Twelve-year-old Celina was last seen at approximately 11:00 p.m. on December 15, 1996 when she went to bed at her aunt's residence on Crestview Drive in Willingboro, New Jersey.
Her father, C.J. Mays, checked her room the following morning and discovered that Celina was missing and pillows had been placed under her blankets in her bed to give the appearance that she was sleeping. There was no sign of Celina, who left her prenatal vitamins, purse and other personal belongings behind; she has never been heard from again.
At the time of her disappearance, Celina lived with her father, her stepmother and several other relatives.
C.J. was employed as an accountant and bookkeeper for the Gospel of Christ Ministries Inc., based in Mount Holly, New Jersey. His sister, Cerita Smith, was a pastor of the church and the Mays family raised Celina as a member of the church.
Celina was home-schooled and grew up with strict religious beliefs from the organization. C.J. maintains that Celina did not leave her home because of problems with her religion.
The Gospel of Christ Ministries Inc. had numerous complaints from former members in the late 1990s who claimed that the church was utilizing brainwashing techniques on its congregation. It is not known if the allegations are connected to Celina's case, but Cerita has accused disgruntled ex-members of the church of hiding Celina.
C.J. believes that Celina planned her disappearance, mainly because he threatened to have paternity tests performed to learn the identity of her unborn child's father. Officials said that C.J. was uncooperative in his daughter's disappearance and they have lost touch with him in the years since Celina vanished.
Another of Celina's relatives somewhat supports C.J.'s theory, telling the press that he believed Celina was murdered by the baby's father in order to prevent his identity from being revealed, or that she possibly died as the result of an amateur abortion.
The baby's father (if he is ever identified) could be charged with rape due to the Celina's age at the time she became pregnant.
Authorities responded by announcing they have no information concerning the father of Celina's baby and statements made by others were purely speculation, although it has been rumored that one of Celina's cousins fathered her child.
The man was interviewed several times by authorities after she disappeared, but denied any knowledge of Celina's whereabouts. He has fathered seven children by four different women, and is now an adult and married to the mother of four of his children.
Celina's aunt believes that the father of Celina's baby was an individual that she met while roller skating in Camden County, New Jersey.
Celina's mother, Lynn Marie Vitale, died of a brain aneurysm in 1994. She and C.J. never married and allegedly had a tumultuous relationship with some incidences of domestic violence.
C.J. was a musician at the time he met Vitale, and admits that he had a drug and alcohol problem. Lynn Marie had been an exotic dancer and was addicted to drugs, but overcome her addiction before her death and she got a job as a school custodian in Palmyra, New Jersey.
Several of Lynn Marie's family members fought a bitter custody battle over Celina with C.J. after her death. Celina lived with some of her mother's friends before moving with her father.
Both sides of the family have accused the other of hiding Celina and several of Celina's maternal relatives believe that foul play was involved in her case, but there's no evidence to support any of the theories.
Celina's obstetrician (whom she last saw two days before her disappearance) told officials that Celina never identified her baby's father. The obstetrician also described Celina as an emotionally mature girl and she reportedly told her doctor that her boyfriend was 16 years old in 1996 and not a member of her church.
There have been numerous unconfirmed sightings of Celina in the years since her disappearance. In the weeks immediately after her disappearance, she was supposedly seen in Lacey Township and Hopewell Township in New Jersey, but these have not been confirmed.
A business owner in Midland, Texas reported that one of his employees matched her description in 2000, but authorities determined that the young woman was not Celina shortly afterwards.
One of C.J.'s friends claimed to have seen Celina near Lions Mountain, New York later in 2000, but the incident was not confirmed. Investigators said that a woman who resembled Celina was captured on a security camera videotape near a Wawa store in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey in December 2002; that sighting is being reviewed.
Celina has family members on her mother's side living in Michigan and Florida. Her mother left her a large life insurance policy, which she is now eligible to collect since she has turned 18 years old.
Investigators are calling Celina's case a missing persons case, not a homicide, and as of 2018, it remains unsolved.
Description[edit | edit source]
Celina is described as an African-American\Caucasian female with black hair, brown eyes, is 5'0 and weighs 120 pounds. Her hair was very long and wavy at the time of her disappearance, and her eyebrows grow together.
She was nine months pregnant at the time of her disappearance and her baby was due around December 29th of 1996.