BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Nancy Larson believes someone knows what happened to her 16-year-old niece, Marya Neufeld. And she fears it could even be someone who is close to her, who may just be afraid to speak up.
“We really want to ask any of the friends, if they were with her or seen her, they can at least, if they know anything, say something. I know too many people are scared to get their friends in trouble…but this is one of those times you need to tell somebody,” Larson said during an interview at the Park at River Walk, with Neufeld’s younger sisters Alana and Amelia at her sides, and her younger sister Madalyn standing just off-camera. The group, along with a friend and cousins of Neufeld, were all wearing shirts bearing her face.
It has been over one month since the 16-year-old’s body was found along Tower Line Road, near Buena Vista Boulevard, lying at an orchard with a gunshot wound to her head. Larson said there are too many gaps between the last time she was seen alive and when her body was found.
“I don’t know what a person, let alone a female child, could have done to deserve a bullet in the head,” said Larson.
Neufeld, a North High School student with a one-year-old boy, was described in many ways by her sisters: caring, loving and funny.
“She was the funniest, always knew how to make people laugh, even when you didn’t want to,” said Amelia. “If we got in an argument with her she would always try to make it right, no matter what it was.”
“She was a really loving person, she always put anyone before her,” said Alana. “She would always protect us..she’d always call us to make sure we’re okay.”
The family last saw Neufeld alive on March 4, when she left her little sister’s birthday party to hang out with a friend. But she didn’t come home. Her body was later found on March 6, but family members wouldn’t find out until after filing a missing persons report, and KCSO identified the teen with a DNA swab.
“I thought it was a prank,” said Amelia.
But it became all too real, after the family went from celebrating her sweet 16 on March 1, to picking out her headstone the following month. Larson said the family was grateful for the community’s donations that helped them afford Neufeld’s services. But Larson believes this case can be solved, and she’s willing to offering money to whoever knows what really happened.
Up front, she’s offering $2,000, along with however much is raised with a reward fund she created through GoFundMe. She said affording Neufeld’s funeral service wouldn’t have been possible without the donations that were given to the family through GoFundMe, and now she’s asking for that same kind of support to encourage someone to come forward.
A teen who still had her whole life ahead of her, rising above her circumstances. Some may remember the scare in Bakersfield when Neufeld was reported missing in 2018, when she was still 13. But Larson said that was just her being a teen, and that her recent disappearance was different.
“She was doing great,” said Larson. Her aunt says since the runaway incident, Neufeld was doing well in school, going through counseling, and helping the family while her mother goes through cancer treatment, all with the added challenge of pregnancy and being a teen mother. In March, she used her own birthday money to buy her son gifts.
“I’m on a mission for my family to get answers,” said Larson, “and I will get them.”
According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, it’s believed Neufeld was in East Bakersfield and Arvin before her death. Anyone with information can contact KCSO at 861-3110, or stay anonymous and call Kern Secret Witness at 322-4040.