SPECIAL REPORT: Hooked on heroin

Published: Apr. 25, 2016 at 7:40 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 1, 2017 at 4:22 PM EST
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(WWBT) - SPECIAL REPORT: Hooked on heroin 

We've been following Amanda's progress through rehab for heroin addiction.

When we first talked to her, she had just entered rehab after an overdose nearly took her life.

She was in a fast food restaurant bathroom using heroin when she suddenly realized something was wrong and she had to get out. She didn't make it to the door.

A good Samaritan realized something was wrong and burst in to help her. He gave her CPR until the ambulance arrived and saved her life. But he couldn't save himself. He died from an overdose just weeks after saving Amanda.

Now, she's trying to honor the man who saved her life by staying clean.

We'll have more on her incredible story with Colleen Quigly's powerful report this Wednesday at 11 PM on NBC12 News. 

SPECIAL REPORT: Gone without a trace

On October 9, 2010, two young boys woke up alone. Their mother, 24-year-old Unique Harris, was gone. She had vanished without a trace.

Here is what we know about Unique's disappearance:

Unique with her sons before her disappearance.
Unique with her sons before her disappearance. 

Her glasses, which she needed in order to see anything, were neatly folded on her pillow.

The glasses that Unique needed to be able to see. Folded just like she left them. 

The bed had not been slept in. Her purse, her ID, her money, where all left behind.

Unique's purse that was left. 

Her jacket was also left behind.

Her mother has never washed her jacket and says it still smells like her daughter. 

The only things missing along with Unique were the keys to her apartment and her cell phone. She did not own a car.

The apartment building Unique had just moved into 5 weeks earlier. 

Unique had moved a few weeks earlier to DC from Richmond. She wanted to be closer to her mother and wanted to make a fresh start. Before that, she had lived in Richmond for years. She graduated from John Marshall High School. Both of her sons were born in Richmond.

Photo of Unique when she graduated from high school in Richmond. 

On the night Unique disappeared, she and her sons and her young cousin watched a movie and ate popcorn together. The boys went to bed, leaving their mother sitting on the couch. Their last memory with their mom is her telling them, "goodnight."

Since her disappearance, Unique's mother, Valencia Harris, has been looking for her tirelessly. She says her daughter "would have NEVER EVER left those children in that apartment by themselves."

Unique's sons sit on the front steps of the apartment building, the last place they saw their mother. 

She wants her daughter to know that her mother is looking for her and won't give up. "I will look for her with the last breathe in my body. The last 6 years of my life are a testament to that. Hold on until Momma finds you. Because I am going to find her. I am turning this world upside down."

Unique's mother passes out fliers near where her daughter was last seen. 

Her mother believes that someone took her daughter. DC police have been looking for Unique and the case remains open to this day.

Unique's family does not think Unique would just leave. They say she was starting a new life. She had only been in her new, DC apartment for 5 weeks. She enrolled her children in daycare. She had found a new church to go to and was taking the boys there. She had also enrolled in school.

Unique had just moved from Richmond to Washington before she vanished. 

The last call to her cell phone was at 3 AM.

Unique's mother and DC police are hoping that someone in Richmond, the place where she grew up and raised her sons in the first years of their lives, will know something that could help with the investigation.

Valencia Harris wipes away a tear as she tell Rachel DePompa she doesn't know if her daughter is still alive or not. 

Her family believes Unique was abducted. Her mother has a message for anyone who might know something about what happened to her daughter. "Somebody has probably been holding this on their conscious for the last almost 7 years now and it's getting to the point where my heavenly creator is working on them to the point where they're ready to tell because something like this doesn't happen and nobody knows what happened. I know there's someone out there that knows exactly what happened to my daughter. My appeal to them is, release your soul from this demon because only god knows at this point where my daughter is and what happened to her and who did it to her."

Her family refuses to stop looking for her. 

There was no evidence of foul play or forced entry into her apartment but police have classified this as a criminal investigation and not just a missing persons case because they believe the circumstanced surrounding her disappearance are suspicious.

The doorknob and apartment number from the home Unique disappeared from. 

Her mother says she had recently witnessed through her window, a murder, which remains unsolved to this day, in the park across the street from her new apartment.

Unique had no history of drug abuse and had no problems with her family at the time of her disappearance.

She was last seen wearing a white shirt, gray pants, and a sterling silver necklace that was secured with a safety pin at the clasp at her apartment on the 2400 block of Hartford St. SE in Washington, DC.

Another view of the apartment where Unique had been living. 

She has her sons' names, Richard and U'Andre' tattooed on her lower back and her own name on her upper arm. She had pierced ears and a mole on her upper lip.

She is 5'7" tall and weighed around 130 lbs. She has brown hair and brown eyes. At the time of her disappearance she had auburn highlights.

A picture of Unique taken around the time of her disappearance. 

