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Maya Millete’s family, friends continue the search for missing mom: “I want her to be


This article was originally published on Feb. 18, 2022. It was updated on July 22, 2023.

Maya Millete, a young wife and mother of three disappeared from her Southern California home in January 2021. From almost the beginning, Maya’s family and friends grew suspicious of her husband Larry.  Investigators say the couple had been having marital troubles and shortly before Maya’s disappearance, Larry had been contacting spellcasters to have a hex put on his wife so that she would stay in the marriage. Where is Maya Millete?  

A DESPERATE SEARCH

More than a year has gone by since 39-year-old Maya May Millete, mother of three young children, vanished in Chula Vista, California.

Maricris Drouaillet: I still have hope. I still have that hope that we’ll find her alive.

Maya Millete, a mother of threee, was last seen in January 7, 2021 in Chula Vista, California.

Maricris Drouaillet


Maya’s sister, Maricris, and her husband Richard Drouaillet have fought hard so Maya’s disappearance doesn’t become a cold case.

Richard Drouaillet: It’s been a really, really tough year for the whole family … we still don’t have answers yet.

Maya was 13 years old when she immigrated to the United States from the Philippines with her parents and five siblings in 1995. Maricris says her sister thrived in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the family settled to build a new life.

Maricris Drouaillet: She’s always been, you know, the smart one. And — she’s very active at school. … education — it’s very important to the family. … I’ve always been so proud of her.

Maya met her future husband Larry Millete when they were both working at a fast-food restaurant in Honolulu. Larry’s family had also immigrated from the Philippines. When Larry turned 18 and joined the Navy, the couple decided to get married. 

Jonathan Vigliotti | CBS News correspondent: They were so young.

Maricris Drouaillet: Yeah.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Teenagers.

Maricris Drouaillet: Yes …  She’s the first one to get married so it was a shock for everyone, but we respected her decision.

Larry and Maya Millete

Maricris Drouaillet


Maya and Larry moved to Southern California and built their careers working for the Navy. Larry was an optician at the Naval Medical Center, and Maya worked as a supervisor contract specialist at Naval Base San Diego.

Claudia Julao: She was my mentor from day one.  

Allison Alexander: She was like this little, tiny person but she was a big personality.

Claudia Julao and Allison Alexander worked with Maya at the base and became friends.

Claudia Julao: We actually negotiate contracts for the U.S. Navy. … And she was very good at it. … I used to you know joke around with her because she had a photographic memory.

Allison Alexander: I had a lot of respect for her. … She was a very strong and confident leader. A lot of the women in the office really looked up to her.

Claudia Julao: There was no glass ceiling. We could get wherever we wanted, didn’t matter where we came from.

Maya and Larry decided to wait 10 years before starting a family. The couple eventually welcomed two daughters and a son.

Maricris Drouaillet: It’s joy to see them, you know that they have their own family, too. … We’re always out camping … We’re always outdoors.

Richard Drouaillet: Larry was a good dad … always attentive to the kids, great parents.

Jonathan Vigliotti: What kinda mother was she?

Maricris Drouaillet: Very caring, loving mother. She, hands on. … She’s always teaching them somethin’, especially, you know, music. … she has some videos with her son … singing with her.

Richard Drouaillet: Word by word. Word by word. Brings us to tears every time we watch it.

Claudia Julao: Her kids were everything. … She enjoyed her kids. 

In early January 2021, Maya was focused on planning a ski trip to Big Bear for her daughter’s birthday. But her family grew concerned when she suddenly stopped communicating on January 7.

Maricris Drouaillet: For her not to tell us … what’s gonna happen for her daughter’s birthday, you know, that was a big deal.

Maricris says when their brother J.R. drove over to check on Maya the next day, her husband Larry told him Maya had been in the bedroom for several hours. J.R. knocked on the door but got no response. 

Maricris Drouaillet: He kinda just thinks, “OK, maybe she’s just, maybe she’s sleeping” … Larry did say that they had an argument. … He left it at that.

