Its been 20 days since anybody heard from Rita Kagawa.
The last person known to have spoken with the 53-year-old Spanaway woman was her ex-husband, who told her family they chatted May 18 about an upcoming court hearing, Pierce County sheriffs spokesman Ed Troyer said Wednesday.
Kagawas brother and sister-in-law reported her missing five days later, after hearing from her boss that she had missed three days of work.
On Wednesday, the Sheriffs Department announced it was investigating Kagawas disappearance as a homicide.
We believe with what we know about her character that shes not missing, Troyer said. It would be great if we were wrong, but were working this as a homicide until something tells us different.
Detectives have served warrants to search Kagawas vehicle and apartment, among other places, but declined to say what evidence had been collected. Neither would they identify possible suspects.
We havent ruled anybody out, Troyer said. We do have some paths to follow.
Kagawas sister-in-law, Linda Terronez, said she is concerned after learning the case is a homicide investigation but the family is not giving up hope. They are continuing to pass out fliers and search for any clues as to what happened to Kagawa.
It is very, very heartbreaking and scary, Terronez said. But until we know otherwise, our hope is that shes going to be found, hopefully safe.
At a May 23 court hearing, Kagawas ex-husband was ordered to pay her a $67,000 settlement, according to records. No details about the settlement were immediately available.
Kagawas boss called her family that same day to say she had missed work at the Walmart where she had been employed for about seven years stocking shelves.
Her brother and sister-in-law went to her apartment to check on her and found her vehicle out front. Detectives said nothing had been disturbed inside Kagawas home.
Investigators and Kagawas family said it is unusual for her to disappear without telling anyone where she is going. Her children a 12-year-old daughter who lives with her father and an adult son deployed in Afghanistan have not heard from her either.
Kagawa is described as Hispanic, 5 feet 3 inches tall and 120 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and charges filed against the person responsible for her disappearance. Tipsters can call 253-591-5959.