Celina Janette Mays, age 12, disappeared from Willingboro, New Jersey on December 16, 1996.

Celina was last seen at her home on Crestwood Drive the evening prior to her family noticing that she was missing.  She lived with her father, Crezonzo “C.J.” Mays, her step-mother and an aunt.  Her mother, Lynn Vitale,  had died of a brain aneurysm two years prior. Her parents had not been married, and their relationship was troubled, with allegations of violence. Both had histories of drug abuse.

On the day she was last seen, she attended church with her family, and ate dinner at home.  Prior to going to bed, she had a brief conversation with a cousin, in which she said “Thank you for everything.”  She’d also spoken with her half-brother on the phone. Suspecting that something was wrong, he asked her to press a button on the phone if she was unhappy living with her father, and he heard the tone of a button being pressed.  He could hear Celina’s father in the background yelling at her to get off the phone.

The following morning, Celina’s father found pillows arranged underneath her blanket, but Celina was gone.  He reported her missing, but did not cooperate with the investigation.

Celina was nine months pregnant when she vanished, and her baby was due in just a couple weeks.  The identity of her unborn child’s father is not known, though she reportedly told her doctor that he was sixteen years old.  Celina left her prenatal medication behind,  along with her purse.  She also became eligible for a considerable payout from her mother’s life insurance policy when she turned eighteen, but she has never claimed it.

Celina’s father and aunt, Cerita Smith, were heavily involved in Gospel of Christ Ministries, a Pentecostal church that came under fire in the 1990’s for brainwashing its members.  Celina’s father was an accountant for the church; her aunt was the pastor.  Celina was raised with strict religious beliefs, and was home schooled.

A lot of accusations have been set forth in Celina’s disappearance, with her maternal relatives blaming her father’s church and family, her paternal relatives blaming her mother’s family, and her father insisting she left of her own accord so the paternity test he demanded could not be done.  Celina’s aunt has stated that she believes disgruntled members of the church may have been involved.

Although Celina told her doctor that the father of her baby was sixteen and not a member of the church, some have speculated that she may have been abused and impregnated by one of her uncles.  This uncle reportedly impregnated other female church members.  In response to suggestions that C.J. Mays may have been the father of her baby, he stated he’d had a vasectomy prior to her conceiving.  It’s not known whether this has been verified.

There have been unconfirmed sightings of her all over the country, but some turned out to be similar looking girls, while others couldn’t be located to verify their identities.

Celina has two much younger sisters who didn’t have the opportunity to know her.  Both have spoken out in an attempt to locate her; they want to know what happened all those years ago.  Their father is now deceased.

Although Celina’s disappearance has several aspects that would indicate she left voluntarily, it’s very possible that things were staged to appear that way.  If she had been impregnated by an adult against her will, he might have felt that this was the only way to conceal what he had done.

At the same time, growing up with a strict, religious family and having a baby at age 12 wouldn’t have been a good combination, so I can see why she might have run away.  I truly hope this is the case, and that she and her child are alive and well today.


The Charley Project

The Courier News

AP News

6ABC Philadelphia

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6 thoughts on “Celina Mays

  1. Celina Mays was molested and got pregnant by her cousin (Shawn Smith) who is the son of the pastor ( Cerita Smith) and nephew of Celina’s father. Shawn Smith has gotten plenty of young girls pregnant who attended the church and his mother knew of his problem. As soon as Celina got pregnant, it became a major problem because of her age. It was very impossible for Celina to run away because she was not allowed outside and the home had alarms and bolt locks on door to make it very impossible for anyone to leave. Also someone was awake all night like a security guard, so it was very impossible for her to run away. I truly believe that Celina was murdered by Shawn Smith to hide the fact that he was the father of her child. Willingboro Police just let this case slip by because Shawn Smith uncle was a Willingboro Police Detective and he investigated the case.
    This case is a cover-up for what Shawn Smith was doing to these young girls at that church. This case need to be reopened and reinvestigated by the FBI

  2. Biggest cover up ever. Talk to the teenagers of the cult at the time of Celina’s disappearance. Word has it they let it slip one night while drinking that Celina was murdered. According to this group of kids Celina was taken to their church basement where her body was chemically burned with acid.

    Celina’s mother, Lynn, died of suspicious circumstances which was never investigated. Side note: if you saw Lynn you would certainly know she wasn’t an exotic dancer.

    The complete narrative was false, made up by this cult.

  3. Please find the people that still may be alive that were in that home when she went missing. Is the paster aka aunt still living. I feel they killed her possibly by accident and rid of her in that church boiler room. Cremated her the end. It’s why they wouldn’t let that church be searched. I pray her siblings don’t stop and believe if she was alive she would of come fourth now with knowing her father is gone. They killed her and the father took it to the grave. Have mercy. Amen

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