If you have any information that could help solve the mystery of Unique's disappearance and help her mother find peace after all these years, please call the Metropolitan Police at (202) 727-9099. You can also send in a tip anonymously by calling 1-888-919-CRIME or by texting the tip line at 50411.

SPECIAL REPORT: local norovirus outbreak

Dozens of people came down with norovirus after attending events around Richmond. We investigated with the Health Department and tracked the source of the virus back to one place.

SPECIAL REPORT: Newer furnishings greatly increase fire danger

New furnishings and home building materials greatly increase fire danger by causing your home to go up in flames a lot more quickly than it would have a few years ago. Synthetic materials burn hotter and faster than older materials like cotton, wood, and natural fibers.

One of the reasons why is that most synthetic materials used today are petroleum based. The smoke while these items burn is also much darker and much more thick which can make it harder to escape.

An important thing you can do to protect yourself is to make sure you have working smoke detectors and to check the batteries on them. Another necessary action to keep your family safe is to develop and practice a fire escape plan.

The Richmond Fire Department has this important information about fire escape plans:

The National Fire Protection Association also provides this kid-friendly fire escape plan printable that you can complete with your children:

Don't forget that practicing your plan twice a year during the day and at night is just as important as making the plan!

On Tuesday at 11 PM, Rachel DePompa will show you just how quickly those new furnishings burn compared to older ones with a fire demonstration. 

SPECIAL REPORT: Are you getting what you paid for at the gas pump?

Some pumps haven't been inspected in years!

Check to see how the gas station you usually go to did on its last inspection:

SPECIAL REPORT: How safe are laser hair removal services? 

A local woman ended up with terrible blisters across her lip after going to a med spa for the treatment.

"A laser is a very dangerous (piece) of equipment."

In the wrong hands, those laser hair removal treatments you hear about and see advertisements for all the time, can be incredibly harmful to your skin.

There are many places out there to get laser hair removal but a med spa may not be your best option. We'll tell you how to make sure the people you're trusting your skin to are qualified to do the job plus tell you what's being done to keep lasers out of untrained hands.

SPECIAL REPORT: Unbearable intimacy

It's estimated that 8% of the female population has vaginal pain so severe that sex is not possible.

For one Richmond-area woman, intimacy is unbearable. While she still has the desire, the pain creates an obstacle. It takes a physical and emotional toll, even causing her to lose relationships.

She also has pain even when using tampons. She has tried everything including physical therapy, vaginally inserted pain killers, and more in an effort to relieve the pain. Nothing has ever worked enough for her to have a pain-free sexual encounter.

Curt Autry follows her journey to take back her body and finds out about the new treatment giving her hope of a life without pain.

Nobody wants this stomach dropping feeling: walking outside to find your car gone!

Car thefts are spiking across the region, and there are some clear hotspots for the criminals.

More than 1100 cars were stolen in Richmond alone in 2016 - the crime was up 35 percent. Rachel DePompa pulled the data from police and created this map of where it's happening. Every single one of these dots is a stolen car in Richmond and Chesterfield.

This is a heat map showing you where there's a heavy concentration of car thefts. The red area - that's the Fan and Museum District.

Why is this a car thief hot spot, and what is the city doing about it? We got answers from police and learned that they have a plan to help fix the problem.

SPECIAL REPORT: RVA rape victim speaks out 

A Richmond rape victim is telling her story so that she can help spread awareness about the laws surrounding rape.

The victim, who does not want to be identified, says she was attacked for sex, beaten, raped and sodomized. She was 54 years old at the time and, despite being punched, beaten and left with black eyes, she did not know she could call the police because she knew her attacker. Her neighbor finally called police on her behalf.

From there, the police and someone from the Rape Crisis Center helped her understand that what had happened to her was against the law.

"She was the one who explained to me that it didn't matter if you knew him," says the woman. "They explained to me that it was flat-out rape, forcible rape and sodomy."

The attack left her disfigured. "He told me he was going to make sure I was never attractive to anybody else."

Now, a local doctor is donating his time and skills to help her take back control of her body. "When I look in the mirror, the first thing I think of is why this is like this. What happened. I don't want to be a victim anymore."

An excellent local resource that you may not know about is the Greater Richmond Regional Hotline: (804) 612-6126.

Six local agencies in the Richmond area have teamed up to staff the 24/7 regional hotline for those impacted by domestic, intimate partner, and/or sexual violence.

If you believe you or a loved one have experienced domestic, intimate partner, or sexual violence, you can call the confidential hotline. They will provide you with options, share resources, and support your decisions. All hotline specialists are trained advocacy volunteers who will help you on your journey to empowerment.

The hotline serves those who are in Chesterfield, Richmond, Hanover, Henrico, Goochland, Petersburg, Tri-Cities area, and New Kent, VA.

The YWCA of Richmond, The James House, Project Hope, Safe Harbor, Hanover Safe Place, and Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services collaborated to provide a single, centralized resource for callers in need of crisis intervention, services, and/or resources.  

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