‘Anger, frustration and heartbreak,’ Cape Coral woman still missing one year later

It has been one year since Cape Coral woman Lauren Dumolo was last…

'Anger, frustration and heartbreak,' Cape Coral woman still missing one year later 1
'Anger, frustration and heartbreak,' Cape Coral woman still missing one year later 2

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‘She was just a very loving, caring and giving individual.’ Lauren Dumolo’s family is thankful for the help

Lauren Dumolo’s family said they are thankful for the help they have received and thankful for those who got together Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 in Cape Coral to support the Dumolo family.

Andrea Melendez, Fort Myers News-Press

Tears rolled down cheeks as family, friends, community members and police stood and listened to Skyler Grey’s “I’m coming home” Saturday at Four Freedoms Park in Cape Coral to honor Lauren Dumolo.

It has been one year since anyone last saw or heard from Lauren and her family continues to fight for answers. 

As a second Father’s Day approached without Lauren, her father, Paul Dumolo, recalled a Facebook post she had wrote for him that always makes him laugh.

She had signed it, “your favorite daughter.” 

Paul Dumolo has five daughters, Lauren, 30, was his first. He thinks back and is reminded of her sense of humor.

She was last seen on June 19, 2020, and her mysterious disappearance has left her family with many questions: Where is she? Who is responsible? Why have police been unable to find her?

More: ‘Everyday I think about her,’ Lauren Dumolo’s sister says as month six of her missing approaches

More: Family of missing Cape Coral woman hiring private investigator

They miss her terribly, think about her constantly and are frustrated.

From the second they found out Lauren was gone they began fighting for her and never stopped. They hit the streets of Cape Coral asking anyone and anyone for information, retraced her steps, contacted private investigators, shared her story on national TV and podcasts, held vigils and events to raise money. And Saturday, they gathered together to honor Lauren by placing a bench at her favorite spot in Four Freedoms Park. 

“I am at the point between anger, frustration and heartbreak. The pain is there every single day and our hands are tied,” Paul Dumolo said.

Everything they learn brings even more questions. 

Missing

On June 19, 2020, Paul received a phone call from Gabriel Pena, Lauren’s boyfriend, telling him that she never came home and that he last saw her that morning before he left for work.

She left her phone in the apartment and searchers found her purse and shirt at Four Freedoms Park, 4818 Tarpon Court, where she frequently went to meditate.

Paul Dumolo wasn’t initially concerned; he figured his daughter went out to the store or maybe to her mother’s house.

Before Lauren went missing, she had revealed to her father concerns about her relationship with Pena.

Thinking back on it, Paul Dumolo said he thinks it was odd that Pena called him instead of local relatives. 

Lauren’s mother, who has since died, lived in Cape Coral near her daughter’s apartment. Paul Dumolo lives in California. 

Although The News-Press has attempted to contact Pena for comment throughout the year, he has never responded.

We ride: ‘We Ride for Lauren,’ fundraising event for missing Cape Coral woman

Read: Search for missing 17-year-old Naples girl continues into sixth day

Lauren was missing for two days before she was reported to police as a missing person. Paul Dumolo said he told Pena to file the report and that he wanted a copy.

In Pena’s written statement to police he said he spent the night with Lauren at her apartment on Thursday, June 18, and left for work in the morning on June 19.

He returned to the apartment at 10 p.m. and she was not there. He stated that he called police, but they informed him that he had to wait 48 hours, according to the statement.

Cassie Carey, of Largo, one of Lauren’s sisters, spoke with Lauren on the phone the night of June 18, and they had plans to talk the next day. That second phone call never happened.

Before Lauren’s disappearance, she was involuntarily hospitalized twice under the Baker Act.  According to family, she had been hearing voices and thinking people were after her.

The Florida Baker Act law allows doctors, mental health professionals, judges and law enforcement to commit a person to a mental health treatment center for up to 72 hours if he or she displays certain violent or suicidal signs of mental illness.

Last memory

The last time Carey saw her sister was on June 13, 2020, after the first time she was Baker Acted and shortly before she would be again. Carey, her two children, Lauren and Pena went to the beach.

Carey was nervous because she wasn’t sure what Lauren would be like, but to her relief they had a great time and everything seemed to be OK.

Lauren built sandcastles with her niece and played with her nephew. Pena and Lauren hugged, kissed and danced like a happy couple, Carey said.

When the sisters said goodbye, they hugged tighter than they ever had. Carey told Lauren she was always there for her, and Lauren promised she was OK.

Second hospitalization

A few days later Laurenstarted acting odd again and was hospitalized for a second time. 

Paul Dumolo was on the phone with her and she told him she had no idea what was happening to her and that it was almost like someone had been giving her something.

Laurenhad never had any mental health issues before this, Paul Dumolo said. 

Carey believes that her sister was dealing with emotions and trauma from a recent abortion.

