INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Larissa Sam was a tattooed dancer at a strip club near a truck stop at I-465 and South Harding Street and Rebecca Russell didn’t necessarily think much about her daughter’s chosen profession.
“She was looking at getting out of dancing. She did not like to do it,” said Russell. “I wasn’t happy about it but I would support her in anything she did.”
Sam’s dream was to play guitar, sing and audition for “American Idol” and provide a better life for her young son.
The audition was set for June 23, 2015.
Sam disappeared early on Father’s Day morning just a couple days before.
“She’d gotten off work at the Classy Chassis and went to a relative’s house and left there and that was the last time she was seen,” said Det. Kim Travitz of IMPD’s Missing Persons Branch.
Sam was visiting an uncle and his wife and drinking in the early morning hours of June 21.
“We were advised that they had fallen asleep and woke up and she had already left,” said Travitz.
Within a couple hours, just before dawn, Sam’s car was spotted being parked in the driveway of an empty home in the 2700 block of South Lyons Avenue in the city’s Mars Hill neighborhood on the southwest side.
“I got the case and found out right away that her car had been located,” said Travitz, “and in her vehicle was her keys, her cell phone, her credit cards, it looked like all of her belongings in her vehicle.”
Travitz said Sam’s car had a flat tire, which may have been going bad for a while, but from everything that was left behind, it didn’t appear the 22-year-old woman was the victim of a robbery.
“We had a subject that lived across the street who actually produced a videotape of the vehicle actually being parked,” said Travitz.
The video shows someone walking away from the car down the street.
Proving the Mars Hill community is a small world after all, or in an amazing coincidence, the resident across the street knew someone in Sam’s family and contacted Rebecca Russell on Facebook once the distraught mother began a social media search for her daughter.
Russell also called the last person who saw her daughter alive.
“Her uncle, after I got done talking with him, he went and said, ‘I will go drive through where her car was in Mars Hill and see if I see anything.’”
The uncle and Sam’s ex-husband, who was living at her Greenwood apartment, searched the area but failed to turn up any witnesses or clues.
Travitz said she recently received results of DNA tests taken on evidence found in Sam’s car and was circling back around to some of her original witnesses.
Russell thinks Larissa is still alive but in bad shape.
“I believe it is someone she knows has taken her. I believe they have taken her for trafficking purposes,” said Russell. “I know enough to know what they do to these girls, OK? The condition she may be in, I would say, when we find her, is what’s going to be difficult because she may not be able to function on her own.”
Rumors in the neighborhood have Sam captive and a prostitute, addicted to drugs with a changed appearance, though residents admit that could all be big talk by methamphetamine dealers intending to intimidate their community.
“There’s always hope. That’s what I live by is faith, hope and belief. There’s no other way. It’s the only way to make it through,” said Russell. “I know the reality of the entire situation but I honestly do feel she’s alive. A mother’s intuition maybe but I do keep the reality in mind, too.”
The evidence does not point to a stranger abduction by convenience, said investigators, and there’s no proof that Sam is dead.
The person who dumped Sam’s car at an empty house and walked away either got lucky there were virtually no witnesses or knew the neighborhood so well that a hike back home at dawn on a Sunday was not a struggle.
And when it came to a struggle, who would be in vicinity with access to the vulnerable young woman when the streets of the west side, for the most part, would be quiet and deserted after hours?
“We do have people that leave and don’t want to be found,” said Travitz, who keeps a picture of Sam posted at her desk. “Some people just want to get away.”
Rebecca Russell thinks her daughter is one of those who wants to get away but can’t.
“Someone who knows exactly where she is that sees her, who has a big enough heart to report, if it is true on my theory on the trafficking, someone, OK, ‘I know this girl is missing and they’ve been looking for her, I see her, I’m going to call it in.’”
If you know what became of Larissa Sam, call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS. Your information could be worth a $1,000 reward.