LaToyia Figueroa (January 26, 1981 – August 2005) was an American woman of African-American and Hispanic descent who was murdered in 2005. Figueroa, who was five months pregnant at the time, was reported missing on July 18, 2005 after she failed to show up to work. She was later found strangled to death after being featured on America's Most Wanted.
Police discovered Figueroa's remains in a grassy, partially wooded lot in Chester, Pennsylvania, located 13 miles south of Philadelphia. They arrested Stephen Poaches, the father of her unborn child, on August 20, more than a month after she was reported missing. On October 17, 2006, Poaches was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Figueroa and her unborn child.
The disappearance of Figueroa sparked controversy about media coverage because cable news channels, such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel, neglected to cover her story in favor of Natalee Holloway, a Caucasian teen missing on the island of Aruba. Some observers protested that Figueroa's case was similar to the Laci Peterson case (which also covered the same timespan) and thus deserved greater attention, implying that race was a factor in the lack of coverage.
Details of the case
The Figueroa case bears a similarity to the case of Laci Peterson, who was found dead and whose husband, Scott, was found guilty of her murder. The Peterson case was covered heavily throughout 2004 and led to public consensus that Scott Peterson was guilty of the murder.
Figueroa's family stated that the lack of media coverage of her disappearance only brought more tragedy to an already troubled search. Figueroa's mother, Ann Taylor, was murdered when LaToyia was a toddler. Figueroa had a seven-year-old daughter. Joseph Taylor, Figueroa's uncle and family spokesman, has actively criticized the media. America's Most Wanted and the Philadelphia Citizen Crime Commission teamed up with police to aid in the search. A $100,000 reward was funded by rap stars Beanie Sigel (while in a prison) and Damon Dash, Beneficial Bank, T.G.I. Fridays, local philanthropists Joe Mammanaand, Kal Rudman, and Internet bloggers to help the family in the search for LaToyia.
Media coverage controversy
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The disappearance of Figueroa has spawned controversy about media coverage of missing people and how cases get national attention, with the terms "Missing White Women Syndrome" (used by journalist Gwen Ifill) and "Missing Pretty Girl Syndrome" (used by pundit Michelle Malkin) being used to draw attention to the neglect of missing non-white people. Media critics say that major news outlets are guilty of ignoring Figueroa and other missing-persons cases in favor of cases involving attractive young white women. Most media outlets in Philadelphia have been helping the Figueroa family, and Internet bloggers have pressured cable news networks to give coverage equal to that given to Natalee Holloway and Jennifer Wilbanks; they succeeded in gaining attention to Figueroa's disappearance from CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel.
- LaToyia Figueroa. America's Most Wanted, July / August 2005
- Missing Philadelphia Woman Is Found Dead
- Poaches Convicted of Figueroa Murders
- Man guilty of murdering girlfriend who refused abortion
- Missing Woman's Case Spurs Discussion of News Coverage
- Beanie Sigel Signing With G-Unit? - News Story | Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV News
- Reward for Missing Mom up to $100G
- "Information About Inmate: GV2311 as of 12/1/2010 3:35:02 PM." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved on December 1, 2010.