Vanished: Sage Smith’s family speaks out on unsolved case

Sage Smith’s family claims that news outlets and law enforcement did not care about the case during critical early days in 2012 because their child was different.
12:18 | 02/27/20

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Transcript for Vanished: Sage Smith’s family speaks out on unsolved case
What do you do when a loved one goes missing for some they trying galvanize public support but few response. Security ABC news line we want to shine a spotlight on the families who far too often feel that they have been ignored. Our Steelers and sunny kicks off our series vanished with one case sage Smith's family. Has been desperate for answers I received very little help they were stunned. When a young woman in their town went missing and watched as they felt like the entire community showed up to search. Please look this is the face of someone who has vanished and for reasons beyond their family's control. You may not have heard this story on the news or in the papers say Smith was born a boy and to put a finer point on it a black boy. According to his family is gender fluid. The first thing we think this is my own. You can't like the biggest brightest smile. The shock as they call and at home mysteriously disappeared from Charlottesville Virginia in November of 2012. Smith's family says that no one in the press and law enforcement or the community really cared at the time. Because their child was different. Some of them. A long time. It was a while before it actually was on the news the local news not on the first day. Not on the second day. It was quite some time you have never Colin down and asked can wind is an alliance and beyond there. It was Tuesday November 20 just nineteen years old. The last time anyone saw Smith alive and witnesses remember seeing a pretty smile buried deep into a cell phones save Smith was meeting someone that night a friend possibly get data according to a roommate and was seen at this cafe on main street. They were supposed to be meeting here. In front of this train station but the young man's age was connecting wind excess that meeting never happened. Tosh a Dennis and her two oldest daughters tell a familiar story that shared too often from families of color. When their loved ones go missing police are slow to respond. How many calls would you say you had their conversations you thank you had to get you had to happen with the police before you were taken seriously. Do you not remember. It's the united coming out and talk and it's a mere incumbency and top. Taken down information and stuff but it. Seattle still like we got that much from it. I mean it and initially didn't really intellectual involvement from the please. At the center for missing and exploited children director Robert Lowery told us that roughly 800000 Americans go missing each year what percentage of those car. African American or color plus 60%. Of the report stated we see and hear him anyway how's it going those databases and more about half. Well over half of them really breaks a lot of commonly held thought. On people who aren't really you must control of the new us the numbers show that missing black Americans are disproportionately represented. And 2018 more than 30% of all missing persons were black Americans despite making up just 13% of the total US population. But only around a fifth of those cases followed by the news. Smith was last seen here on the 500 block of main street here in Charlottesville wearing a black jacket and dark gray sweat pants and black boots. The family has canvassed the street many times with the photos and flyers. Through it all they ever find is a dead end. When the family together search of their wrong there were no parents no police we may see few people shown in. I remember reaching out to much Turner's. Local turns here and ask and passed on to. Mile tenacity on service we kind of put it out there for the community. To help us and something else. Not a long. Less than two years later they witnessed how much the world could care. Now to that. New twists in the disappearance of UBA student Hannah Graham eighteen year old Hannah Graham went missing from these same city streets it was front page and top of the hour news and guess who flew into Virginia. Joining the wave of reporters and news trucks following the investigation. Her parents live in suburban DC two story has taken a strange turn the police say they're still searching for had a ground. This same network news correspondent telling you this story now. Smith's sister tells me she was working at an ice cream shop when police and volunteers came searching for Handel Graham. I like to downtown. Jail time at taps ice cream. The end I remember actually seeing everyone likes looking around permanent coming tonight job and asking for this surveillance tape actually David Headley thousands of people pull for him Graham and it was just like. We'll be mad about it and he'll even people on my job grilling cook off my god do you know bike. Where was this energy. Daring kid in 2000. Well the disappearance of Hanna Graham came to a sad ending this man was arrested and convicted of killing her. Sage Smith's family says they do not diminish in any way in the depth of this tragedy. They tell us a new police detective assigned to their case has worked hard. To keep them updated on the investigation. And they don't want this interview to spoil that relationship will we tried to talk with Charlottesville police but they declined our request for an interview. They did shared this on an episode of disappear. Seen on investigation discovery explaining the difference in the response between the two cases. Why did a thousand media trucks you'll look for Hanna Graham and only. Schieffer say just case. A societal problem that we hadn't. For a lot of people need to asked