Search continues for Brazilian student who vanished after leaving Newark bar 4 years ago
February 28, 2010, 8:00AM
NEWARK — Joan Petruski’s life mission is to find missing people, but the case of Carla Vicentini, a Brazilian student who vanished after leaving a Newark bar four years ago, is personal to her.
At the time, Petruski, who runs the Kristen Foundation in North Carolina, promised the mother of the missing girl that she would work relentlessly to discover what happened.
Carla Vicentini’s mother, Tania, lives in Brazil and calls Petruski her "voice, arms and heart in the U.S."
"I want answers to her disappearance," said Petruski, her voice quivering. "I want to bring her home, whether it’s rescue or recovery. I refuse to go with recovery right now."
To aid their search, the foundation has paid for a billboard to be erected Monday on McCarter Highway, just south of Fulton Street. The 10-by-22-foot billboard, which will remain on display for the next month, shows a smiling Vicentini and offers a reward for information leading to her location.
Vicentini, and friends of the family, hope the billboard reminds law enforcement officials that Carla is still missing and refreshes the public’s memories about her and what they saw the night of Feb. 9, 2006 in a bar in Newark’s Ironbound.
"It seems like the case is stagnant," said Julio Letrari, a Newark resident and friend of the Vicentini family. "Even if her daughter is dead, she would like to find out and see her for the last time. She doesn’t want to live with this question mark."
Carla Vicentini, a 22-year-old engineering student, arrived in the United States in January 2006 as part of a cultural exchange program.
She got a job at the Mediterranean Manor in the Ironbound and moved into an apartment on Ferry Street that belonged to a family friend.
Shortly after moving to Newark, her friend Maria Eduarda, moved there as well and began working as a cocktail waitress at Adega Bar and Grill on Ferry Street.
Authorities said on Feb. 9, a male friend drove Vicentini to Adega’s job. Vicentini had changed from her work clothes and had the bag of clothes with her at the bar. Details of what followed are sketchy. Some witnesses say they saw Vicentini walk home alone from the bar, while another said she got into a car with a stranger.
At the time, police said Vicentini had to have returned to the apartment because the bag of work clothes were later found there. All of her possessions remained in the apartment, including her passport.
Newark FBI spokesperson Bryan Travers said the case remains active and that Vicentini’s information is listed on the Newark FBI web site. He urges anybody with information to come forward, even if the facts may seem insignificant.
Newark police did not return repeated requests for comments on the case.
Carla Vicentini is described as about 5-foot-7, 140 pounds with blue eyes and blond hair. She has a tattoo on her stomach of a red chameleon and a tattoo on her back of a dark gray angel with open wings. She also has multiple piercings in her ears, a pierced naval and tongue. Police say she was last seen wearing a blue Hugo Boss coat, blue jeans and white shirt.
Tania Vicentini said she needs answers, but knows in her heart her daughter is not alive.
"I think that Carla isn’t alive because she would never stay more than two days without contacting the family," said Vicentini, who lives in Brazil. "Someone destroyed her dream (getting a chance to know a different country)."
Anyone with information about her is urged to call (973) 792-3000.