Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Shafaa Salem

Real Name: Shafaa Lucinda Salem
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: El Paso, Texas
Date: September 21, 1988


Occupation: Student
Date of Birth: 1983
Height: Unrevealed
Weight: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Single
Characteristics: Brown hair, brown eyes. She has a small heart-shaped birthmark on the bridge of her nose.


Details: Shafaa Salem is the daughter of DeFallah Al-Salem and Nancy Hardy. DeFallah came to the United States in April of 1980 and met Nancy of El Paso, Texas. The two came from different worlds: Nancy was a devout Christian who had spent almost all of her life in Texas; DeFallah was a Muslim and had told Nancy that he had come to the United States for a training exercise with the Jordanian Army. Just one month after they met, the two married. In 1983, Nancy gave birth to Shafaa, whose name means "healing light". Starting at the age of one, Shafaa began competing in beauty pageants. In 1988, she was a Texas state finalist in the Miss American Princess pageant.
However, the marriage between Nancy and DeFallah began to disintegrate by 1987 because of DeFallah's alleged angry and violent behavior. He was very demanding and domineering towards Nancy. He didn't like when she did stuff on her own. He was verbally abusive and violent towards her in front of their friends. Nancy soon discovered that DeFallah had deserted the Jordanian Army; he had earlier told her that he was merely on a leave in the US. Also, DeFallah began spending more time with Middle Eastern friends who appeared to be involved in extremist political activities. Finally in 1987, Nancy had enough. She and DeFallah separated, but they remained friendly for the sake of their daughter.
On September 19, 1988, when Nancy left town to attend to her late father's estate, DeFallah agreed to take Nancy to the airport and have the housekeeper watch Shafaa while she was away. Before leaving, Shafaa asked to go with her; however, she said no because Shafaa was in school. Around 1:30AM the next day, DeFallah called Nancy's motel room to check on her. He called again later that morning and told her that he was going to take Shafaa to school.
Nancy became suspicious; she called DeFallah and the housekeeper several times but never got an answer. She finally called Shafaa's school, only to learn that she had been on the absent list that day. At 10:30PM on September 21, she quickly returned home but found no trace of Shafaa or DeFallah. She then discovered a tape recorded message from DeFallah. He said that he was taking Shafaa to Jordan for about three weeks. Soon after returning home, Nancy learned that DeFallah had dismissed their housekeeper and bought two one-way tickets to the Middle East.
The local authorities and FBI investigated, but little could be done because DeFallah had left the country. Nancy began to search on her own for her husband and daughter. For four years, she received no new information regarding their whereabouts. In the meantime, she moved from El Paso to her hometown of Longview, Texas. In desperation, she put up part of her inheritance: mineral rights she claimed were worth $500,000. She hoped that someone would come forward with information about her daughter. Soon after the reward was posted, she finally received a lead.
In January of 1992, Nancy returned to El Paso and met a man who claimed to be a Lebanese newspaper reporter. He had called her and said that he had important information regarding Shafaa. Unbeknownst to the reporter, Nancy had a friend watch them from the parking lot. Her friend soon noticed a station wagon circling the restaurant, watching them closely. The car circled the restaurant for two hours; Nancy later learned that it belonged to a Lebanese couple. However, she could find no connection between the couple and DeFallah or the reporter.
Meanwhile, the reporter told Nancy that DeFallah and Shafaa were in Lebanon. He then outlined a complicated scheme to fly Nancy to the Middle East where she would be reunited with Shafaa. He said that he needed $250,000 in cash for the plan to work. He said he also wanted $250,000 upon Shafaa's safe return. Nancy was able to stall with the reporter long enough to get the FBI involved.
Ten days later, she met him at an El Paso airport; she was shadowed by FBI agent Mike Pearce. The reporter claimed that he would arrange a phone call between Nancy and Shafaa. He also claimed that he could get a document that would allow Shafaa back into the United States. However, he said that he needed the money from her first. Nancy refused to give any money to him, now believing that he was a con artist. The FBI was unable to determine if the man was actually a reporter, but they believe that he knew nothing about Shafaa or DeFallah's whereabouts.
Three months later in April of 1992, Nancy's close friends Carolyn and Pat Mitchell were driving in El Paso when they had a strange encounter. First, a woman wearing an Islamic headdress drove past them. Then, a man that they believed to be DeFallah passed them in a car right behind the first one. The Mitchells followed the car until it reached a house. The car then made a U-turn and quickly sped away.
Nancy began staking out the house; she was accompanied by the same friend that had helped her earlier at the restaurant. The two women waited throughout the evening. A Black Monte Carlo was parked in the driveway. Although several people were seen going in and out of the house, they did not see DeFallah. Eventually, they decided to leave because it was around 2AM. However, as they left, they were intercepted by the same Monte Carlo that was parked in the driveway earlier. As the two drove away, the car started chasing them at high speeds. Fortunately, they were able to lose the car that was following them.
Although they did not see DeFallah that night, Nancy believes that he was in El Paso. She also believes that his friends were trying to scare her away. Nancy is desperate for any information about DeFallah or Shafaa. She believes that they may be in Juarez, Mexico. However, the FBI cautions that they could now be anywhere in the world.
Suspects: DeFallah Al-Salem
Extra Notes: This case originally ran on the January 5, 1994 episode.

Nancy and Shafaa reunited

Results: Solved. In January of 1999, fifteen-year-old Shafaa was placed in a foster home in Stockholm, Sweden, after she told social workers that she was abducted by DeFallah. She then contacted an American attorney in Sweden and told him that she was a missing person in the United States. He contacted the FBI and arrangements were made to return her to the United States. On February 14, 1999, Nancy and Shafaa were joyously reunited at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport after a ten-year separation.
According to Shafaa, she and DeFallah never went to Jordan after she vanished. Instead, they went to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan before moving to Sweden, where they lived for the next ten years. According to her, DeFallah was physically and mentally abusive towards her. She would often ask about Nancy, but he would tell her that she would never see her mother again. He also said that he would kill her if she tried to return to the United States or see Nancy.
Unaware of their true whereabouts, Nancy had actually traveled to Jordan several times to look for Shafaa and DeFallah. Following their reunion, the two moved into an apartment in Longview, Texas, planning to make up for the ten years that they had been apart.