Episode 016: Maya Millette

November 1, 2021

The day she calls a divorce attorney, Maya Millete mysteriously disappears. Her husband doesn’t know where she went, but she would never leave her children behind. So what happened to Maya?

Episode Media
Maya “May” Millete (GoFundMe)
Larry and Maya Millete
Maya Millete missing poster
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a story that has been unfolding over the last 10 months, about a missing woman who was trying to make a new life for herself and her children. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

Maya Tabalanza was born in the Philippines in 1981, the fifth of six children. When Maya was 14, her family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where she attended Radford High School. She was a bright, intelligent young woman who excelled in school.

When Maya was 17, she got a job at a local McDonalds so she could save money for college. There she met Larry Millete, who had just moved to Hawaii from San Diego with his family. In San Diego, Larry had been involved in a gang-related incident in which he had stabbed another teenager; Larry had been sent to juvenile hall on assault charges. After his release, his parents relocated the family to Honolulu, hoping for a fresh start.

Maya and Larry soon began dating, and in May of 1999, the couple married in Hawaii. In the early years of their marriage, Maya attended the University of Hawaii in Manoa, while Larry enlisted in the United States Navy, which took him to Illinois and Virginia for boot camp and training. Larry was eventually stationed in San Diego, and the couple settled into California life.

Larry served at Navy Medical Center San Diego as a Hospital Corpsman, similar to a civilian physician assistant. He received several awards during his time in the Navy, including a Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, and a Pistol Sharpshooter Ribbon.

Meanwhile, Maya continued her studies at the University of California San Diego, graduating with a degree in International Studies. At this point, Maya and Larry were ready to start a family. In 2010, Maya gave birth to their first daughter, Lara Mae, and a second daughter, Maylani, followed the year after that. Their third child, a son named Lazarus, was born in 2016.

Maya was incredibly busy at this time in her life. She had begun a successful career as a civilian contract specialist with the Navy, serving at Naval Sea Systems Command for 10 years, moving up the ranks to become a Division Director. In June of 2020, she joined the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command as an acquisitions specialist.

In addition to her career, Maya was also dedicated to giving her three children a wonderful, fulfilling life. She traveled around the world with them, exposing them to a wide variety of cultures and experiences. When they visited the Philippines, they filled up backpacks with school supplies for the children in the local community. Maya felt that it was vital for her children to understand the importance of helping others.

As happy as Maya was with her children and her career, she was just as unhappy with her marriage. Towards the end of 2020, Larry had become obsessive and controlling to the point of paranoia. Maya told a friend that she was becoming more and more afraid of Larry, and that once he had even choked her until she passed out.

The final straw came when Larry found out that Maya had been having an affair. Maya knew then it was time to leave. She began researching, preparing to file for divorce and start a life away from Larry. In December of 2020, Maya told friends that her marriage was definitely over.

On January 7th, 2021, Maya made a phone call to a divorce attorney, setting up an appointment for the following Tuesday to start filing the paperwork. The family was planning a trip to Big Bear Lake for that weekend for their daughter’s birthday, and Maya wanted to wait until after the trip to deal with the divorce proceedings.

Maya sent a message to her family that evening around 8:15, but then… nothing – for several days. It was unusual for Maya to not be on her phone. She was active on social media and was in constant contact with her family and friends. So when days passed without any word from Maya, her family knew something was wrong. At 11pm on January 9th, her sister called the Chula Vista police to report her missing.

Officers arrived at the Millete home around 1am on the 10th. They learned that Maya had not been seen since the 7th, and that calls to her cell phone were going straight to voicemail. Her car was still at home, making it seem less likely that she had disappeared voluntarily.

Police and community volunteers immediately began searching the area for any signs of Maya. Officers canvassed the neighborhood, asking for residents to check their surveillance cameras for anything that might be helpful to the investigation.

On the evening of January 14th, a week after Maya disappeared, her family and friends gathered at a local park for a candlelight vigil. The only person who wasn’t there was Larry. He dropped his daughter Lara Mae off at the event and then left. A local news reporter called Larry, asking why he wasn’t there. Larry claimed that he hadn’t attended the vigil for privacy reasons. “I’m not that person to, basically, go out there.”

On January 23rd, the Chula Vista Police Department served a search warrant at the Millete’s home, hoping to obtain any evidence that may provide a clue to Maya’s whereabouts. But the weeks passed, and there was still no sign of Maya. Her family was desperate for answers, plastering missing posters all over town and speaking to any neighbors who would listen. Maya’s sister Maricris told reporters that they felt so helpless, that the situation had been hard on the entire family. But she also mentioned that Larry had been distancing himself from the family, and that he had been keeping the children away. “He didn’t really want us to talk to the kids. He didn’t really want us to ask questions or anything like that.” By this point, Larry had retained a lawyer and stopped cooperating with the investigation. He wasn’t even helping with the search for Maya.

In spite of this, Maya’s family was insistent that Larry would never hurt her. Sure, they had been having some marital issues over the last year, but they were trying to work it out. It wasn’t anything more than typical relationship drama. They always put it aside for the sake of the children.

