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Bates was traveling alone via Greyhound bus from Hot Springs, Arkansas to New York City in April 2012. She spoke to her mother at a layover stop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 27. She said she planned to meet her ex-boyfriend in Brooklyn after arriving in the city. At 9:00 a.m. on April 28, she arrived at Port Authority in Manhattan and her image was captured on surveillance cameras. She was last seen walking down 8th Street. She has never been heard from again.
It's uncharacteristic of Bates to leave without warning or to be out of touch with her mother. She graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, one of the best science-centered high schools in the country, and got a full scholarship to the University of Arizona, but decided not to attend. She attended Hunter College in Manhattan in 2011, but didn't register for the spring 2012 semester and was applying to colleges for the fall. She was interested in studying architecture. Bates had been heavily involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement in the autumn of 2011, living in a tent in a city park for three months. Bates's mother stated her personality seemed to change after two of her friends died suddenly: she bleached and dreadlocked her hair, neglected her personal hygiene and became distant from her family. She seemed better after she enrolled at Hunter College, however.
The circumstances of Bates's disappearance are unclear. Authorities can find no evidence of foul play in her case, but her family is concerned for her safety. She may be in the Oakland, California area.