Grandmother desperate to find transgender teen who vanished after leaving Virginia apartment in 2012

Sage Smith was “the type of person who everyone was friends with,” her grandmother Lolita Smith told Dateline.

Sage Smith

“She was always smiling,” Lolita said. “She would come in and that smile would just light up a room.”

But Lolita said that what made her granddaughter so special was her resilience. Sage developed that quality at an early age, after her mother was deemed unfit to care for her and Sage then spent a tumultuous childhood in the foster care system. In the fall of 2012, no longer in the system, Sage moved into an apartment in Charlottesville, Virginia and had a new job. The 19-year-old’s life seemed to finally be turning around, according to Lolita.

In November of that year, Sage also came out as a transgender woman and changed her gender to “female” on Facebook.

“I am a girl now #Respect it,” she wrote in a Facebook post, according to Lolita.

“She was happy,” Lolita told Dateline.

On November 20, Sage left her apartment to meet up with a friend. Lolita says Sage told her roommate, Aubrey Carson, that she planned to meet someone – possibly a date – that night. Investigators have since learned that Sage was meeting up with Erik McFadden, a man with whom she’d recently been texting.

According to a press release from the Charlottesville Police Department, Sage was last seen around 6:30 p.m. on November 20, 2012 on the 500 block of West Main Street. Police also say that Erik had told friends he was going to meeting someone on West Main Street that night.

“Erik McFadden [confirmed] to Investigators that he did have phone contact with Smith and planned to meet [her that day] near the Amtrak Station on West Main Street,” a press release states. “McFadden stated the meeting never took place.

The next morning, when Sage’s roommate Aubrey woke up to find that Sage had not returned home, Aubrey grew concerned and contacted Sage’s grandmother Lolita. Lolita told Aubrey to contact the police. Aubrey reported Sage as missing to the Charlottesville Police Department on November 21, 2012.

“When she said Sage did not come home that night, I felt like my whole world just stopped,” Lolita told Dateline.

Police say that Erik left the Charlottesville area within a week of Sage’s disappearance. His whereabouts remain unknown. Erik McFadden has been named a person of interest in Sage’s case.

Erik McFadden