Where is Naomi Irion? A Walmart parking lot, a hooded suspect and a missing teenager
Jthere was nothing strange about Naomi Irion’s early Saturday morning routine.
The 18-year-old left the home she shared with her older brother in Fernley, Nevada, in Ugg boots, a gray cardigan over her Panasonic work shirt and her beloved iPhone in her hand, to the parking lot of a local Walmart.
It was a typical start for Ms. Irion, who got a job at Panasonic’s 94,000 square foot Reno campus after moving to western Nevada with her brother last year. They are two of seven siblings, including three boys recently adopted from Ukraine; Ms. Irion’s parents live and work in Pretoria, South Africa, where her mother is a teacher and her father works in the foreign service.
Ms Irion lived with her older brother, Casey Valley, a Navy veteran currently working as an engineer at Apple in nearby Sparks. After buying an energy drink at a gas station and parking at Walmart, she scrolled through social media on her phone until 5:23 a.m., records show. Then his activity stopped.
Mr. Valley sounded the first alarm.
He had gone to bed early that Saturday night; because his sister’s days began before sunrise, however, he didn’t think about the fact that she wasn’t there on Sunday morning.
But then she didn’t return on Sunday evening, and neither her friends nor her family had heard from her. Mr. Valley began calling jails and hospitals in every county, to no avail. Her father-in-law in South Africa, who has access to Ms Irion’s accounts, confirmed her last purchase was around 5am at a gas station near Walmart.
A friend of Mr Valley’s girlfriend was the one who suggested Walmart might have clues, he said.
“We found safety back at Walmart, and they were very helpful – and I’m very grateful to them for allowing us to barge in on them and showing us these footage,” Mr Valley said last week during an interview. ‘a press conference.
Footage showed her baby sister having an alarming interaction with a hooded man in the parking lot.
“That person said or did something to Naomi to get her to move from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side,” he said, noting that it was then “that I reported it as a kidnapping.”
He called Panasonic. Mrs. Irion had neither come to work nor called all weekend. The reality of the family was about to turn into a living nightmare.
The teenager’s car was found two days after she went missing, abandoned in an industrial area and showing signs of suspicious activity, authorities said.
His phone was last traced to an area near Wadsworth, less than three miles away; it has not been used since and authorities, despite numerous official and volunteer searches involving everything from ATVs to horses, have found no evidence of the device she used so devotedly.
There is video evidence, however – and it’s disturbing. In addition to security footage from Walmart that shows someone getting into Ms. Irion’s car, the sheriff’s department also released footage of the suspect beforehand – footage of him walking erratically past the store, cars and their headlights.
Attention also fell on a vehicle pictured nearby, a van that authorities believe the suspect had access to. It is a 2020 or newer Chevrolet four-door pickup truck in dark color with a price tag of at least $50,000, although the plates have yet to be identified.
Naomi Irion: Searching for missing woman as hooded man abducts her in Walmart parking lot
Ms Irion’s sister, Tamara Cartwright, has started a GoFundMe to raise money so she and other family members can travel to Nevada to search for the teenager. It has raised over $33,000 so far, and Mrs Cartwright and Mr and Mrs Irion arrived in Fernley from South Africa.
The sheriff’s department held a press conference on Tuesday, just hours before a planned vigil for the missing teenager in Fernley, where attendees are encouraged to wear rainbow colors, which Ms Irion loves.
On Tuesday morning, Mr Valley, Ms Irion’s mother, sister and 13-year-old brother all got choked up while speaking at the local press conference. They not only asked for information about the truck, but also pointed to social media and the role they may have played in its disappearance, as well as any clues they might reveal.
“What I’m really saying is if you have any information, you need to come forward,” Ms Cartwright said on Tuesday. “If you have any information on the vehicle, if you have any information on the suspect, if you have any information on my sister, I need you to come forward…immediately.”
She continued, “Don’t post about this without talking to law enforcement first; don’t do anything without talking to law enforcement first. It’s life or death for my sister.
“Life or death. You don’t need anyone’s approval to call law enforcement; it’s life or death for a beautiful, fun-loving, amazing sister, daughter, and friend.
“She was,” she says, before correcting herself to “she is,” “she’s just started her adult life. She hasn’t even gone to college yet. She has just finished high school.
Diana Irion, who spent 36 hours traveling from her home in South Africa, expressed fears on Tuesday that her daughter could be very far from the alleged abduction site.
“Because the incident happened so close to I-80, she could be anywhere — anywhere in the country,” Ms. Irion said.
Lyon County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Kusmerz also reiterated that multiple agencies were looking for Ms Irion “nationwide.”
“We’re releasing everything we can,” he said on Tuesday: “We know a lot more.”
Mr Valley urged anyone who has even been in contact in recent months with his teenage sister to share any information they may have.
“I’m appealing to everyone – maybe people who are on the other side of the law who might not be doing this anymore: we need your help. It’s a family. You also have a family.
The mother of the missing teenager, barely standing, said any information ‘could be vital to saving her life – and that’s our number one goal right now.
“Please save my daughter and bring her home.”