As the search for a missing Delaware County woman continues, police are hoping her children can provide clues as to where she might be. Police questioned her 7 and 11-year-old daughters Wednesday night in the midst of increased suspicion towards the woman's husband.
Jose Rodriguez claimed his wife, Melissa Ortiz-Rodriguez, 30, told him over the phone on April 19 that she was heading to Newark, N.J. to stay with friends. Rodriguez told police he sent her a text message on April 21 after not hearing from her all weekend but never got a response.
"I ended up taking the kids to school on Monday," said Rodriguez, who police say was separated from his wife and in the process of selling their Collingdale home.
"She was going to pick them up and she didn't pick them up," he said. "The school called because they hadn't heard from her."
It was then, he said, that he realized something was wrong.
Police also say she never showed up to her new job which she was supposed to start on April 22.
Police contacted the friends in Newark who Melissa was supposed to meet up with. The friends told police they spoke to Melissa on April 18 around noon. Melissa told them she would be staying at their house for the weekend. The friends expected another phone call on April 19 around 3 p.m. but say they never heard from her.
"She never arrived at her friend's house in Newark," said Collingdale Police Chief Robert Adams. "She never showed up."
Police also say Melissa’s car was still parked at her home on the 400 block of Lafayette Avenue in Collingdale, Pa.
Melissa's friends posted fliers on light posts and went door-to-door in her neighborhood.
"Leaving without her kids, that never will happen because she is too attached to her kids," said Pauline Rodriguez, Melissa's friend. "Why would she go and her kids aren't there?"
Adams says it's possible the woman is safe and simply doesn't want to be found. He's asking that she call authorities if that's the case.
Friends continued to search for her near her home.
After initially cooperating with police, investigators say Jose Rodriguez stopped talking to them and recently hired an attorney.
"Mr. Rodriguez is as concerned as everybody else about the whereabouts of his child's mother," said his attorney Michael Diamondstein. "He's done everything he can to assist the police."
Investigators say Rodriguez left his home in Collingdale and went to New Jersey with his children. They also say he tried to transfer the children to a school in North Jersey the day he reported Melissa was missing.
"He has not handled it the way I would've handled it if it was my wife missing," said Adams. "He did not participate in the canvassing yesterday. He has cut interviews short to television stations. He has taken the kids and he's up in New Jersey somewhere. He showed up over the weekend briefly, took some things from the house and then disappeared again."
Kathy Bauer, Melissa's neighbor, says Jose claimed police had found her while she spoke with him on Saturday.
"I was so happy to see him," said Bauer. "He said they found her and were questioning her. But he wasn't real excited, just nonchalant."
Police didn't find her however and say they are "aware of the husband's false reports to others."
On Monday, police searched his truck, hauling it from Northern New Jersey to Delaware County. Police say they're processing it for any evidence indicating that a crime occurred.
"This is a truck assigned to him," said Adams. "We want to do some investigations on maybe the GPS, things in the truck, and go from there."
On Wednesday, police interviewed Rodriguez's two daughters, hoping to gain answers as to where their mother is.
"The goal tonight was to bring both girls in so they could speak to the police," said Anthony Gil, an attorney representing the children. "They want to know where their mom is and when it comes down to it, we're trying to get to the bottom of that."
Family members say the young girls were the last people to see Rodriguez before she went missing.
Rodriguez stands 5-foot-4-inches tall and weighs around 130 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
She was last seen wearing a yellow flowered dress and glasses.
If you have any information on her whereabouts, please call Collingdale Police at 610-586-0502.