After 3 Women Turn Up Alive in Cleveland, Memories Resurface of Missing Children Cases in South Florida
The case of three women who were found alive after going missing for a decade in Ohio is giving renewed hope for South Florida families who have missing loved ones. Patrick Sessions and Drew Kesse comment.
Prayers were answered for three families in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday when Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, who had been missing for nearly a decade, were found alive.
DeJesus disappeared in 2004, while walking home from school. But as of late March, her family kept posting on the wall of a Facebook page dedicated to the woman's search.
"Whoever has her, has had her long enough," a message posted in late March read. "Gina, we love you. You'll be home soon."
Her case is renewing hope in the search for missing women in South Florida.
"It's a big day for me. I don't wish what's happened to me on anybody. I just can't imagine what those parents must be feeling. Must be fantastic," said Patrick Sessions.
Sessions, from Coconut Grove, is the father of Tiffany. She is the 20-year-old University of Florida junior who disappeared after she went for run in 1989.
"She had all these dreams and aspirations that everyone else does. She's everyone's daughter," said Sessions.
In 2012 alone there were about 35,737 cases of missing minors reported statewide, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE says the actual number of missing minors is not as large because included in that total are runaways who may have done so more than once.
The numbers may seem overwhelming, but every one son or daughter who comes home is encouraging.
"This is a perfect example," said Sessions. "Tiffany's a longshot [she's been missing for] 24 years. But there's a lot of other kids that have been gone for a lot less than 10 years."
Cases like Jennifer Kesse's. She went missing seven years ago from her Orlando condo. Her family found out about her disappearance when she didn't show up to work.
"It's just amazing. But you hit the roller coaster ride again with your own [child], my Jennifer. And I didn't say 'Why not Jennifer? Why wasn't she one of them?,' but you do have to think to yourself that it can happen," said Drew Kesse, Jennifer's father.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, police have identified brothers Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, as suspects. No charges have been filed but the three could make their first court appearance Wednesday.
The women were reunited with family members Tuesday but remaine in seclusion. Many of the women's loved ones and friends had held out hope of seeing them again.
For years, Berry's mother kept her room exactly as it was, said Tina Miller, a cousin. When magazines addressed to Berry arrived, they were piled in the room alongside presents for birthdays and Christmases she missed. Berry's mother died in 2006.
Just over a month ago, Miller attended a vigil marking the 10th anniversary of Berry's disappearance.
Over the past decade or so, investigators twice dug up backyards looking for Berry and continued to receive tips about her and DeJesus every few months, even in recent years. The disappearance of the two girls was profiled on TV's "America's Most Wanted" in 2005. Few leads ever came in about Knight.
Knight vanished at age 20 in 2002. Berry disappeared at 16 in 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. About a year later, DeJesus vanished.
That the women were found after being gone so long has Sessions more energized than ever. A cold case detective is working new leads in Tiffany's search. As his quest to find his daughter continues, he wants what all parents of missing children ask.
"Don't forget about Tiffany," he said.