The Charlottesville Police Department and family members of Dashad ‘Sage’ Smith held a press conference Thursday pleading for help locating a missing man who is believed to be connected to the transgender teen’s ongoing homicide investigation.

Smith, 19, disappeared on November 20, 2012, in the 500 block of West Main Street near the Amtrak Train Station in Charlottesville.

Investigators had previously identified now 28-year-old Erik McFadden as a ‘critical’ person of interest in the case, though his whereabouts are unknown.

“This has gone on for far too long,” an emotional Eanna Langston, Sage Smith’s younger sister, said. “Our hearts are hurting, our hearts are heavy with pain as we long for answers and justice for our loved one. Dashad, also known as Sage, was not only my older brother, but also a childhood best friend.

“At 19, he was taken from us without any explanation and hasn’t been given any justice.” — Eanna Langston

Detectives say McFadden and Smith were planning to meet on the night of November 20, 2012, though what happened after they met remains a mystery.

A detective made contact with McFadden immediately following Smith’s disappearance, but he failed to show up for a scheduled interview and reportedly fled town, according to a release from the Charlottesville PD.

McFadden has not been seen or heard from by CPD or family members since.

“Smith vanished without a trace, and detectives continue to believe McFadden was the last person to see Smith, and that he has information vital to this case,” Charlottesville PD said in a release.

Initially, Smith’s case was classified as a missing person’s case, but the department reclassified the case as a homicide in November 2016. Since then, local and federal authorities have spent ‘countless months and hours’ identifying and scouring through evidence, interviews, and witness statements. Despite these efforts, the case remains unsolved.

Smith was transgender, and was comfortable dressing as both a man and woman. Smith’s mother, LaTasha Dennis, says the focus should not be on her child’s gender identity. She just wants to know what happened to her ‘baby.’

“The fact remains that my child is missing and that to me is all that matters. I am in a situation where I cannot grieve and I just need closure,” she said. “The only thing that remains in my mind is who did something to him? How did it happen?”

McFadden attended Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, from August of 2009 to April of 2011. Detectives believe McFadden may have traveled to, and could be living in cities such as Baltimore, Md., Joppa, Md., Lake City, S.C., Columbia, S.C., Atlanta, Ga., New York City, N.Y., Rochester N.Y., and potentially to other unknown locations on the West Coast.

The lead detective on the case, Regine Wright, read a statement from McFadden’s mother to the press. 

“I am Erik’s Mother. I did not know my son was missing until 2014. His father has never called me to tell me what happened and will not return my attempts to contact him. I do not know why. I was under the assumption that his father had filed a missing person report, until I met with detectives two weeks ago. I will like Erik to know that if he is out there and needs help, he can call his mom. I am so sorry I was not there, but I am here now. Let’s bring an end to this so everyone involved can begin to heal.”

“It has been nearly seven years since Smith disappeared, but the Charlottesville Police Department is hopeful with the help of the media and continued public interest, we can finally solve this case and bring closure to a family and community that has experienced anguish over the loss of a family member, a friend, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the department added.

Anyone with information about McFadden’s disappearance or Smith’s homicide case to contact Detective Regine Wright at (434) 970-3381, or our anonymous CrimeStoppers tip line at (434) 977-4000. A $10,000 reward is being offered through CrimeStoppers, and an additional $10,000 is being matched by the City of Charlottesville for information leading to an arrest in Smith’s case.