Search for Mollie Tibbetts highlights thousands of lesser-known missing person cases

BROOKLYN, Iowa — The search for a missing college student from Iowa is stretching into a third week.  Mollie Tibbetts, 20, vanished July 18th, after going on a jog in the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa. As CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz reports, while her case has captured national headlines, thousands of others do not receive the same attention.

This year started with more than 88,000 active missing person cases in the U.S. More than 41,000 of the missing are under 21 years old, enough to fill at least 495 standard school buses.

Advocates say law enforcement lacks the resources to keep up with all open cases, warning that some can slip through the cracks. One that has not is Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared three weeks ago after going on a jog in Brooklyn, Iowa. Her boyfriend Dalton Jack, who is not a suspect, says she had no enemies and no reason to runaway.

Missing Student

This undated photo released by the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation shows Mollie Tibbetts.

Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation via AP

"I've never heard anybody say a bad word about her and never heard her say a bad word about anybody," he said.

Robert Lowery of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says Tibbetts' case has garnered national attention because it's rare.

"We always have a very small percentage like we're seeing with Mollie, where they just simply disappear and for no investigative reason or for any purpose that we can determine, and these would make cases like Mollie's the most difficult that anyone can face," Lowery said.

Cases entered in 2017 where the reason for disappearance is known, 95 point 9 percent were runaways, and point one percent were abductions by a stranger. For those missing under 21, 53 percent are women, 57 percent are white and 37 percent are black.

"The situation with Mollie is so extraordinarily rare," said Robert Tibbetts, Mollie's father.

"You know as somebody put it, it's the all-American girl who lives in a Norman Rockwell community, in love with the boy next door, vanishes into thin air and so 'poof' it doesn't make sense," he said.

Laura Calderwood, Mollie's mother says her daughter had no reason to run away.

"She took out a lease, she was ordering sheets and bedding from Target, you know i've told people that I've got the sheets and I've got the bedding but I don't have the girl," Calderwood said.

The reward for information leading to the discovery of Mollie Tibbets is now more than $300,000. Investigators told CBS News they're still conducting interviews and revisiting leads.

One of the challenges to locating missing people overall is that in some states, it is not mandatory to report missing person cases to a national database that the public can see.