[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
In the wake of the Gabby Petito coverage yet again exposing the American media’s long-standing issue with “missing white woman syndrome,” many outlets have started to shine light on more missing persons of color.
Among these many disconcerting reports is the case of Bay Area toddler Arianna Fitts (above), who has been missing since February 2016 following her mother’s murder.
CNN reports the search for the child began in April 2016, when her mother, Nikki, was found slaughtered and left in a shallow grave in San Francisco’s McLaren Park. There was no sign of the then-2-year-old at the time, and Arianna’s family has been struggling with the gut-wrenching mystery ever since.
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Arianna’s aunt, Tess Fitts, told CNN recently through tears:
“I do believe that Arianna is still alive, and it would mean everything to me to know where she is and to find her. I wait for that day, every single day. I believe that day will come.”
While police initially had some leads, none led to Arianna, and no charges have been made in her disappearance or in her mother’s murder.
But Tess has her own theories. She told the outlet:
“I think that Arianna was taken because someone wanted her. Someone fell in love with her and they wanted her as their own… It breaks my heart that Arianna is not with her mom and not with her family, but it also breaks my heart even more that I know that Nikki wants nothing more than for Arianna to be with us, to be home.”
Unfortunately, went she disappeared back in 2016, the missing toddler didn’t have the sustained media coverage that missing white women like Petito, Elizabeth Smart, or Natalee Holloway received.
When asked by CNN all these years later why she thought her niece was not a household name, Tess paused before replying:
“I honestly thought she was. It’s kind of surprising to me to know that she’s not.”
Tess said she chooses not to dwell on whether there might have been more media attention if her sister and her toddler niece were white. According to the concerned family member, the murder of her sister and the disappearance of Arianna, who she described as “a very energetic, bubbly and curious kid,” have to be linked, because no other scenario makes sense.
Arianna Fitts would now be eight years old, but she hasn’t been seen since 2016 when her mother was found dead in San Francisco, and CNN is shining new light on her case in hopes of a breakthrough. https://t.co/LseurX46Mq
— SFist (@SFist) November 10, 2021
She went on to say that Nikki would sometimes have Oakland-based babysitters care for her daughter overnight while she took late or early shifts at a Best Buy store in San Francisco, using public transport for the long commutes.
After Nikki was reported missing, police said she was “lured out” by a call to “go meet the babysitter.” It’s not clear when Nikki was last with her daughter, but the family said the pair were last seen together mid-February 2016.
The San Francisco Police Department said the case is still open and active — and if you know there are multiple ways to reach out, even anonymously.
Anyone who might have information on Arianna’s whereabouts or on her mother’s slaying are asked to contact the SFPD Homicide Unit at 415-553-1145, the SFPD Anonymous Tip Line at 415-575-4444, or text a tip to TIP 411 with SFPD at the beginning of the message.
[Image via FBI]