The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local News

September 28, 2012

Missing woman has ties to area

PALESTINE — Family members of a 31-year-old Houston mother who has been missing for a week and has ties to Anderson and Houston counties are frantically searching for anyone with information on her whereabouts while also holding out hope that she will be found safe and unharmed.

“I do hope that by the grace of God that we do find her,” her brother, David Chaffin of Elkhart, told the Herald-Press Friday. “Imagine what we are going through. If there is anything that anybody can report or do to help, it would greatly be appreciated. Imagine if it was your own sister or daughter. Please just keep praying for us because we are going to need it.”

Michelle Leigh Chaffin Warner, a 1999 Grapeland High School graduate, reportedly disappeared from her Houston apartment complex (7222 Bellerive Dr. in Houston) between 11 p.m. and midnight Friday, Sept. 21 after having a fight with her 3-year-old son’s father, Mark Castellano.

According to her family, Castellano says Warner left on foot and did not return.

The family says that Castellano then took Warner’s car and their son, Cayden, and left the apartment, heading to his family’s home in Odessa. Castellano has been in contact with the authorities and is planning to return to Houston, according to David Chaffin.

Warner, the daughter of Donna Malone of Marshall and Walter Chaffin of Elkhart, has not contacted any of her family or close friends since the day she disappeared, prompting the family to contact the police.

“My dad and I went to Houston Tuesday after not being able to get a hold of her,” David Chaffin said.

While in Houston, the family members met with police officials about her disappearance.

The family is concerned about bleached spots in the carpet in the apartment’s living room that they were able to view from the front door entrance while with the police, David Chaffin said. The family also noticed that the hard drive had been pulled out of Warner’s computer.

“She just started a new job as a paralegal for the past week and a half and was gloating about that job,” David Chaffin said. “I don’t see her screwing that up by disappearing and I definitely don’t see her leaving her child.”

According to her brother, on the night of her disappearance, Warner had gone out to dinner with an ex-boyfriend who she was now just friends with. They returned to the apartment together, with the ex-boyfriend coming inside the apartment and sitting on the floor to play with her son.

“He left a little before midnight. That’s the last time a person I trust saw her alive and well,” David Chaffin said.

According to her family, Warner was temporarily living with Castellano until she got a few paychecks so she could move out on her own.

Warner had sent her brother an e-mail earlier that night, one he didn’t return until later on that weekend.

“She was just in Palestine last week, Sept. 18, for the birth of my little girl,” David Chaffin said. “She was there for that, she was fine.”

While the Houston Police Department is currently telling family members they didn’t find any sign of foul play, the department’s missing persons and homicide division were contacted.

In the past, her brother has seen people passing out missing person flyers or wearing t-shirts, but said it doesn’t hit home until you are personally affected.

“In the back of your mind it’s always a comfort to know it’s not you, until you are them,” Chaffin said. “Then is like you are in a very surreal, bad dream that you can’t wake up from. It’s a grueling process. You can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t focus. You just feel like you are spinning in circles chasing a pony’s tail with your hands tied and nothing you can do except wait.”

The entire family has been having a hard time since Warner disappeared.

“They are going to be in the same state as any decent parent. No matter how old your child is, they are still your child,” David Chaffin said. “All you can do is picture your child as a little baby that you raised from the ground up.”

Her parents have tried to stay focused and hold out hope.

“When they have time to sit down and think about it, they lose it. My dad is probably the most rational man I know, though a little eccentric. He keeps going back and forth, letting the wheels turn, playing out every scenario to completely losing composure, which is very unusual,” David Chaffin said. “Mom is pretty much the same — doing everything in her power to stay preoccupied and get the word out about Michelle. All you have to hang on to is hope and it’s hard to hang on to it until tomorrow.”

David Chaffin said he believes that Michelle was the victim of foul play and has had a “bad” feeling since he heard of her disappearance.

“I’m not directly accusing anyone, but there are things that look suspicious to me,” David Chaffin said. “If Michelle does pop up out of the blue, even if she’s mad or angry with us, as long as she’s breathing, we don’t care.”

Warner is 5 feet, 6 inches with a slender build, weighing between 125 and 130 pounds. She has blue eyes and dark brown shoulder-length hair with a slight red tint to it. She has a dolphin tattoo on one of her shoulders and a  small butterfly tattoo on one of her feet. She also has a small stud nose ring on the right side of her nose.

Texas EquuSearch has now joined the search for her. She also is the mother of a 11-year-old daughter.

Anyone with information regarding Warner’s whereabouts is asked to call Texas EquuSearch at 281-309-9500, David Chaffin at 903-724-9049 or the Houston Police Department.

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