Boyfriend of missing Sampson County woman charged with child abuse

Francisco Yerbafria and Maria Ventura-Cruz

GODWIN, N.C. (WNCN) – The boyfriend of a missing Sampson County woman has been charged with child abuse after the sheriff’s office said he left children home alone.

Francisco Yerbafria was charged Tuesday.

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His girlfriend, Maria Ventura-Cruz, was reported missing by a family member on Monday. She was last seen about 7 p.m. Sunday, deputies said. Family members said she was last seen as she visited a family member in the hospital.

Yerbafria is also a person of interest in Cruz’s disappearance, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies “are not ruling out criminal misconduct” in the mother of three’s disappearance.

On Thursday, dive teams searched Black River near the Sampson County line.

RELATED: Deputies won’t rule out ‘criminal misconduct’ in case of missing NC mother of 3

“We’re just, you know, exploring all options, looking through creeks and rivers, looking in the woods,” said Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton.

He added, “We’re treating it as a missing person. We don’t know what the status is relating to her being alive or dead. Our hope is she is alive, but we don’t know that.”

Anyone with information on Ventura’s location is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (910) 592-4141.

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