HOUSTON - It's been four years since a young Air Force veteran in Houston vanished without a trace. A night out on Westheimer became the last time he was seen, and friends of the 19-year-old who were with him that night can't get their story straight.
The mystery began on January 12, 2018, when Jared's mother called him. He didn't pick up.
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"It wasn’t like him not to answer because Jared talks to his mom every day," says Willie Smith, Jared's father. "She said 'something ain’t right,' and a mother’s instinct: when something ain't right, a mother knows."
They got in touch with a few friends Jared had been with the night before.
"They started giving me stories, and none of the stories were adding up," Willie explains. "One of the stories was that they got in an altercation with some guys, someone shot a gun, and they all took off running and couldn’t find Jared. One was that Jared was in a car with this other guy and there were gunshots. I said, 'hold up, anyone call the police?'"
The friends claimed they had not called police because they were sure Jared would come back for his car, which they said was parked at a CVS on Westheimer Road. Willie, who was in Louisiana, asked a friend to check on the car. It was not there.
"At first, I was thinking, you know, he’s a young man, he got hooked up with a young lady or something. Maybe he just went out for the night, and he’s going to show back up," says Willie.
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Jared never showed up, but his car did. It was found in an isolated parking spot at the Piney Point Apartments several blocks from the CVS. Willie says it had been cleaned out. He does not believe Jared would intentionally abandon his car.
Then, Willie was told the car had been reportedly involved in a robbery. He was shocked.
"I did bad things. I did good things, but overall we all deserve that good life," Willie explains, saying he was willing to accept that perhaps Jared did something wrong, even though it did not align with the man Jared was. "He did things that I wanted him to do. As a father, you set a milestone for your kids and when they get on the right track of doing it, it makes you proud of them."
Willie says Jared had graduated with honors from school, played football, and joined the Air Force coming out of high school. Jared had moved to Houston and was going to school.
"He had the right goals in life and his mind was right," Willie says. "If he was involved in something and he did something, where is he? I’m trying to get in touch with the friends he was with, but at this point, they’re all hiding. They don’t wanna deal with me."
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Willie believes the friends know more than they're saying. Eventually, he ran into one of those friends in Louisiana. He told Willie to talk to a man named Desean, who had been in the car with Jared that fateful night. Willie had never heard of Desean.
Two weeks later, Jared's credit card gets used at a store. Willie tried to get surveillance footage from the store. When they did not give the footage, Willie asked police to go after the footage but says it took them almost a month to follow up. By then, Willie says the footage was gone.
Eventually, Houston police notified the family that Jared's case is being handled as a homicide. Willie says he was never told what evidence led them to believe Jared was dead.
"I prayed on it, and I prayed and prayed, and I come to the ask God to just help ease my mind," Willie recalls, saying, "He's kinda let me see that [Jared's] not alive. I will never be able to put my hands on Jared again."
Jared's family has attempted to work with multiple private investigators. They say all have said there was nothing they could do.
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Willie explains that he taught himself to let go of the anger he feels about Jared's disappearance. One big reason: Ameer. Jared's son, born around the time that Jared went missing, is now 4-years-old.
"I see Jared in him every day. A lot of Jared in him," Willie tells FOX 26 through tearful eyes. "He’s going to ask questions, 'where’s my dad?' I’m not gonna ever say 'your dad disappeared.' I will never say that. I'm gonna say 'he’s missing, but we’re going to find Jared.'"
FOX 26 reached out to Houston Police Department for information on the case, but they declined to comment due to the active investigation.
Like many of the families we speak to, Willie hopes strangers might step up to help him find what happened to Jared. You can dig further into Jared's case by watching our episode of The Missing: Live with his family here.
If you have information on what happened to Jared Chavis, call in your tip to Houston Police Department's Missing Person Unit at (713)-731-5223. You may be eligible for a $10,000 reward from Crime Stoppers.
Is your loved one missing? Reach out to FOX26 anchor Kaitlin Monte at firstname.lastname@example.org