Maricris Drouaillet: We believed Larry … they had an argument and she just, she just wanna be left alone.

The following day, when there was still no news from Maya, Maricris and Richard drove over to the Millete house.

Richard Drouaillet: When we walked in, the house was a mess which I’ve never seen their house messy … and it was cold. … It was January … and he had the AC running, which was really odd.

This time, Larry told them Maya was out.

Jonathan Vigliotti: So, Larry says Maya’s been where?

Richard Drouaillet: Hiking. She went hiking.

Suspicious that something wasn’t right, Maricris reported her sister missing to the Chula Vista Police Department that night.  

Jonathan Vigliotti: How did the police react? 

Maricris Drouaillet: They sent — three officers … went through the house. … They questioned us …

Maricris and Richard were upset with what they say was a lack of concern from the police.

Richard Drouaillet: It seemed like there was no urgency from the police department to investigate it properly.

By January 10, Maya had now been missing for three days. Her family gathered at her home to celebrate her daughter’s birthday, hoping against hope.

Maricris Drouaillet (sobbing): We’re all, like, looking at the door, hoping she’ll walk in on her daughter’s birthday. She never did. I felt so bad … After that she said, “Mommy didn’t show up for my birthday.” I didn’t know how to comfort her.

As Maya’s family tried to keep some normalcy for the sake of the children, Richard was watching Larry during the party.

Richard Drouaillet: Just laid back, wearing his Navy sweats on a Sunday, no shoes.

Richard Drouaillet says he was watching Larry during the party. ” Larry had no concern whatsoever on his face for his missing wife.  … Not even for his daughter’s birthday.”

Maricris Drouaillet


Richard Drouaillet: Larry had no concern whatsoever on his face for his missing wife.  … Not even for his daughter’s birthday. 

That night, Claudia got the distressing news that Maya was missing and drove over to the Millete house. By now the birthday party had turned into a search party.

Claudia Julao: So, they were outside with babies and blankets, trying to look for their sister, their daughter. … Her parents are elderly … The brothers and the brother-in-law were out knocking on doors, giving out flyers.

Claudia Julao: He had no interest in helping.

As word spread that Maya was nowhere to be found, more friends stepped in trying to help.

Billy Little: My wife… Lou was working at the 32nd Street Naval Base. … said that a friend of hers went missing. … the family is concerned … would you help them? …, somebody asks for help, you just do it, right?

Billy Little: So, if she was still alive, I needed to get to her quickly. … that’s why I went straight to the last place she was seen, which was that house … I had no idea that it would turn into what it was.

A TREASURE TROVE OF CLUES

On January 11, 2021, four days after Maya Millete was last heard from, attorney Billy Little – a former criminal defense investigator for the U.S. Navy – decided to step into the missing person’s case.

Billy Little: I knew what had to be done, and I did it.

Billy Little: I went straight to where the last place she was seen, which was that house.

Little wanted to talk to Larry Millete. Amongst other things, he had found it odd that Maya’s husband wasn’t the one who initially called the Chula Vista Police Department.

Billy Little: In fact, when the family wanted to call 911, he discouraged it.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Were there police around also investigating at this point? No?

Billy Little: No. According to the family, the police had come. He had given them I guess the same story.

Larry Millete gave Maya’s family different accounts about where she could have gone, from hiking to visiting wine country. But according to Maya’s family, friends and colleagues at the naval base where Maya negotiated contracts for the U.S. Navy, she was not the kind of person who would just take off.  

Maricris Drouaillet


In news reports at the time, a Chula Vista Police spokesperson stated that Larry was being cooperative, they were treating it as a missing person’s case and had found no indication of foul play. Little says after he showed Larry his naval civilian ID, he let him in.

Billy Little: I started looking for things that I thought might be suspicious in the house.

Just like Maricris and Richard, he noticed something strange.

Billy Little: Most of the windows in the house were open. … It was clear he was trying to air the house out.