Lauren was the type of person to protect her family and she didn’t want her burdens to become her family’s burdens, Carey said.

“When you hold in too much for too long, you’re going to explode in someway,” she said.

Investigator not hopeful

Lauren was released from her second Baker Act on June 18, and immediately started applying for jobs around town. 

Her goal was to get her life back on track so that she could start the process of regaining custody of her 6-year-old daughter, McKayla, who was with her paternal grandmother in Palm Beach.

About a month after Lauren disappeared, Paul Dumolo hired private investigator Walt Zalisko, who has more than 35 years of law enforcement experience and opened Global Investigative Group in Fort Myers 12 years ago.

Zalisko said Lauren’s case is different because since she went missing there have been no sitings of her, no activity on credit cards and not even friends have heard from her.

Most missing persons cases have some type of activity, like new social media accounts or at least one person hearing from them, he said.

“It’s fair to say she is not with us any more, and it is a matter of finding her remains and the people involved,” Zalisko said.

He is still working her case and he still receives tips. 

One source claims her body is out in the Gulf of Mexico, others say she is buried in a backyard of some rental property. 

Zalisko, who has worked as a detective in a major crimes unit, said Cape Coral Police should have had its major crimes unit on the case from the beginning.

“One of the faults of CCPD was they treated it as a missing persons case and not a crime,” Zalisko said.

Cape Coral Police now consider Lauren to be a missing and endangered persons case.

Evidence such as finding her phone, purse and shirt point to a crime not a person leaving on their own, Zalisko said.

While it can be difficult investigating without the backing of a police department, Zalisko said there are also perks.

He isn’t required to up hold police procedures. For example, he can speak to someone who has a warrant for their arrest without reporting them to police. When he speaks to people he makes it clear he is not an officer, which tends to make them more comfortable.

Zalisko believes there are multiple people responsible for Lauren’s disappearance and eventually one of them will start talking to make a deal. 

Cape Coral Police Department has had 43 missing and endangered persons cases since Lauren’s was filed, and all 43 have been solved, according to public information officer Cpl. Philip Mullen.

One of the lead detectives on her case, Nick Jones, said they have had many tips, but none of them have led to new information.

“We are still hopeful that someone in the community will come forward with information that will lead to a break in this case,” Jones said.

A long year

In the 365 days that Lauren has been missing, her family has held searches and vigils and the community has rallied behind them.

Danielle Langevin, of Fort Myers, quickly became an advocate for the family, has helped plan events in Lauren’s name and be a point of contact since the family doesn’t live in the area. 

“When I first started I thought that was going to be it, I thought she would come home and it would be quickly resolved. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be here a year later,” Langevin said.

They continue to keep Lauren’s story in the public eye by holding events, getting her story on national TV, YouTube and podcasts.

Langevin had never met Lauren or her family, but when she heard of a local mother who was missing she felt connected because she has a son the same age as McKayla.

She never thought she would create such a close relationship with Lauren’s family, but she did and has been getting to know Lauren through her friends and family.

“It is so bitter sweet that I met her family, but I feel so blessed to have met them. They are teaching me how to be that unconditional, supportive, loving, parent, sister and friend,” Langevin said.

Langevin has heard so many stories about Lauren and how she never gave up on herself or those she loved. Because of that, Langevin said she too will never give up on Lauren.

One year later

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At Four Freedoms Park Saturday, Lauren’s family unveiled a bench between two trees at the water’s edge. Itwill be a place where people can come and feel connected to Lauren.

This is a place Lauren frequently started her days by meditating.

Through fundraising at events for Lauren the bench was purchased, but the City of Cape Coral donated a temporary bench for Saturday’s service while they wait on the arrival of the permanent bench.

The bench will read, “Lauren is always with us, our angel, #bringlaurenhome.”

The ceremony began with Cape Coral Fire Chaplin Mark Matthews saying a prayer and giving words of encouragement.


Carey then spoke thanking everyone in the community for their continued support and how much it has helped Lauren’s family.

Since Lauren’s case has not been solved and they do not have closure, Carey said this bench will be a place holder for them to feel connected to Lauren.

The ceremony closed with two songs. “I’m coming home” by Skylar Grey, a song the family has dedicated to Lauren, and “Angel Dream” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, a song that reminds Lauren’s father of her.

As the songs concluded and a breeze blew through the gathering, Carey said she already feels so much peace.

They will continue to hold events to keep Lauren’s case alive and will have an annual “We Ride for Lauren” event.

Find out more

Those interested in supporting the family and staying up-to-date on the case can join the Bring Lauren Home and Lauren Dumolo Events Facebook groups.

Anyone with information regarding Lauren Dumolo’s case can call private investigator Walt Zalisko at 855-444-7448 and the Cape Coral Police Department at 239-574-3223. 

'Anger, frustration and heartbreak,' Cape Coral woman still missing one year later 3

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