Five weeks after Terra Trunick went missing, Kim Mapes is fighting to hold on to hope. She didn’t think the search would take this long.
Mapes is the foster mother of Trunick, 28, of Santa Rosa, who is 5-foot-1, around 110 pounds, and suffers from addiction and mental health issues. She was last seen on the 2700 block of Santa Rosa Avenue, near Yolanda Avenue, on Jan. 11, according to the Santa Rosa police, who have asked for the public’s help finding her.
One of nine children, Trunick went into foster care at the age of 4. She had lived with two different families before moving in with Kim and Jim Mapes, of Oakdale, in the Central Valley, when she was 15. After initially taking her in on an emergency basis, they became licensed foster parents “specifically to take custody of Terra,” Kim Mapes recalled this week.
After graduating from Oakdale High School in 2011, Trunick began a relationship with Chris Prior and soon moved back to Santa Rosa. They got engaged and had a baby boy. But Prior was using drugs.
The infant was taken by Sonoma County Child Protection Services in 2017, and last summer the 4-year-old boy was adopted by another family.
“I’m going to be 100% percent honest with you,” said Prior, a metal fabricator in Petaluma, “Terra and I lost our son to drugs.”
Prior and Mapes have spearheaded an effort to locate Trunick. On Saturday, around 40 people met on Fourth Street in Santa Rosa, then fanned out on foot and by car, as far south as San Rafael, distributing flyers and asking people if they’d seen Trunick.
Even as her life spiraled downward, Trunick always found a way to stay in touch with family. That ended on Jan. 11. She made a series of calls to Prior from a cellphone that police determined belonged to a convicted rapist.
That man was located and interviewed by Santa Rosa police, Sgt. Chris Mahurin said. The man told police he’d seen Trunick sitting on a curb outside a liquor store, and loaned her his phone.
“He was in custody from the beginning of February to less than a week ago, said Mahurin, meaning the man would not have been in contact with Trunick “for most of February.”
During an interview with that man, police found “nothing out of the ordinary,” Mahurin said, nothing suggesting “there was foul play” or that he was associated with her disappearance.
Based on the information they have, police consider Trunick “voluntary missing,” Mahurin said. “But as time goes on, she’s had no communication with family or friends for roughly a month. That is obviously concerning, so we’re trying to track down all the information we can about her.”
Prior is clean now, and was clean when Trunick met him, Kim Mapes said. Then he relapsed, “and she could not give up the fairy tale of a white picket fence happy ending. She lost her son as a result of her failure to leave him,” her foster mother said.
After having her child taken from her, Trunick descended into addiction. She returned to the Central Valley and completed a drug rehabilitation program. She’d been clean 20 months when her son’s adoption was finalized, which hit her hard, Mapes said. She relapsed in August 2020.
After entering another rehab program, she left after a week. Trunick hitchhiked back to Sonoma County, where she’d been surfing couches and staying with friends until October. Then she started living on the streets, Mapes said.
“Terra has never lived on the streets before, and she’s never used in this fashion,” Mapes said. On at least two occasions in October and November, Trunick overdosed and was hospitalized.
Among those active in the search for her is Rebecca Bruster, who met Trunick in a treatment center in 2017, and since then has been clean.
“Terra is the most compassionate mother,” Bruster said. “When we got sober, Terra really tried to get herself together, to get her son back. When he got adopted, that really took a toll on her.”
Bruster has talked to people at motels and homeless encampments, handing out flyers, seeking information on Trunick’s whereabouts. “Because of my history, I know where to look,” she said.
Against the advice of the police, Mapes is offering a $500 reward for information that could lead her back to Trunick. Considering how eager many people on the streets would be to collect that reward, “the fact that no one’s come forward yet is kind of worrisome,” Bruster said.
Trunick’s addiction and mental health challenges make her especially vulnerable. Those close to her think there’s a chance she could be caught up in sex trafficking.
“I hate it putting it out there, ‘cause I feel like it’s bad juju,” Prior said, “but I’m afraid that’s what’s going on.”
If she could speak to her, Mapes would tell her foster daughter she loves her unconditionally, “no differently than if I had given birth to her.”
She would remind her that there is a reason to come home — that she’s still able “to see her son, and have a relationship with him.”
Somewhere along the line, the reality hit Trunick that her child now belonged to other parents, which caused her to lose hope, Mapes thinks.
“Either that, or someone has her, and they aren’t letting her leave,” Mapes said. “And until I have the truth, I’m not going away.”
Police ask that anyone with information about Trunick call 707-543-3600 or email email@example.com.
You can reach Staff Writer Austin Murphy at 707-521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ausmurph88.