Little knew from Maya’s family that the couple had had a fight on the day she was last heard from.

Billy Little: I was … looking to see … if there’s any damage in the house that would indicate some domestic violence.

Billy Little: I’m also looking for defensive wounds on his hands, which I don’t see.

But Little says he did see something outside the Millete bedroom.

Billy Little: We went upstairs where her bedroom was, the first thing I noticed was the hole in the door right next to the handle … cause it’s right in the area where, if you need access to a locked room, you’re going to punch right through there.

Billy Little: And I touched the patch and it felt new; it felt wet. … I made a comment to Larry about, “Hey what’s this?” And he says, “Oh yeah, Maya punched a hole … in the door there.”

Inside the bedroom, Little says he noticed another hole on the wall that also appeared to have been recently repaired.

Billy Little: That would’ve been too high for Maya to punch because she was smaller … and I said, “Larry, what about this hole?” … And he said, “Oh yeah, she got mad and punched that, too.”

Jonathan Vigliotti: Larry’s creating a picture here of a woman who is violent … Is this adding up to you? 

Billy Little: No … none of this story is adding up.

Jonathan Vigliotti: When you left the house that day after collecting those puzzle pieces, what were you thinking?

Billy Little: I thought Larry killed her and we need to find out what he did and what he did with the body.

Billy Little: But … I wasn’t ready to tell Maricris yet because I didn’t know, right? I could be wrong.

Little began canvassing the neighborhood and knocking on doors to track down home security footage to see if anything suspicious was caught on camera around the Millete house.

Billy Little: So, I knew we had to get that quickly and preserve it quickly.

Jonathan Vigliotti: Time was of the essence.

Billy Little: Oh god, yes. 

What little found was a treasure trove of clues. He says a camera from a neighboring house recorded the voices of the Millete children playing in the yard, at 1030 p.m., on the night their mom was last heard from.

Billy Little: On … a school night … and it’s cold outside … and the weather — I believe it was in the … high 40s that night.

Another camera recorded Larry backing their Lexus into the garage at 5:58 a.m. the next morning.

Billy Little: So, you can’t see what’s going on, but you can see it going in the garage.

Larry then leaves the house at 6:45 a.m. and doesn’t return home for almost 11-and-a-half hours.  

Jonathan Vigliotti: You could have … moved on. Why did you stay on this case and take matters into your own hands?

Billy Little: In my mind, my job wasn’t nearly complete.

Jonathan Vigliotti: It was just beginning.

Billy Little: It was just beginning (tears up) … When I see Maricris and I see her crying, I’m just like, I got to figure this out.

Billy Little: It’s just not in me to quit, so I don’t.

As Billy Little continued investigating, Maricris and Richard turned to local media and organized the first search for Maya on the hiking trails behind her house.

Richard Drouaillet: We’re desperate for answers … We wanted action and we wanted to do something. Stayin’ at home, sitting down wasn’t gonna bring us answers.

Aleida Wahn: Her sister goes on television and is begging the public for help, “help me find my missing sister” and that really moved people.  

Aleida Wahn, an attorney and true-crime author, saw Maya’s case on the news and started following it closely.

Aleida Wahn: You realize that this was somebody that was very vibrant … was really out there living her life. And that is part of why it’s all so shocking that she’s missing … It shocks your conscience. 

As the case gathered steam in the media, on January 23, 2021, two weeks after Maya’s disappearance, the Chula Vista Police Department searched the Millete house.

Aleida Wahn: And what they did find was that Larry had a lot of firearms. They seized two Glock handguns, a rifle and a shotgun. … and they found that he was in possession of an illegal assault weapon.

Two weeks after Maya’s disappearance, the Chula Vista Police Department searched the Millete house. Investigators had found this image of Larry’s guns on his phone. They seized some of Larry’s firearms.

San Diego Superior Court


Investigators also downloaded images from Larry’s phone. Three days later, the police were back.



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