those questions why these cases were treated differently. We also talked with to key a McKenzie who runs a foundation that helps meet the medical and legal needs of game gender fluid. And transport unions many of them have color. She says she knows all too well the answers to those questions. And so thankful to what we're talking about woods with missing. People in particular missing people of color and you know about sages story here what are your thoughts on wall. It's I think it's really strange. From individuals can just compliment saying and especially. We think about trans people of color. Because there is from a system. And our world right now how much expands and I was a murder suspect. Comment just baffles me how someone can just say disappear vanished military's. Anything. Say it is gender identity. How do you think that are. All of this people understand turns people or gender fluid people. Some people have the mentality is you know we put ourselves in certain situations of these things happen because of cool we are. Apart that it plays is that they don't prioritize. Investigating him I think because of privilege card. Yes the search for safe Smith now 27 has police looking for this young man Eric McFadden who would now be 28. And police believe he was the one meeting Smith that. Cold night in November. They say he too has now disappeared and they are calling him a person of interest. We have made a plea today to Honolulu on AirTran we'd like to talk to believe India's information vital in this case come as you can see we have a fan with a turn. Went over he sees a Sony does the right time. The fact remains very much out of its mess and then that to me on the board and audit matters blew a thumbs. Why do you live in another situation rack connect green and I just me. Close or the family says they can agree on whether they should hold out hope that Smith is still alive but they tell us that anyone seen this photo should know. This is a person who missed terribly missed and deeply law. You're good to be watching something on TV and you can't waste. Who wish he would just want camera. Personally option. There is no longer but. 'cause in this mill wit and it's no way. And they witnessed. Not being here. And I was talking guys and we. Home in the Horton the system. I'm just. I and I didn't think I've been understanding why it is. Then I find it's so important and that is that. What's been happening today it's. Families like yours who. Don't get the police tension don't get the media attention we have to work double hard. You know have to be your own grief counselor and have the same time conduct her own searches have to be the one that do all the flyers and and at the same time keep yourself together what is bothering me the most about it is that what it is saying. To be our current situation is that this life just isn't as important as others. And I just can't. Get with them. It feels there's a feeling how begging people they care about it does it feel like you're getting more. Help from both people like me. The police said all its stuff on this room we had cut rich. In the beginning. That it could have went different after time people to get things and you know lighten his disease. You know people have some other things and think about some of that little small thing could have house and you. That the case. For ABC news live I'm Steve listen sunny in Charlottesville Virginia. Casinos and Sami joins us now Steve you reported a startling numbers black Americans make up 13% of the population but 30% of all missing cases transgender black Americans are particularly at risk. Further live feeling I need to I tell you a thank you for shining light Steve because that's so important. And I'm just curious and we heard from the sister they're saying it feels like you're paying to get attention begging for somebody to take care basically. And so we appreciate you for doing other than its ceiling it's getting any better than other people are. Are starting to notice like when black and brown people go missing that we need to start reporting and we need to start paying attention. I think it's getting a little better because of efforts like this one. People like you NI telling these stories there's also the black and missing foundation which is an online effort it's. It's a group of two women in DC who have started this foundation who decided to pursue these stories. And as more a must speak about this and point out this disparity. I think some of these cases are now starting to get just a little bit more attention. And importantly more investigative work. From authorities. An and we know we saw there in a report that the police declined ten to go on camera with you but. Have we ever gotten any kind of tips or leads or any kind of information from police about seeing each. So most of the information we're getting it. But from the police is coming to the Stanley and they tell us that some tips have come in but nothing concrete nothing that of course. Has led to any discovery a stay Osage. At the Stanley has has gotten so far but one thing we week we have to underline here and this is often the case in so many of these cases. The police really didn't get involved in this case the investigation didn't. Really take off until long after the fact and that's really what's unfortunate. And it's those first few hours and days after a person disappears where you have the most success in getting the best tips. That lead to a resolution and that unfortunately didn't happen here but this family is hoping that. In telling their story. That this improves the situation for other. Black families across the country who are looking for missing loved ones steam since I thank you for for telling their story we appreciate it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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