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Crystal Haag, the young woman who returned home 20 years after her disappearance


By Based On a True StoryPublished 3 months ago 8 min read

Crystal Marie Haag was born on January 29, 1983 in Baltimore, United States, where she also lived with her family at the time of the events.

She was the youngest of 4 siblings, all children of Cynthia Haag, a single mother who worked tirelessly in a local supermarket. The woman didn't earn much money but she was very proud to have enough to cover the basic needs of her children.

According to Cynthia, her little daughter was like a light outring. She remembers her as a sweet girl, who really liked going to school where she won a prize in her fifth grade. She also got along very well with everyone, including Her classmates and her siblings.

Since there is not much more information about the young woman's life, I am going to go straight to the day of the disappearance.

The missing:

On the morning of Saturday, April 26, 1997, Cynthia saw Crystal smiling as always.

The two said goodbye and what the woman could least imagine is that it would have to be 20 years to be able to see her daughter again.

When Cynthia returned home after work she discovered that Crystal was not there, something that worried her a lot about that she immediately called her friends, her relatives, in short anyone who could know where the young woman was, but no one had seen her that day. That's why he decided to report her disappearance to the police.

All kinds of ideas passed through her mind, each one worse: Maybe she had been kidnapped, or maybe she was badly injured... Or maybe she would have simply decided to escape. With the passage of time she even came to think that her daughter had passed away.

The only thing she could tell the police is that the girl always wore a baseball cap but this was not enough to find her.

While the police tried to find any clue that would take them to Crystal's whereabouts, her mother looked for her in every face of any brown girl she found on the street.

One day she was going down a street in Baltimore and thought she had seen it in the back of a taxi. Again she thought it was a girl who was near a bar, but when she ran to her she had already left. And on another occasion, there she was again, in the back of a bus, moving away, who knows where.

Cynthia stopped celebrating Christmas because she simply thought it was wrong to do it without her daughter. And so the years passed, with intermittent reports from the Baltimore police that marked the passage of time.

April 29, 1997: "Crystal Haag has not returned."

In 1999: "The investigation continued."

In 2006: "Crystal's case was still open."

And finally in 2010: "it was when all efforts to locate her were exhausted.

Many years later...

But in March 2017, 20 years after her daughter's disappearance, Cynthia’s life took an unexpected turn.

The woman was at home, a place that by the way refused to abandon in case Crystal returned one day when the phone started ringing.

It was her daughter Bianca who called to tell her that he had just received an unexpected message on her Facebook account. This message was from Crystal.

Cynthia Haag

Cynthia at first didn't want to get many illusions because she didn't want to be disappointed, but as soon as she saw the profile picture on this social network she immediately knew that it was her missing daughter.

Crystal Haag

She observed that she had the same straight and white teeth, the same wrinkled eyes and the same smile. The daughter she had last seen when she was 14 years old was now an adult woman.

At that very moment thousands of questions began to crowd in her head: Why Crystal left, Where had she been all this time, or why she had returned. But what worried her the most was knowing if she was okay.

Her daughter Bianca talked to Crystal through Facebook and after this she went by car to the Harlem neighborhood, in New York, which was where her sister lived at the time.

Finally, at the end of the night, Crystal entered through the door of the house that she had left 20 years ago.

She had short hair and spoke Spanish fluently. She was no longer Crystal Haag, who would have been 35 years old, but had adopted the identity of 44-year-old Crystal Saunders. At that time, however, none of those changes mattered to her mother because for her she was still her pretty girl. Her missing daughter was at home, but what she didn't know is that the most difficult part had barely begun.

Cynthia was so happy to see her that she asked her to sleep in her bed that night, and Crystal decided to stay.

The joy in the meeting, however, soon gave way to uncertainty and even resentment, since Crystal began to tell her story and the why of her disappearance.

