A Virginia mother and her two children are missing and police have launched a search to locate them.
Monica Lamping went on a lunch date Jan. 21 and sent her two children, Kai, 7, and Oria, 9 months, to a babysitter, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
She returned home at around 5 p.m. and collected her children, but left again soon afterward. Police have said that Lamping went missing "under suspicious circumstances."
In the early hours of Jan. 22, Lamping's house, which she shared with another unidentified woman, burnt down.
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Firefighters said they believe a space heater started the blaze and don't think foul play was involved. A dog and a cat died in the blaze. Two cats were rescued.
An occupant of the house said it "had been without heat for some time."
Police said they had characterized the circumstances as "suspicious" due to "the fact that an extended period of time has elapsed since there has been any contact" with Lamping.
"She's never been out of communication with all of us for this length of time," Sheila Bogart, Lamping's mother, told The Pilot.
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Authorities contacted Anne Shell, a friend of Lamping, to ask whether the mother-of-two had been in touch following the fire, but she had not.
"At that point, I got really scared," Shell added.
Shell suspects she was the last person to have contact with Lamping at around 10 p.m. Jan. 21 via text message.
A private search and rescue team was seen at Lamping's home Jan. 24, WAVY reported.
Police added they are looking for a person named Chad, but it is not clear how or if he was involved in the incident.
"With every hour that passes, that feeling of helplessness certainly grows, and a feeling of despair is also there," said Kevin Lamping, Monica's ex-husband, according to WAVY.
Family members and friends have been distributing Monica's picture on social media in an attempt to locate her.
"I hope that she’s safe and just know that we love her," Shell added. "I just want her to come home safe."