She is Yvonne to most who know her, but to Yanah Amparano, she will always be "Vonnie." And for months, she's been missing, and missed by her best friend, daily.
Vonnie of course is Amparano's cousin, and "soul sister," Yvonne Baldellli, 42, formerly of Laguna Niguel, who has been missing since Nov. 26 in Panama.
as authorities combed her Caribbean home for traces of blood, offered a reward in the case, and named her ex-Marine boyfriend Brian Brimager as a person of interest.
She was last seen in Isla Carenero, one of several islands in the province of Bocas del Toro on Panama's Caribbean coast to “start a new life.” When she left California, she was joined by Brimager and her dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called GeorgiaMae.
Recently, FBI agents, forensic specialists and Panama authorities used a chemical that can reveal traces of blood while searching the home she and Brimager shared for more than two months, Panamanian police investigator Alexis Munoz told the Associated Press.
Baldelli's niece Lauren Beyer told Laguna Niguel Patch Baldelli last week that she was laid off from her job at Proctor & Gamble. Baldelli was a regional sales representative for the Sebastian hair care and cosmetics line, and traveled to check on the product line stocked at various salons. Before leaving California, the couple found a beach rental home called Casa del Sapo in a tiny town of 450 -- mostly foreigners -- on an archipelago off the coast of Panama.
Amparano, 39, reached out exclusively to Laguna Niguel Patch to share with readers her own personal relationship with Baldelli, someone that she grew up with. She last heard from Vonnie on Nov. 21, a few days before she went missing.
“I received an email and she was checking on me because she had heard that I was involved in a horrible car accident, and wanted to see how I was,” she said. “We went back and forth a couple of times and the last email was that evening at 6:30. She was planning my visit down in Bocas and I responded, but there was no reply. She always returned my calls, texts and emails within two days at the most.”
She said she considers the women “soul sisters, and best cousins.”
“My father’s mother in turn is my grandmother and Yvonne’s mother are sisters. Obviously, we have known each other our whole lives, we grew up together. We were always together from sleepovers to having ballet class together since the age of 6.”
Amparano said her father would babysit Baldelli and her siblings when they were babies. When Amparano turned 21, Baldelli was the one that was with her when she ordered her "first adult beverage."
“She was my maid-of-honor when I married and she threw me my bridal shower and baby shower,” she said. “She used to love to sew and was so good at it … she made a lot of clothes.”
Of course, while Amparano has numerous memories of Baldelli, a few stand out more than others.
“My best memory of her is when both of us were married, and we became neighbors...” she recalled. “During that time, my son was 2, and I was a stay-at-home mom. She also stayed at home.
“I can remember waiting for her husband to leave for work and vice versa,” she continued. “As soon as our husbands were off to work, we would take turns making coffee and sitting on our porches. We’d talk and never ran out of things to say. We’d talk and talk for hours on end, and when we weren’t home, we were always at the beach every Monday and Wednesday. Those are the times I miss the most.”
She added that when they were young, they often wondered if they would stay close as they got older.
“I have to say that we never had a moment of not ever seeing each other for a long time. We stuck by each other through the good, the bad, and the ugly,” she said.
Amparano said there is not a single day that goes by that she doesn’t want to call Baldelli and tell her how her own day went or ask how she was doing.
As for what happened to her soul sister in Panama, Amparano said she is asking herself the same question.
“She thought that this was a ticket to start a new venture in her life and live happily with her boyfriend that she was in love with,” she said. “Yvonne went with good intent ... all I know is that when I responded to her very last email to me, I never ever thought that it would have been the last time I would ever hear from her. After sending her messages to get in touch with me and her not responding, that’s when I got worried.”
She said she even asked Baldelli’s sister, Michele Valenzuela, if she had heard from Yvonne and when she told her that she (Yvonne) failed to call, on the past two Sundays, she got even more worried.
“I had and ugly feeling that this was not like Yvonne to not keep in touch with any one of her family members,” Amparano said. “Ever since then, it has turned into this horrible nightmare that we are now living.”
Amparano said she wants everyone to know that Baldelli was indeed a wonderful, kind, and caring woman.
“Anyone that ever met Yvonne loved her,” she said. “Her charisma and bubbly personality, as well as her need for you to want to love yourself no matter what. She was full of energy, and the tone in her voice was that of a happy person…”
Amparano said Baldelli was also funny and would often imitate family members “putting them in stitches.”
“She was so good at being a sounding board when I needed it,” she continued. "She doesn’t have a mean thing to say about anyone, it was always positive. She was all around the best friend and family member that anyone could ask for. It breaks my heart to know that she’s out there all alone scared and wondering when she will ever be found. I hear her voice and her laugh every moment of the day. She’s my soul sister, my blood, and I want the world to know that she’s loved by so many...and hated by none.”
In January, the family met for a reunion in California, but Baldelli did not attend. Family members started to compare notes, and realized nobody had heard from Baldelli in weeks. Her parents contacted the U.S. embassies in Panama and Costa Rica and went to Panama to look for her. They have not stopped.
Relatives have been working with authorities, but did not alert the media until last week.
Baldelli has three siblings, Lorraine Michelle Faust, Jim Faust Jr., and Michele Valenzuela, Beyer’s mother. Baldelli’s parents live in a rural part of Panama, about nine hours from where she lived.