During the conversation she had with her family, she said that she remembered her childhood differently from her mother. She said that she barely got along with her brothers and that she used to run away often. Besides, she wasn't the happy girl her mother thought she was. In fact, she added that she felt so miserable and so fearful that the only plan that made sense for her was to flee.

As if that were not enough, she told a fact that was the one that ended up marking the rest of her life.

When she was only 9 years old, a neighbor began to abuse her, and during the following years it happened so often that it seemed almost normal. She never told anyone, but when she became a teenager, she realized that there was nothing normal about it.

By then, the abuse had lasted so long that she began to think that her mother had to know, a suspicion that ended up believing herself. That's why on April 26, 1997 she didn't stay at home as her mother had asked.

According to her story, she first went with some friends for a few hours, and after that she stayed longer on the street. What she said is that she was afraid to go home because she thought her mother was going to get angry with her for having disobeyed. Finally at 12 p.m. she decided that she would never return, and what she did was get on a bus towards New York.

She remembered walking through the streets of the city at dawn and seeing the license plates of the Statue of Liberty, and despite having nothing she did not feel afraid.

The first nights she slept on the street, until she arrived in the northern area of Manhattan, where she introduced herself with a new identity: her name was Crystal Saunders and he said she was 23 years old. The new identity was easy to remember because only small details had changed. The last name, the age, the latter was credible according to her because she looked much older. And when people asked about his family, she answered that he didn't have it and that they didn't insist on the subject because it wasn't a strange thing not to have a family.

She got several jobs cleaning houses and began to live in a neighborhood where all members were of Dominican origin.

A short time later she began a relationship with one of the neighbors and became pregnant with her first child.

Thanks to a fake driver's license, she was able to acquire a Medicaid card, which for pregnant women in New York City was relatively easy to obtain without official documentation.

Over time, Crystal began to speak Spanish fluently and gave birth to four children in total. She was immersed in the Dominican community and even adopted new relatives, people she referred to as "grandfather", "grandmother" and "cousin" on social networks. At this point, her new identity had replaced the old one.

And so, on January 29, 2014, when she turned 31, she posted an image on Instagram. She showed herself holding a birthday cake with the words "Happy 40 for me!"

When Bryan, her eldest son, reached adolescence, he began to ask her about her origins. He didn't understand that her mother said she didn't have a family, because everyone has or has had one. What no one knew is that since Facebook was created, Crystal had been sneaking at her family in Baltimore.

She really wanted to get close to them and recognized that she thought about her mother very often, but she was terrified of the idea of contacting her. She felt very embarrassed by what she had made her go through. When her son began to ask her questions, it was when she wrote to her sister Bianca. And from there everything happened very quickly.

When Cynthia learned about the abuses that her daughter had suffered as a child by a neighbor, she was very surprised since she said she had no idea what happened, but Crystal was not sure if this was true, but she still loved her mother very much and that's why she returned home.

Crystal stated some time later that her mother continued to treat her like a girl. And that sometimes this situation was very complicated for her. She came to think that perhaps the easiest thing would be to be away from everything.

For Cynthia, things weren't easy either because it was like meeting a completely new person, since she left as a girl and returned as an adult. According to her, I just wanted to love her.

It is true that he was looking for her for years but at that time there were so many problems that weighed on their relationship that sometimes it seemed stagnant. Even so, they both kept trying.

Some time later, Crystal moved with her family to Baltimore, and currently lives in her aunt's house located very close to her mother's, she volunteers at a local recreation center and often sees her mother, who is disabled. They are in each other's life, each one wanting more. "I wish we were a little closer," Cynthia said.

According to Robert Lowery, an official of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who edited the Haag family report:

"It's not as simple as being found and restarting your life. There are feelings on both sides that will have to be reconciled, but that requires a lot of time, patience and understanding. The longer someone is gone, the more difficult it can become.”

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About the Creator

Based On a True Story

Hi everyone! My name is Marta and every week I write about true crime, always with an educational purpose.

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