Parents and police still search, years after children disappeared
By: By TYRONE TONY REED JR. The Jackson Sun
JACKSON (AP) — The nights torment Jonnie Carter.
Instead of sleeping, she thinks about her daughter, Bethany Leanne Markowski, who has been missing for more than six years.
“You get to thinking, ‘It’s 100 degrees outside. I wonder if she is somewhere cool.’ Or, ‘It’s cold outside. I wonder if she is somewhere warm.’ So, it’s not good,” Carter said.
An average of 2,185 children are reported missing each day, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics reported on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Web site. Many times, those children are found quickly. But for some families, the search goes on for years with no resolution.
That’s what has happened for Carter, a Nashville woman whose daughter was last seen outside Old Hickory Mall in Jackson.
It’s also the case for the family of Cayce Lynn McDaniel, who disappeared from her Milan home in 1996. Family and friends pray for the girls’ return. Police still hope to solve the cases to at least bring closure, or maybe even a happy ending, to a trying ordeal.
Bethany was 11 when she disappeared on March 4, 2001. She had spent the weekend with her father, Larry Markowski, in Little Rock, Ark. Larry Markowski was to meet Carter, his ex-wife, at an Interstate 40 truck stop to return Bethany to her.
He told authorities he stopped at Old Hickory Mall to rest and allowed Bethany to go inside by herself. She never came back.
“My whole life, my attitude, my emotions, everything just changed,” Carter said. “I went from having a semi-decent life and getting plenty of sleep, to sleeping about three hours on the average a night. I pay attention to all of the missing children posters.”
“It’s my life,” she said. “Bethany missing is my life.”
Carter said she usually is able to maintain hope that Bethany is alive. She also has faith in law enforcement and members of the public, who still call in tips when they see Bethany’s picture.
“The one thing about it is, it’s been six years, almost seven, and there have been days that I have woke up and thought, ‘There’s no way. Bethany’s 17. She’s been gone six years. There’s no way she could be alive and not look for me.’ But that’s hardly ever happened,” Carter said.
Jackson police Lt. Mike Holt has worked on Bethany’s case since she disappeared. Holt, who is a father, said he can only imagine what parents of missing children go through, and that gives him the drive to work on the case until it is resolved.
“Bethany and my daughter are the same age, so this case really hit home,” Holt said. “We are determined to bring a solution to this case, as well as all of the others.”
Four days after starting high school, 14-year-old Cayce Lynn McDaniel disappeared from her home on Aug. 16, 1996. She had just returned home from a service at Double Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the church she had attended, and was last seen by her friends when they dropped her off at home. When her family came home, the back door was open and Cayce was gone.
Her family and friends have kept Cayce’s disappearance in the spotlight by holding a candlelight vigil every year since she went missing.
Cayce’s aunt, Gina Walls, of Gibson, attended this year’s vigil, which was held on the anniversary of Cayce’s disappearance.
“We haven’t found her or the person who is responsible for her disappearance,” Walls said. “We expected for this not to continue for 11 years. (Authorities) are at least revisiting (the case). They’re trying to follow through.”
Walls said her family doesn’t expect to find Cayce alive.
“No, not from the tips and leads police have gotten so far,” Walls said. “It would be great if she was found alive. But when you look at reality, you realize that probably isn’t a possibility. By now she would have been found and someone would have been caught.”
Walls added, “You hope the person who did it will have a guilty conscience that pricks their heart and they will confess what they have done to her.”
Milan Assistant Police Chief Tim Wright was a patrolman when he took the original missing person report on Cayce McDaniel in August 1996. Wright said he remains deeply involved in the case. Leads that go in different directions have been a stumbling block, he said.
“It’s frustrating, to say the least,” Wright said. “The longer we go, the colder it gets. But we know that somebody did it and that somebody out there has information.”
Wright said there’s a “very real possibility” that Cayce is dead and that the case is now about finding her body and arresting the person responsible for her murder.
“She wouldn’t go 10 or 11 years without contacting her family if she were still alive,” Wright said. “Whether this was an accident or a murder, we can’t say.”
Most of Cayce’s family members have been helpful and understanding with the work the Milan Police Department has done, but some feel more should have been done, Wright said.
“There are some family members who are very angry,” he said. “They feel they know who the guilty party is and don’t understand why we haven’t arrested (that person) yet.”
Law enforcement officials told people at this year’s vigil that polygraph tests would be given to several people. Police must get a person’s permission to administer the test. Wright said police are not giving out the names of the individuals they plan to test.
Carter, Bethany’s mother, continues to keep attention on her daughter’s disappearance and the disappearance of other children. She tried to start a missing persons foundation with the help of a friend before her friend got sick.
“We did a couple of charity benefits, with donations going to different missing persons foundations,” Carter said. “It’s been put on hold for now.”
Carter also has reached out to out-of-state parents of missing children.
“Anybody in your family and any friend that you have can say they know how you feel, but nobody knows how you feel unless they are going through the same thing,” Carter said. “It really helps a lot to be able to call each other on the child’s birthday or the day they were missing, and cry because they know how you feel.”
Carter believes finding missing children isn’t just a law enforcement duty or a parent’s job.
“I want everybody to know that it is our responsibility, everybody’s, not just the parents’ responsibility, to help find missing children,” she said. “There’s more children coming up missing every single day. It’s something that you don’t need to turn your back on. You need to take that step forward and get involved.”
Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com
Published in The Messenger on 10.10.07
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