HOUSTON - The disappearance of Gabby Petito triggered national interest in solving her case, but in Texas alone, there were 49,110 missing person reports in 2020, according to the Texas Center for the Missing. One of them is the Houston-area case of Mariano Funes.
It was New Year’s Eve in 2019 when Victoria Acosta last spoke to her brother Mariano. She says he was planning to meet her at church that night.
"The last conversation that I had with him was at 7 p.m.," Victoria recalls through tears, speaking with FOX 26 anchor Kaitlin Monte. "He was very attached to my kids. He was going to meet up at my church that night, so we can bring in the new year together."
After that call, Victoria says 36-year-old Mariano left home to meet up with someone. In a November 2020 interview with vlogger Jason Hebert on YouTube.
Victoria says Mariano had referred to the person he was meeting with as a friend, though explains she had never heard of the man till that day.
Victoria says Mariano got into a vehicle with two men. The vehicle was later spotted on surveillance cameras at a gas station in Jacinto City, Texas. Victoria says Mariano's phone then tracked him to a house in Pasadena, Texas.
Not long after, Mariano's girlfriend called him. He picked up.
"He said 'I'm in trouble, they're going to kill me'," Victoria recalls.
That was the last anyone heard from him.
"It's already been two years and it just feels like nothing's happening, There's nothing I can do. I already hit a dead-end on what I thought I could do as a person," says Victoria.
Like many Houston families of the missing, Victoria has found strength through support from the Texas Center for the Missing, an organization that provides comprehensive support for those who cannot find a loved one.
Her case manager, Melissa, regularly reaches out to this day. "Melissa is is the number one person that messages me out of nowhere asking 'hi Victoria, how are you doing?'"
Beyond that, social media has been an outlet to seek tips and support in her brother's case.
"I've had a couple of people make YouTube videos regarding my brother's story, and it has gotten out. It hasn't gotten out as much as other cases," Victoria points out, but adds that seeing a case like Gabby Petito garner national spotlight only encourages her.
"The more shares that you get on on your loved one's pictures —I don't know how to say it, but it gives you more hope."
Mariano Funes is about 5'6". He was last seen weighing about 238 lbs. He has black hair, dark brown eyes, and was wearing a grey hoodie and black shirt. He had grey Rockets team sweat pants with white and red tennis shoes. Mariano has many distinct tattoos, including the name "Victoria" on his right shoulder blade. He has a scar near his right eye.
Want to dig into Mariano's case? Watch Victoria's appearance on FOX26's streaming show The Missing: Live here. You can watch Victoria's full in-depth 2020 interview with Jason Hebert on Youtube here.
Have a tip on where Mariano Funes might be? Contact the Jacinto Police at 713-672-2455, case number 19-003629.
To learn more about how to help families of missing loved ones in Houston, click here to watch our report with the Texas Center for the Missing.