PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The disappearance of a Vancouver mother and her 8-year-old daughter prompted law enforcement to launch an active investigation in the case.

Meshay Melendez, 27, and her daughter Layla Stewart were last seen in the area of Vancouver Mall Drive and Northeast 77th Avenue on the morning of March 12. Melendez’s vehicle was discovered nearby on March 19.

Vancouver police investigators said they “do believe there is a criminal nexus to Meshay and Layla’s disappearance” but can’t provide any more details due to the ongoing investigation.

Friends who spoke with KOIN 6 News said it’s very unusual for them not to hear from Melendez. They said they went to her house after she stopped responding to calls and message,

“That was strange to me,” friend Makayla Jeter said. “I reached out to her mom and sister, and no one had spoken to her, so we went to her house and see what was going on.”

They found her dog, Honey, inside a crate inside the house. It appeared the dog had been inside the crate for some time, but there was no sign of Melendez or her daughter.

“I just knew she wasn’t there, and when I saw her dog was there, I was like no, she wouldn’t do that,” friend Makayla Jeter said. “I’m terrified. I’m terrified.”

Melendez is about 5-feet-9, 185 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Layla Stewart is about 4-feet tall with brown hair and hazel eyes.

Anyone with information on the pair’s whereabouts is asked to contact Detective Givens robert.givens@cityofvancouver.us, Detective Nolan chadd.nolan@cityofvancouver.us or call 911.