MARIETTA, Ga. — The pain and worry are real for the family of a Cobb County woman last seen in February.
Carrie Marie Jones is one of thousands of Native American women who go missing every year in the United States, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Most of those cases remain unsolved.
The hustle and bustle of life fills the air in Marietta Square, but it's the silence leaving Jones' family with a sense of dread.
"For Carrie to have nobody out there praying for her, that hurts me a lot," said Janice McMillian, Jones' aunt. "I'm concerned about finding out where she is and if she's alive.”
The FBI reports on average, more than 5,000 Native American women go missing each year. Jones is one of them.
"I think it was last year, some time, was the last time I spoke with Carrie, and that was right after her mother was burned in the house," McMillian said.
Jones' mom died in a fire, and then the 29-year-old experienced tragedy again when she lost her father within the same year. McMillian said that put her in a bad headspace.
"She's known to disappear for a couple of weeks but never to be gone this long," McMillian said.
Cobb County Police say Carrie was supposed to meet a friend for dinner in Marietta on Feb. 13 - but she never show up. Investigators said there's no evidence of any confirmed communication from her since then.
McMillian said someone sent Jones' cousin a message on social media last month, claiming it was Jones. Cobb County Police Sgt. Wayne Delk said detectives aren't convinced it's legit.
"With social media, anyone can sign in or create an account. People deal with this all the time, like with fake accounts in their own name," Delk said.
Violet Lauren with the Atlanta Indigenous Peoples Association didn't expect to hear about a missing Native American woman this close to home.
"I'm horrified. I'm scared," Lauren said. "I've been following my cases for years now, being an Indigenous person, and I was under this feeling of like, 'OK, we don't have that here. We don't have to worry.'"
The U.S. Census Bureau reports 71% of Native American women live in urban areas just like Jones and Lauren.
"Danger still exists, so educating is paramount to helping people keep themselves safe," Lauren said.
Lauren believes several things need to be done to reduce the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
"I think it gets really sticky when it involves people of color. I think we, just marginalized groups, they just don't get the media coverage that they deserve," Lauren said.
Some other ideas include working more closely with law enforcement and making sure Native American women are educated on the dangers they may face.
"I think the majority of people of color don't realize that they might be targeted," Lauren said. "We need to talk about it and then bring it more into the conversation of being like, 'Hey, are you safe? Don't be by yourself.'"
Indigenous Americans now account for 2.9% of the U.S. population. Census Bureau data shows that 2.7 million people identify as American Indian or Alaska Native alone, and 6.3 million people report having Indigenous heritage, along with one other race.
"42% of our county is Native American," McMillian, Jones' aunt said.
McMillian hopes to increase the visibility of the Indigenous community while she raises awareness of her niece's disappearance.
"I understand the fear, but somebody has got to speak up," McMillian said.
McMillian has a message for Jones, who she lovingly called "Blossom" for her beautiful smile.
"Come home. Just come home," McMillian said. "This house I'm in right now was her grandfather's home. If she needs us, we're here for her."
Call Cobb County Police at 770-499-3958 if you see Jones or know where she may be and refer to case number 23-031481.