Family and friends are desperately searching for Portia Ravenelle and Orlando Moore. The two American tourists mysteriously vanished while taking a brief holiday in the Dominican Republic at the end of March and have not been heard from for nearly two weeks.
Here’s what you need to know about this case:
1. Ravenelle and Moore Were On a Romantic Vacation
The Mount Vernon, New York couple had planned a relaxing four-day vacation at the Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa, an all-inclusive resort in the city of Samana, in the country’s northeast region. The two left Liberty National Airport in Newark, New Jersey on March 23 and were expected back on March 27. Neighbor John Hollis reported texting with Moore about his home a few days before the couple went missing and all seemed fine.
Loved ones say Ravenelle, 32, and Moore, 43, were communicating via SnapChat and posting photos of their holiday on social media before their disappearance. Those photos have been distributed to authorities and the media to help find them, however, both Ravenelle and Moore’s social media accounts have been taken down.
2. Authorities Are Trying To Re-Trace The Couple’s Steps
Ravenelle and Moore seemed to have a picture-perfect vacation in Samana and all appeared to be going well. The last photo of the pair showed them leisurely riding horseback. Investigators have confirmed that the Ravenelle and Moore left the hotel on the evening of March 26 and were set to drive to the airport to catch a flight back to the U.S.
Records show that they did not board their return flight, their rental car has not been located and both of their phones have been shut off with all calls going to voicemail. Their car was not moved from its spot at Liberty National Airport. CNN has reported that the Dominican Republic National Police are not providing any details regarding their investigation and the Dominican Republic’s Washington, DC Embassy in Washington, DC could not be reached for comment.
3. Ravenelle Was Worried About the Trip to the Airport
Cheryl Freeman, a tourist from Nova Scotia, befriended Ravenelle and Moore and has shared photos of the couple to help with the investgation. Speaking with CNN, she recalled that they parted ways at 9:30 p.m. on March 26 so Moore and Ravenelle could catch a 2:00 a.m. flight from the Dominican Republic’s capital of Santo Domingo back to the U.S.
Freeman revealed that Ravenelle was anxious that she and Moore would be driving in the middle of the night and was worried about having enough gas in the rental car along with a solid GPS signal.
Ravenelle also shared with Freeman that she wanted to make sure her phone had enough charge for the three-hour trip. According to Freeman, Ravenelle had been calling the car rental company and was told by a representative not to roll down the windows at any time during the trip to protect against theft.
4. The Couples’ Families Initiated the Search
Ravenelle and Moore’s family became worried when the couple failed to return home as scheduled on March 27. They soon began contacting authorities in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to report their loved ones as missing.
The family of Portia Ravenelle has since flown to the Dominican Republic to assist with the search while the Moore’s say they are waiting to hear more from authorities. “This is definitely not like my brother. He’s not just going to run off on a hiatus and not tell his family,” his sister Lashay Turner told reporter Wale Aliyu of NBC 4 New York.
5. The State Department Issued a Safety Advisory About the Dominican Republic in February
On February 12, the State Department put a notice on their website warning tourists to use “increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime,” and says that “significant crime exists throughout the Dominican Republic.”
Their website advises tourists to hand over any possessions during a robbery, not to carry or wear expensive items, be wary of strangers and to travel with other people.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), which advises diplomatic personnel stationed overseas, says that “crime continues to be the number one safety concern,” for both Dominicans and diplomatic staff.
The OSAC’s site says that drive-by robberies are common. “Crime is generally not violent if the victim cooperates; however, an assailant will not hesitate to use violence if the victim resists,” it says, adding “The wide availability of weapons, the use of drugs, and the weak criminal justice system all contribute to the high level of criminality in the country.”
In addition to a high crime rate, the Dominican Republic has also been listed as a dangerous destination for driving. According to the 2015 Global Status report on Road Safety issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Dominican Republic has the 12th-most dangerous roads in the world.
The World Economic Forum ranks the Dominican Republic as #106 out of 107 countries for safety.