Eighteen-year-old Marizela Perez disappeared on the afternoon of March 5 and hasn't been seen since. Last night, Perez's family, friends, and supporters--including her cousin, news pundit Michelle Malkin--gathered for a benefit concert and remembrance at the University of Washington's Ethnic Cultural Center. It seemed more than a little odd when a man dressed all in black and wearing a ski mask first stepped onstage to a say a few words, but by the end of his speech the crowd was genuinely impressed that a Real Life Superhero is helping hunt for their missing loved one.
Before he got up on stage, Black Knight explained that he read about Perez's disappearance in the news a few days after it happened. He says he volunteers--both in and out of costume--for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and was moved by the case.
"I contacted some of the family on Facebook," Knight said. "I started learning about her habits, where she got her haircut, things like that, and following up as best I could. It's been hard. We haven't had any leads in the past few weeks."
Perez was last seen on a surveillance camera inside the Safeway on University Way. She had plans to meet some friends at the library but never showed up. She was reported missing the next day. Police and volunteers initially searched parks in the University District and later Discovery Park. Perez's family hired a private investigator, and the search was eventually expanded to Southern California, where Perez, a New Jersey native, has relatives. Her case twice appeared on America's Most Wanted, but to no avail.
The months of uncertain grieving have clearly taken a toll on Perez's family. Last night, after a slideshow of photos and videos portrayed Perez as a carefree college student who loved art, fashion, and singing along to Disney cartoons, there was hardly a dry eye left in the auditorium. The mood lightened after several musical acts, most of which featured UW students involved in the school's Filipino community.
When the guy in the intimidating outfit--Black Knight--finally took the stage, he explained that a family friend asked him to join in the evening's events. He spoke briefly and poignantly, saying that the search "is not just about one person, it's about one person and all the people she touched along the way." He also said he has spread the word to other Real Life Superheroes in Vancouver, B.C., and San Francisco to be on the lookout for Perez.
Standing outside later, Black Knight noted that he's been active in the Seattle and Tacoma area since 2006, four years before the Phoenix Jones media frenzy, but he focuses more on community service work and doesn't seek publicity. "I've always been kind of nervous about that," he says. "A lot of us try to remain anonymous and obscure."
photo by Keegan Hamilton It's super of Black Knight and Skyman to help search for Marizela Perez.
Black Knight was accompanied at the event by Skyman, another lesser-known Real Life Seattle Superhero, who says he is committed to homeless outreach. Both men, however, noted they were headed out later in the evening to "patrol the streets for crime" in either Seattle or Tacoma.
Presumably that patrol entailed keeping their eyes peeled for Marizela Perez, known to her friends and family as M.M. As Daily Weekly reported back in March, Perez is:
"Asian female, 5'5" tall, 110 lbs, skinny build, asymmetrical bob with short bangs and brown/red highlights hairstyle, tattoo on left inner arm with the words 'lahat ay magiging maayos,' She was last seen wearing denim jeans, light brown suede laced boots, possibly wearing green eye contacts, possibly carrying a plaid backpack with a Macbook Pro laptop, taking medication for depression."
Anyone with knowledge of Perez's whereabouts should contact Seattle Police's missing persons bureau or contact her family via their website, FindMarizela.com.
Perez's tattoo--"lahat ay magiging maayos"--is Tagalog for "All will be well." The words were repeated often last night and hung on a hand-painted banner behind the stage.