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Originally published March 17, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Page modified March 18, 2011 at 12:19 PM

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Missing UW student may have signed on to AOL

Marizela Perez, the UW student who has been missing since March 5, may have signed on to an AOL account.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A University of Washington student who has been missing since March 5 may have signed on to her online AOL account Wednesday night, according to her father.

Edgar Perez said his daughter Marizela Perez, or someone using her account, logged into her AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service.

Relatives in Connecticut noticed that her AIM icon was lit up on a friends list, indicating the account was online.

"They saw she's online," Edgar Perez said. "We're not sure it's her or someone else logged on. Hopefully, she's sending messages to friends. Hopefully, she's the one who logged on."

Perez was carrying her laptop when she disappeared.

The information has been passed on to the Seattle detectives who are investigating her disappearance.

Edgar Perez, who lives in New Jersey, said he hopes the detective can get to the bottom of the activity on the AOL account.

He's encouraged by the news.

Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt said, "It's still an open investigation. We need to let the investigation play out."

Witt said detectives may need to get a search warrant to look into the AOL activity.

Police have said they don't suspect foul play in Perez's disappearance.

Relatives say they last saw Perez, 18, at about noon March 5 in the Rainier Beach neighborhood where she lives. She was heading to a library on the UW campus.

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There was video of her inside a Safeway store in the University District. The videos show Perez walking alone out of the Safeway on Brooklyn Avenue Northeast, wearing a dark jacket with a hood over a light-colored sweater with hood and denim jeans.

About 10 family members are searching for Marizela Perez, papering North Seattle with fliers and visiting shelters. They're also raising money to hire a private investigator.

Edgar Perez said there's been no activity on her credit or debit cards. The last withdrawal was on the day she disappeared, when she took $40 from a cash machine.

Marizela Perez is described as 5-foot-5, Asian, 110 pounds with a bobbed hairstyle. She has a tattoo on her left inner arm with the words "lahat ay magiging maayos" — Tagalog for "All will be well." She was wearing jeans and possibly carrying a plaid backpack.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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