CLEVELAND — Saturday is Ohio Missing Persons Day.
Law enforcement officers and community members gathered in Cleveland to support families, honor their loved ones who are missing, and hopefully, get one step closer to bringing them home.
The event took place outside of the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation hosted the event. The goal was to bring awareness to missing and unidentified persons cases in Ohio. Families could meet with officials and analysts to bring police reports, photos of their loved ones, dental records, X-rays, and any additional information.
“We have a quite a few resources. We have a lot of law enforcement resources. We have the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the medical examiner's office, Girls With Sole, Ohio BCI is here,” said Dana Forney, a criminal intelligence supervisor at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
There was also a candlelight vigil honoring those missing.
Among those is Andy Chapman. He’s been missing for 15 years.
“Andy was living in the Hilltop, which is on the west side of Columbus, and he had contact with his family on a regular basis. And one day he called my mom and said that she needed to come grab some things, and mom was sick so she wasn't able to go when she did go a couple of days later, where he was staying was completely cleaned out, and we have not seen or heard from him since,” said his sister, Aimee Chapman.
“We've done many missing events. We've got DNA, fingerprints everything in the system. There's been no leads,” said Aimee Chapman.
But despite the frustration and dead ends, the Chapman family refuses to give up.
“There's no reason I would give up. Every day, we're gonna search for him until he's home,” said Aimee Chapman.
Paige Coffey’s family feels the same way. Coffey disappeared from a store in Steelyard Commons in May 2019.
For the past two years, her mom Trinettea Williamson and other family members have never stopped searching.
“I know that if Paige can reach me, she would have reached me by now. It's been two years, two years too long,” said Williamson.
Stories like theirs are why Gina DeJesus opened up the doors to the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults for Saturday’s event.
She knows firsthand how important events like those are for families and people who are missing and can’t get home.
“I remember when I was missing that I got to see all my family on TV and they were out looking for me and they gave me that much more hope to see them,” said DeJesus.
Both Chapman’s and Coffey’s families said the event has given them hope, strength, and support to keep going.
“Events like this is very important because it keeps awareness of missing children and missing adults. So I think this is a great start,” said Williamson.
“They understand what we're going through, they understand the trauma everyday of wondering where your loved one is and bringing awareness not only for missing adults but for missing children. So these events are are pivotal. They're very important,” said Aimee Chapman.
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