Name: Karen Ruiz
School: Detroit Central High School
Hobbies and Interests: Reading, television, soccer, secondhand shopping
Appearance: Karen is an average height (5’4”), slender (121 lbs) Hispanic girl. She has long, black hair, reaching to her mid-back, and deep brown eyes. She tends to wear her hair loose, tying it back only while playing soccer, in order to keep it out of her eyes. Her face is fairly narrow, with a small nose and slightly thin lips. Still, her face does not appear gaunt. She is not considered particularly attractive or notably ugly, instead being thought of as fairly plain, something she is rather thankful for.
Karen dresses in an odd manner, attempting to avoid attention, but, failing that, striving to draw it to her clothing rather than herself. She wears exclusively dark colors, never dressing in all black, but mixing dark blacks, browns, and greys. She wears concealing clothing, preferring turtlenecks, long-sleeved shirts, and loose jeans. On the day of the kidnapping, she was wearing loose black jeans, a grey turtleneck, dark brown gloves, and a long, bulky black coat, all purchased inexpensively at secondhand shops and in somewhat worn condition.
Biography: Karen was born in Detroit to two loving parents, third generation Mexican immigrants to the United States. At the time of her birth, she had one older brother; in the next four years, two younger brothers were born into the family. Being the only female child was fairly hard for Karen, particularly because she didn’t get along that well with any of her siblings. Her older brother tormented her in the way siblings are wont to do, and her parents, wrapped up in their own lives and dealing with her younger brothers, did not intervene as much as they could have. Very early in life, Karen pulled in on herself, spending her time playing on her own, generally trying to stay out of the way of family members older than herself, and uninterested in those younger.
The one family member with whom Karen quickly bonded was her aunt, Elizabeth. Elizabeth lived in the same run down apartment complex as Karen’s family, and took to watching her a few days each week. She taught Karen to read in both Spanish and English, and told her stories, spinning together imaginary worlds with which the young Karen became completely enthralled. Because of her close relationship with her aunt, Karen’s family assumed she was normal and simply highly introverted, and did little to attempt to push her out of her shell.
Soon, the time came for Karen to enter school. She ended up in a poorly-performing school in her poor neighborhood, her family lacking the resources to send her elsewhere. Her younger brothers also ended up in the school, though her older brother went to a private school a few miles away. Karen's parents poured all their hopes into their eldest son, who, for the most part, seemed completely disinterested in academic matters, repeatedly requiring special help and getting into fights in his predominately-white middle-class school. Karen’s aunt often argued that Karen was more likely to succeed in a better environment, but her parents remained unconvinced, particularly due to Karen’s antisocial tendencies. She made few friends in school, preferring to keep to herself and read when allowed. While she was greatly successful in subjects related to English, she struggled in most of her other classes, often choosing to fail rather than ask for help. She was incredibly hesitant to trust her teachers and classmates, a reasonable enough decision, given the fairly violent and often uncaring nature of her school.
Karen herself was never attacked, robbed, or abused in any way. She simply flew under everyone’s radars, keeping quiet in class, sitting by herself at lunch, and hurrying home after school. Most of her free time was spent reading books. After a time, she developed a strong preference for science fiction novels, enjoying the degree of escapism they allowed her while also appreciating that they were generally grounded in a setting at least tangentially related to the real world. By middle school, she had also discovered television. Karen usually was unable to get much time alone with the TV, but would sometimes stay up late, watching movies after her family was asleep and falling asleep on the couch herself. Her parents did not pay sufficient attention to these late night activities, and Karen was quickly exposed to all manner of inappropriate films. This reinforced her general anxiety, contributing a whole host of fears to her life, fears which, in a poor, urban neighborhood, were not necessarily unfounded.
Karen took to blending in to an even greater degree, specifically choosing clothing that helped her escape notice. She talked to people only when required, and at the bare minimum in that case, tending to shut down conversations and drift away as soon as she could. The one new hobby she picked up was soccer; in gym class, Karen discovered that she had a natural aptitude for the sport. The coach convinced her to join the team, where she performed quite admirably in a supporting role. If ever forced to take center stage, though, her performance would suffer.
Karen’s academic performance remained solidly average throughout middle school, excepting her English grades, which were near the top of her class. In high school, she saw no reason to change her behaviors. Her family was content to let her continue her ways without interference, particularly given that she was their least troublesome child.
Everything seemed to be a functioning status quo, until, earlier this year, Karen’s older brother, now a high school graduate (though only barely, not qualifying for any scholarships and thus unable to enter college), was injured while working the night shift at a 7-11. The store was robbed, and, when he attempted, against company policy, to prevent the theft, he was shot, receiving a spinal wound that left him bedridden and unable to work. Because of this, Karen’s family’s already-precarious economic situation worsened greatly, the family moved into a smaller apartment further from school, and she and her brothers had to take part time jobs to help make ends meet.
Some of the details of this incident made the rounds at school, dragging Karen into the spotlight to a greater degree than she found comfortable. She took to carrying a portable CD player and wearing headphones whenever not in class, so she could pretend not to hear any comments directed at her, though often she wouldn't play music, simply sitting quietly and hoping to be left alone.
The hubbub has mostly died down by now, but the effects on Karen have not. She avoids contact, shuffles between work, school, and home, and interacts as little as she can get away with. She is an extremely fearful individual, terrified of the various urban woes present around her, though so far, her caution has kept her safe. The only times she really opens up are when she spends time with her aunt. The two of them go shopping together at secondhand stores, and continue to meet several times a week, discussing their lives and feelings. With her aunt’s help, Karen has determined that she will stay in high school until graduation, though college is in no way an option for her future.
Advantages: Karen is a fearful, cautious individual. She is very aware of dangerous situations. She is in fairly good shape due to her soccer experience. As a loner, she has no enemies, and is something of an unknown entity to her fellow contestants.
Disadvantages: Karen is at times more fearful than a situation requires. She is not someone who can easily prioritize more realistic threats over more fanciful ones. Because she spends so little time with other people, she is a poor judge of character, and lacks the skills to accurately assess whether others are dangerous or not.