Mother of Girl Missing for 20 Years Breaks Her Silence

Ly Yan Li
Ly Yan Li
Jie Zhao Li disappeared on February 11, 1988
Jie Zhao Li disappeared on February 11, 1988
Artist rendering of how Jie Zhao Li might look today
Artist rendering of how Jie Zhao Li might look today

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Decades after her young daughter mysteriously vanished, an Oahu woman says she still has hope.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Jie Zhao Li's disappearance. Her mother has never spoken publicly about the case, until now.

Twenty years after her daughter went missing, Ly Yan Li's tears still flow.

"Her pain is as sharp today as it was 20 years ago," she said through interpreter and family attorney, Wilson Lu.

Through an interpreter, she describes her daughter, Jie Zhao, as bright, obedient and full of life.

The 12-year-old was last seen in Nuuanu February 11, 1988. She was going door-to-door selling fundraising tickets for a school trip.

"She sits by the phone every night," Lu said for Li. "The phone number is still the same as it was 20 years ago."

The case gripped Oahu residents. Li says she's still touched by the more than 2,000 volunteers who took part in the original search.

"We expended more than 39,000 man hours during the eight-week period in 1988," Lu said.

"Any of us who were police officers back 20 years ago, I mean, this case sticks out," Capt. Frank Fujii, Honolulu Police Department, said. "And it's one that we all remember."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released a new age-progressed picture of what the now 32-year-old might look like today.

Decades later, her mother still waits for her safe return.

"Twenty years to her seems like 100 years," Lu said for Li. "And it's very, it's very fresh. It's a fresh issue for her."

"Mrs. Li is still hopeful for good news regarding her daughter," Lu said.

If you have any information that could help this long-suffering mother, call Honolulu police.