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GARY — A teary-eyed Maddy Perez is pleading with residents, police and elected officials to help search for her missing sister, Jessica Flores, 36, of South Chicago Heights, last seen Monday in Gary.

The vehicle Flores' sister was driving was found abandoned and damaged by fire in South Chicago Heights with some of her belongings inside.

"Jessica is a mother of six children. I'm raising her three smallest. Today is Isaac's birthday. He just turned 8, and all they keep doing is asking 'Where's my mom?'" Perez said as she stood before Gary City Council members at Tuesday's meeting. 

Because the missing persons report was filed in Illinois, it has not been widely reported on in Indiana, she said. Flores and her friend, Melina Cottrell, 26, went missing at the same time. 

Though Perez did not directly say her sister or friend struggle with drug addiction, she said as she passed out flyers and walked the community over the weekend, she noticed "a sense of dehumanization with women who have a drug problem in this community." 

"I know people have friends out there. She's a mother. She's loved. She's a person. If someone has her out there at one of these places, I'm just asking that they let her go," Perez said. "Leave her at a park or somewhere. And if not, just call it in, wherever she is. We still want her home and we love her. I just wanted you to know who she is. Any help would be greatly appreciated."

Gary Council President Ronald Brewer told Perez the Gary community and its police force will do everything in its power to bring her sister home safely. 

Flores was allegedly in Gary with Cottrell when she was last heard from, Flores's sister Maddy Perez told The Times previously. 

"My family and I want everyone to know we haven’t had any contact with Melina and are fearing for her safety as well," Mike Cottrell, Melina Cottrell's uncle, previously told The Times. "We pray that both Melina and Jessica are found alive and safe."

The vehicle of Flores's boyfriend, which she was using around the time of her disappearance, was found abandoned in South Chicago Heights with fire damage and some of her belongings inside, Gary Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.   

"I want to believe she's alive," Perez said of her sister.

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Cottrell has light brown hair and brown eyes, is 5 foot 8 and weighs 140 pounds.  

Gary Police Chief Richard Allen said his department is assisting South Chicago Heights and Lake County Sheriff's Department in the search. He encouraged residents to call the tip line at 866-274-6347 or the department's Violent Crimes Unit at 219-881-1210.

People can also call Detective Kris Adams directly at 219-755-3855, the South Chicago Heights Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff's Department with information. 

"These are someone's daughters. These are someone's daughters," Allen said.

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.