UPDATE: Virginia police informed today that Monica Lamping and her two children are safe and unharmed. Her ex-husband Kevin Lamping is on his way to an undisclosed location near Asheville, North Carolina, to retrieve his son Kai. At this time, no charges against Monica Lamping are being contemplated.
Mystery surrounds the disappearance of a young mother and her two children in Virginia under what police say are “suspicious circumstances. Monica Lamping, the 29-year-old mother of a 9-month-old daughter Oria and 7-year-old son Kai were reported missing by family members on January 22 at about 9:30 a.m, according to a Virginia Beach Police Department news release. The is a Facebook page bearing her likeness under the name "Monica Claire."
A fire had broken out in her home a few hours before she and her children were reported missing, according to the Virginia Beach Fire Department. During the pre-dawn hours on January 22, the fire totally destroyed the home but no one was found in the embers, according to the fire department. The cause of the fire is still being investigated. Investigators believe that a space heater may have started the fire, said Sheila Bogart, Monica’s Lamping’s mother. A dog and a cat died at the scene. Police do not know whether the fire is related to the disappearance of the mother and children.
It was late in the afternoon on January 21 that Monica Lamping went on a blind date with "somebody named Chad," according to Moira Lamping (31), who is married to Monica Lamping’s ex-husband. Kevin Lamping said that Monica Lamping met her blind date at a gas station.
Monica Lamping left her children with Anne Shell, her best friend, and then returned after the date at about 5:30 p.m. that same day, said Moira Lamping. "She said something about car trouble, and Chad could fix it," Moira Lamping said. Shell and Lamping texted each other during the night of January 21, while Monica Lamping sent her last message at about 10:30 p.m., Shell said. Bogart said she initially thought her daughter and grandchildren had stayed at Shell’s house. 
Police are "attempting to identify the individual named Chad." They have released no information about his identity, physical description, or place of residence. The Lamping family has hired two private investigators to assist the search.
Family members reported they have not been able to get in contact with Monica Lamping since that afternoon, the Virginia Beach Police Department wrote in a news release. Her cell phone is dead or turned off.
Kevin Lamping, the father of Kai Lamping, received word while on a ship that his son was not at school on January 23. Monica Lamping sent him a message over the internet to his Florida duty station where he serves in the Navy. "I saw that on the ship, my heart sank. We were counting on that to be a clear indicator that he was safe," Kevin said. The military flew Kevin home from Florida after he received word. Wife Moira Lamping said that Kevin has spent much of his time answering phone calls about his ex-wife’s disappearance. She said he “broke down” while reading to the 18-month-old baby that they share. “He kind of just broke down and said he hopes he has the opportunity to read like that with Kai again,” Moira Lamping told the New York Post. “It’s heartbreaking.”
The 31-year-old Kevin Lamping told WVEC, “You wonder if your child is in a truly bad place right now. The more I think about him, which has been a lot lately, I think about how pure he is and how innocent he is.”
Monica Lamping is believed to be operating a green 2002 Jeep Cherokee bearing a Virginia license plate with the tag XPU-6357, according to police. The vehicle was last spotted traveling through the Portsmouth Downtown Tunnel in Portsmouth, Virginia, police said. It is still missing.
“We’re just worried about the kids,” Moira Lamping told WVEC. “We just want to get this out there and try to get them back as soon as possible.”



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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