Missing Persons of Missouri Leave Sufferers

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MISSOURI - Across the state of Missouri, about 1,116 people are missing. The Missouri State Highway Patrol updates these statistics on its website and said the numbers change every day. Local sheriff's departments said the most common type of missing persons cases are a small child hidden within the home, or a runaway juvenile who is found within a few days, but each case is different and situational.

However, there are many cases where the missing person is gone for many years. Marianne Asher-Chapman's daughter has been missing for eight years. "Not a minute goes by that I don't think of her," she said.

Asher-Chapman still buys her daughter, Angie, Christmas presents each year, makes her a birthday cake on her birthday and writes letters to her in a journal. Asher-Chapman said activities like these still make Angie active in her life at times when there is no news.

No matter if the missing person has been gone for three hours, three days, three months, or three years, the police still consider a case active until the person comes home. Local police departments revisit cases periodically, no matter how long they have been missing. The first thing the police departments do when they receive a case is contact friends and families. The State Highway Patrol Missing Persons Unit does not go out and do the investigating; it compiles the statistics and serves as the liaison between the local departments. Missouri was also the first state to include an unidentified body as a missing person.

Peggy Florence's daughter, Jasmine, has been missing for four years and said she has lost everything. "There's nothing anybody can do. If we cannot get law enforcement to be more active in our missing persons cases, then what chance do we have," she said. Jasmine would be 31 years old.

Columbia Police Department's Latisha Stroer said when new information comes in, the case immediately opens back up. Even without new information, Cole County Sheriff Greg White said his department looks into all cases quarterly to review the facts. Unfortunately, White said it is less likely they will recover new information over time.

New technology and DNA testing have changed the way missing persons cases are conducted. Cell phones can now be traced to learn the location of phone calls. Debbie Hamler's brother has been missing for more than fifteen years. "If they had the technology back then that they do now, the police would have had a better chance at finding her brother," she said.

Facial scans, photographing irises and running credit cards have also contributed to many successes. White said most people can go only so long without cash, and these scans help officials know when a missing person has applied for a job or a credit card in another state. Registering DNA also helps officials recover bodies across the country. Finding a body would bring closure to many suffering families. "Bad news would be better than no news at all," said Florence.

Asher-Chapman, Florence, and Hamler all said cases with a missing adult are not taken with the same severity as juvenile cases because adults are allowed to not return home. Authorities said most of the time when an adult is missing, he or she left his or her house to get away for a few days and usually returns shortly after. This leads Asher-Chapman, Florence and Hamler to believe that foul play must have factored into their family members' extensive disappearances.

Walmart also has a Missing Children's Network that contributes to the discovery of missing children all across the country. Even though hundreds of people walk by the bulletin boards with fliers every day, over the past fifteen years, 9,811 children featured on the fliers have been found. Fliers for local people appear around the town as well. Currently in Boone County, about 16 people are missing, 11 in Cole County and six in Callaway County, but these numbers change every day.

Florence and Asher-Chapman founded an organization together called Missouri Missing. Through this organization, they have rallied and gained support for their cause. They have also found a support system of other people going through the same traumatic experience.