The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday gave a Houston-based search-and-recovery group approval to use a drone in the search for Christina Marie Morris, a 23-year-old Fort Worth woman last seen in a Plano parking garage.
Morris was last seen walking with a male friend through the garage at The Shops at Legacy at 3:55 a.m. Aug. 30.
The volunteer group Texas EquuSearch sued the FAA this year over a February warning they received against drone usage. Morris’ stepmother said she is glad EquuSearch was granted emergency approval this time.
“They can cover more ground quicker, so that just to me means she might be getting home sooner rather than later,” Anna Morris said. “It’s good to have everything we can have, but it was frustrating waiting for it.”
Anna Morris said she isn’t sure where the drone will be flown.
The group has used drones to find 11 people in the past, its founder, Tim Miller, said. EquuSearch has worked in 38 states and eight countries and on high-profile cases such as that of Natalee Holloway, a teenager killed while vacationing on the Caribbean island of Aruba.
Miller arrived Monday and led searches well into the night Tuesday and Wednesday. The team can get to heavily wooded areas and roadsides that are hard for police to reach, Plano police said.
Police said Morris and her friends met at an apartment that night, patronized local businesses and reconvened at the apartment. Afterward, Morris was captured on surveillance video carrying a backpack in the parking garage before parting ways with the friend.
Police: Don’t hesitate to call
Plano police officer David Tilley said people with information should not hesitate to call because of anything the group was doing that night.
“We are not investigating a bunch of kids that went partying and got drunk. That’s not what we are looking at. If they went out and went bar-hopping and drove home — there’s nothing we can do about that right now,” Tilley said.
Tilley said anyone with information can anonymously call Crime Stoppers or send an anonymous text to Plano police’s TIP 411 program.
He said to text “847411,” type “Plano PD” in the message area, and then information such as, “I have information related to the disappearance of Christina Morris, and you need to check here.”
Anna Morris, said her stepdaughter would have told her if she was going to take a spontaneous trip.
“She didn’t hide things,” she said. “She would have let us know for this exact reason.”
Anna Morris said she has helped raise her stepdaughter since she was 3.
“She’s unforgettable,” she said. “She’s a tiny little thing, but she has a huge presence. She’s lively. She’s loved.”
Anna Morris lives with her husband in Allen, where Christina went to Allen High School with her ex-boyfriend Aaron Logan Prendergast.
‘Everyone wants her home’
Prendergast and Morris moved in together in August 2013 after dating for a year, Prendergast said. But they broke up in October when Morris started dating his best friend, who is her current boyfriend.
“They started dating while we were still living together,” Prendergast said.
Plano police have said the current boyfriend is not a suspect.
Prendergast said he has communicated with criminal investigators twice since Morris disappeared and believes that she must have left the parking garage with someone else because her Toyota Celica coupe was still there.
Police said the car shows no sign of foul play.
Morris and her boyfriend live in the 4000 block of Lafayette Avenue near Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth.
The couple co-owns an urban clothing line called Trust None Street Wear.
Ariel Hammer, a close friend and former roommate of Morris’, said she had an instantaneous bond with Morris when they met four years ago. She said Morris and her boyfriend were just starting to get the word out about their clothing line.
Hammer said she last saw her friend a month ago.
“Everyone wants her home,” Hammer said. “I am literally at a loss for words. My heart knows how it feels, but my head can’t come up with a way to say it.”
Morris is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 95 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair with blond highlights. Hammer said she mixes up her styles and sometimes dresses preppy, chic grunge or urban.