In Pursuit With John Walsh: What happened to Celina Mays?

Celina Mays
Celina Mays was 12 years old and nine months pregnant when she mysteriously disappeared in 1996 (Image via Illicit Deeds/Facebook)

In this week's episode, ID's In Pursuit With John Walsh will revisit the decades-old Burlington County missing person case of Celina Mays. The episode, titled Unforgotten, airs on Wednesday, September 13, 2022, at 9:00 pm ET on ID. The synopsis of the upcoming episode reads:

"John joins the search for Celina Mays, whose disappearance draws police attention to her allegedly cult-like church; Cal hunts for Efren Meza, who was accused of stalking and stabbing his ex-girlfriend."

Celina was 12 years old and nine months pregnant when she mysteriously disappeared without a trace from her Willingboro home in December 1996. Investigators are still looking into the case that left them baffled nearly 25 years ago. Although little progress has been made in the cold case, family members of the victim and authorities have refused to give up hope just yet.

With John Walsh and his team actively participating in the investigation hoping to solve the mystery, let's explore the details of the missing person case ahead of the episode premiere.

Celina Mays' 1996 missing person cold case remains a mystery to all


Celina Mays, a Burlington County girl who went missing more than 20 years ago, was 12 years old and 9 months pregnant, only two weeks away from her due date, when she mysteriously disappeared.The case is still a mystery to everyone directly involved as well as to those who have been consistently following the investigation's developments for years now.

Detectives refused to give up on the case irrespective of only finding a few leads with regards to her disappearance. The 25-year-old cold case was acquired by Detective Monica Pogorzelski, who is still trying to figure out where Celina is. Pogorzelski reportedly said,

"She went missing in the middle of the night, as her father reported to us. She did not give birth yet. She was nine months pregnant."

What did Celina Mays' last day with her family look like?


Celina seemed like a content 12-year-old at the time and was an active part of the church choir. She resided in Willingboro with her family on a peaceful suburban street. However, she became pregnant at the age of 11 and refused to reveal the identity of the father even upon her family's constant requests.

The Burlington County Times states that on December 15, 1996, Celina returned home from church and enjoyed a delicious bowl of ice cream with her family before kissing them goodnight around 11 o'clock, saying, "Thanks for everything," and heading to bed. Her family now thinks that she was likely saying her farewell to them that night.


The following morning, Celina's stepsister went to her room to wake her up for breakfast, but she was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the 4-year-old found a stack of pillows and blankets arranged to make it look like Mays was sleeping. Celina reportedly left behind all of her belongings.

More than 250 leads, some more promising than others, have been provided to Willingboro Police throughout the years. However, the police investigation into the missing person case of Celina Mays has been slowed down by concerns about the Pentecostal church Celina and her family attended as well as the contentious ties between the girl's paternal and maternal families.

Detective Pogorzelski added,

"Well, we're not sure. We've investigated over 254 leads throughout the past 25 years. Recently, we've had four more leads that we're now investigating."

Little progress has been made in the cold case over the 25 years


Investigators were initially refused a warrant to inspect the church and Mays' residence because it was believed that the family could have been the subject of unfair interrogation by police. Since then, the family has moved houses from their Willingboro residence on Crestview Drive.

The only relevant lead authorities have had in the case throughout the years was a report of seeing a girl who resembled Celina Mays but wasn't pregnant at a restaurant in Howell in January 1997. Though it had been a little over a month since she disappeared, investigators subsequently determined the girl was not her.

Over the years, the case has been supervised by many investigators, but to no avail, with officials still looking for answers. They are looking for Celina Mays, who, assuming she is still alive, will be 37 years old, and her child about 25 years old.

In Pursuit With John Walsh airs on Investigation Discovery on Wednesday at 9 pm ET.

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Edited by Babylona Bora
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