews.com

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