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Families of missing persons gather to raise awareness: "She would love to have her dad back"

Families of missing persons gather to raise awareness
Families of missing persons gather to raise awareness 02:30
Andres Gutierrez/CBS Detroit

LIVONIA, Mich., (CBS DETROIT) – Now and then, you'll come across a missing person poster and loved ones hoping the face or details may jog someone's memory. On Thursday, some families gathered at Madonna University for an event hosted by Michigan State Police to raise awareness over those cases. 

It's been almost nine years since Christene Doughty last saw her niece Kaylah Hunter and nephew Kristian Justice.  

Kaylah never made it to her kindergarten graduation and neither did her mother, Alicia Fox.

"She wasn't contacting us directly. But there were some things being posted on her social media accounts. And I could tell that it wasn't the verbiage that she usually used. So that worried us, and we started searching from there," Doughty said.

Fox was found murdered days after but no sign of the two children. Then last year, Doughty's uncle, Henry Fields, went missing.

"He has a child who was his world, and I'm sure she would love to have her dad back and know what's going on," Doughty said.

Doughty attended this year's "Missing in Michigan" event to find some answers, where families whose loved ones are missing shared their stories. 

"Because as time goes by, people move on with their lives, and when you come here, you realize that there's more people out there like you who don't necessarily give up. And keep hope," Doughty said.

According to Michigan State Police, about 3,500 to 4,000 missing persons are reported to police in the state alone.

MSP says about one-third of those are children under the age of 18.

"With 13 years old or younger, that's a priority case. If the child has any physical disabilities and or pregnancy, that would also be considered a priority case; any type of mental health, previous traumas that were aware of a previous history of running away all add into a kind of upping the ante if you will," Jolene Hardesty, the Missing Persons Coordinator for Michigan and MSP said.

MSP shared these tips if your loved goes missing:

  • Remain calm. There could be a valid reason for someone to not answer a phone call or text or show up when they planned.

  • If you have sufficient reason to believe your loved one is missing and potentially in danger, contact police. Be prepared to answer basic questions about their age, physical features, time elapsed since last seen or contacted. Police may also ask more intimate questions such as medical history, including prescription or recreational drug use and mental health. Make sure you have access to a recent photograph of your loved one.

  • Keep the home, living space or vehicle of a missing person untouched to preserve possible evidence. Cleaning can destroy fingerprints and DNA. Do not alter social media accounts, emails or text messages. Police also advise you to avoid sharing your personal contact information on social media as the families of missing persons are often targeted by scammers.

"Don't give up. Don't give up. There's always someone out there who cares about you and about your family member," Doughty said. 

The U.S. Marshals Service recently completed Operation We Will Find You, which is focused on finding missing children.

"We found several in the company of age-inappropriate adults. We found some that are, unfortunately, suspected of being trafficked," Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Watson told CBS News Detroit. "And the reasons why they left the common theme seemed throughout and identified is a lot of these children nobody cared about them. And that's one thing that myself and our team really try to give them, something to take away when we did locate them was that people do care about them."

Over ten weeks, they recovered 225 endangered missing children, 25 of them in Southeast Michigan.

The youngest child recovered was just six months old. 

"We will work as hard as the first day. And as hard as the day until we bring them home. It doesn't matter if it's one day, ten years, 20 years," Watson said. 

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