Seattle woman disappears hitchhiking through Mexico

Elisa Hahn reports.

A Seattle man is desperate to find his wife. 26-year-old Jenny Chen was on a two-month backpacking trip through Mexico, when he says she disappeared.

Chen's husband said this trip to Mexico was a chance to go out on her own, to find herself.

"She's just a fireball," said Jonathan Reinhard. "Stubborn, adventurous, loved to try new things. She loved hiking. She loved being outdoors. Loved Seattle."

But that adventuring spirit may have led to her disappearance. Now her husband of three years is at his wits end.

"I'm feeling sick. I've got anxiety. Words can't describe it," Reinhard said.

Chen, a Chinese citizen living in Seattle, left for her trip to Mexico in early March. On Facebook, she documented the places she visited, the people she met, including some of her gracious hosts.

Her family last heard of her in Oaxaca, and believe something happened to her on the way to Cancun, where she was supposed to meet up with her husband.

But she never showed.

"Even though I gave her extra money for the bus, we don't know if she took it or not," Reinhard said. "We don't know for sure. Apparently her last message to her friends was 'I'm going hitching,' 'Please be careful.' I urged her not to do it. I urged her not to do it."

To complicate matters, her husband says Chen's citizenship makes it difficult to get help from the U.S. State Department.  He's been talking with US & Chinese consulates and Mexican authorities. But he gets no sense that any agency is doing anything to find her.

"The worst possible scenario is she's been humanly trafficked and she's out of the country already, by the cartels because she's cute, and she's young, and she can make money for wrongdoers," Reinhard said.

Reinhard acknowledges the questionable decision-making of a woman traveling through a dangerous country alone.

"I said it to her a million times, but she never listened,” Reinhard said. “She never listened. She's a little Chinese girl, but she's a 6-foot-10 backpacker in her mind.”

Reinhard is now trying to raise money to hire a private investigator, and plans on returning to Mexico this Friday to search for his wife.

Copyright 2016 KING


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