DUNDALK, Md. (WJLA) - Caitlyn Virts is 11 years old, and police believe she is currently in the custody of her biological father, Timothy Virts. He is 6 feet 3 inches tall and 280 pounds. They are reportedly in a 1999 black Dodge Durango with Maryland tags: 5AJ4458.
According to police, finding them may be a matter of life and death.
"We know he is not supposed to have this child, so we have good reason to be concerned about her safety," says Elise Armacost, spokesperson for the Baltimore County Police.
Custody issues may be the least of their concerns, however, as police found Caitlyn's mother, 36-year-old Bobbie Joe Cortez dead in the family home in Dundalk at about 9 a.m. on Thursday morning. ,
She was murdered, but officers won't confirm exactly how.
As that investigation continues, family members are reporting that the girl and Virts were missing and an Amber Alert was subsequently issued. According to police, Virts - who had battled Cortez for custody of their children - had been staying at the home for the last few weeks.
The Dodge Durango he is believed to have stolen belongs to the missing girl's stepfather, Daniel Cortez. He is a registered sex offender who did live at the home, but is now in jail. He was indicted on Wednesday for child sex abuse. Whether those allegations are connected to Thursday's incident is unknown.
Now as word spreads about the murder and worry about the abduction grows, friends of Cortez have gathered at the home as detectives work the crime scene and piece together what happened.
"She's like a sister to me, I've known her for over 20 years. I can't talk, I can't, I'm still crying and I can't, I'm sorry," says Michelle, the victim's co-worker.
"She's a good person and everthing -- a hard worker... worked for her kids everyday -- it's just a tragedy, it's terrible," adds a friend, Helen Orem.
Anyone with information should call Baltimore County Police at 410-887-7320 or 911.