However, Chula Vista police were not ruling anything out. By mid-April, they had conducted dozens of interviews with Maya’s family, friends, and neighbors and had issued multiple search warrants for data from the Milletes’ cars and cell phones, plus their financial records and social media data. The department partnered with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the FBI to utilize every resource possible, pouring over thousands of pages of data in the hopes that something would lead to Maya.

On April 21st, authorities announced that they had security footage from one of the Milletes’ neighbors that could possibly contain a clue. On the recording, taken at 9:57pm on January 7th, the sound of eight loud bangs could be heard. The FBI could not confirm whether the bangs were the sound of a gun firing due to the quality of the recording. The neighbor who shared the recording said that they also heard the Millete children playing in the backyard about 30 minutes after the bangs were heard.

During the first week of May, investigators began making their move. On May 5th, Larry Millete was served with a temporary Gun Violence Restraining Order, a court order that prohibits someone from having any firearms or ammunition due to the individual posing a significant danger to themselves or others. Two days later, the police served a second search warrant at the Milletes’ home. Officers spent hours inside the house, loading items into the back of a police van, including what appeared to be rifles and ammunition. K9 units combed the property while Maya’s family and friends watched from the road.

Two months later, a third search warrant brought the police to Larry’s front door. The department announced that they had written six new search warrants in connection to the case. They were finally closing in on their suspect.

On July 22nd, more than six months after Maya’s disappearance, the Chula Vista Police Department formally named Larry Millete a person of interest.

Maya’s family gathered together, holding a rally at Seaport Village to remind the public that the case had not been solved – Maya was still missing. Larry being named a person of interest did not mean that the investigation was over.

But within a few weeks, tips from the public started to dwindle. Most calls to the tip line were about possible sightings of Maya across the country, but nothing had panned out. Investigators were looking hard at Larry Millete, and his temporary gun violence restraining order had been extended, but they needed more to make an arrest.

It wasn’t until October that they finally had enough. On Tuesday, October 19th, Larry Millete was arrested for the murder of his wife Maya. He was charged with first degree murder and illegal possession of an assault rifle.

In a press conference that same day, investigators laid out the timeline of Maya’s disappearance. In the last few months of 2020, Larry had begun searching for ways to make his wife stay in their marriage. He knew she wanted to leave, but he was determined to stop her. The lead investigator described Larry’s mindset as “desperate, frantic, and unbalanced” as he became more and more obsessed with everything Maya did, including monitoring her communications with friends and family. He would also show up unannounced at her office, certain that she was meeting with other men.

The investigation also revealed a pattern of disturbing internet searches on Larry’s devices, including looking up various plants and drugs that could be used to incapacitate someone. Possibly the most disturbing of all were emails he sent to “spellcasters” – psychics and spirit channelers that specialized in selling spells online. At first, Larry purchased spells he could cast on Maya to make her fall back in love with him, but when those didn’t work, he began asking for spells that would harm Maya. In one such email, Larry wrote, “Can you hex to have her hurt enough that she will have to depend on me and need my help.”

But after Maya disappeared, Larry’s emails shifted focus. He no longer asked for spells to hurt Maya, but instead, he wanted spells that would hurt the man with whom she’d been having an affair.

On January 7th, Larry sent a text that police believe was the beginning of the end. “I think she wants me to snap. I’m shaking inside ready to snap.”

Maya sent her last message to her family at 8:15pm on January 7th. At 9:57pm, the eight loud bangs were heard on the neighbor’s security footage. Maya’s phone activity stopped completely a few hours later at 1:25am on January 8th. Investigators determined that Maya’s phone never left the Milletes’ property.

At 5:58am, security video shows Larry moving his black Lexus to a spot in the driveway where the camera could not see what was happening in the back of the vehicle. Forty-five minutes later, Larry left home, taking his four-year-old son with him but leaving the two older children at home. He also left his phone behind, presumably so his location could not be tracked. He was gone for nearly 12 hours. He did not show up for work, and later told investigators that he had taken his son to Solana Beach. Detectives were able to gather data from the vehicle’s navigation system, which showed that Larry had programmed the GPS to navigate to his home address at 3:29pm, but Larry didn’t arrive home until 6pm, indicating that he had traveled over two hours from his house that day, possibly to a location he wasn’t familiar with. Solana Beach is only 30 minutes from Chula Vista.

On October 21st, Larry pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He is currently being held at the San Diego Central Jail without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for November 4th.

Unfortunately, investigators do not have a solid lead on where Maya’s body may be. However, they are determined to put together a no-body case. Chief of Police Roxana Kennedy said, “We want to see justice served and we want to have May come home to her family. As far as finding her body, I am hopeful. Can I guarantee that we’re going to find it? No. This is a difficult case. It’s extremely challenging.”

Investigators are working on finding a .40-caliber gun that belonged to Larry but was not recovered during the previous searches of the Millete home. They are also asking anyone who may have seen Larry’s vehicle – a black Lexus GX 460 with custom California tag “Maylani” – on January 8th to please contact the Chula Vista Police Department at 619-691-5151.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788. Help is available 24/7 – it is free and confidential. Domestic violence is not your fault: you deserve to be safe.