First Missing Persons Day observed in Virginia

Local News

To mark the very first Missing Persons Day in Virginia, local law enforcement teamed up with Help Save the Next Girl to raise awareness about the missing and try to help families find closure.

Governor Terry McAuliffe recently declared April 29 Missing Persons Day. According to Help Save the Next Girl, more than 600 people are currently missing from Virginia.

“At first, it’s complete shock,” said Carol Byer, who lives in Buchanan. “You’re just in a panic. You’re calling everybody you know.”

Carol’s sister Joan Cook has been missing for more than seven years. She said her family has not given up.

“That’s the biggest hope – is for her daughter,” Byer said. “And I don’t want that to be her daughter’s legacy, having a missing mom.”

Byer was at the event at the Roanoke Police Academy Saturday to help raise awareness and to update her sister’s registration with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs. She also created child ID kits for her children, which will include fingerprints, headshots and DNA swabs, she said.

The event also provided DNA testing for victims’ families, according to organizers.

“There are a couple hundred unidentified remains in Virginia,” said Gil Harrington, founder of Help Save the Next Girl. “And wouldn’t it be a blessing if even one family had answers from a match?”

Gil Harrington started Help Save the Next Girl after the murder of her daughter Morgan. She was missing for 101 days before her body was found, Harrington said.

“To ride a pendulum that goes from trying to maintain hope to bracing for disaster – it is a really debilitating process,” she said.

“I’d love to have one more moment with Joan just to tell her I love her, make sure she knows it, and give her that one last hug,” Byer said. “So if everyone could do that, that would make me happy.”

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