Anniversary of child’s disappearance approaches; family still holds out hope
Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 5:01 pm
By: Jentri Gilbert
By JENTRI GILBERT
Special to The Messenger
On average, 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 website.
Over 150,000 children have been recovered with assistance from the NCMEC since 1984. However, some families suffer through years with no reunion and a loss of hope.
March 4, 2001, Bethany Markowski entered the Old Hickory Mall in Jackson. She never came out. Her mother, Jonnie Carter, after almost 10 years, continues to wait for a miracle — that her daughter will, one day, be among those children who have been found.
Ms. Carter moved to Union City with her mother and stepfather when she was in the sixth grade. She attended school in Union City through high school. Her stepfather was employed at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., while her mother stayed home to care for Ms. Carter and her three younger sisters.
Ms. Carter got married after high school and moved to Memphis for five years, but returned to Union City in 1985 following a divorce. She began working at Kmart, where she met her second husband, Larry Markowski, who also worked at the Goodyear plant. Bethany was born Feb. 1, 1990. The Markowskis lived in Woodland Mills until 1992. The family moved around to several locations, eventually residing in Gleason.
Several years later, Jonnie and Larry Markowski separated. She and Bethany moved to Nashville. As part of their custody arrangement, Markowski was allowed visitation every other weekend.
The second weekend Bethany spent with her father, they traveled to Little Rock, Ark., on March 2, 2001, to visit one of his friends. On March 4, after returning from Little Rock, Bethany called her mother from her father’s house in Gleason. It would be the last time they would speak.
“Her final words to me were, ‘I love you, Mom,’” Ms. Carter recalled.
Ms. Carter’s sister and brother-in-law were to pick up Bethany in Waverly later that day. When Markowski and Bethany did not arrive at the anticipated time, Ms. Carter’s sister attempted to contact Markowski on his cell phone, finally reaching him about an hour later. According to Ms. Carter’s sister, Markowski said he and Bethany had stopped in Jackson to rest, and he had let Bethany go into the mall alone to shop while he took a nap in the car. When he awoke, he went into the mall to look for her and couldn’t find her.
Ms. Carter’s sister and brother-in-law rushed to Jackson and the police were notified of Bethany’s disappearance. Ms. Carter could not arrive in Jackson until late that night, and the entire family spent the majority of that Sunday night and early Monday morning in the police station.
The aftermath following Bethany’s disappearance was excruciating for her family and friends, as they struggled to deal with not being able to find her. Police and the FBI worked with different organizations to locate Bethany. Investigators searched mall surveillance cameras for any sign of Bethany shopping, but could find no evidence of her even entering the mall. Markowski told a television station that he loves his daughter and had nothing to do with her disappearance.
Ms. Carter said, “I just want my daughter back. I want her home. I want her safe. If he or anybody has information, it’s time. This has gone on too long. This is not a game.”
Although there have been hundreds of leads in the 10 years since Bethany’s disappearance, she remains a statistic among the FBI’s database of missing children.
To Ms. Carter, however, Bethany remains the daughter who has never come home. She spends her days thinking about what could be done to find her daughter.
“I think everybody that I have talked to in the last 10 years knows about Bethany and the websites she is on. You name it and I have done it. There isn’t anywhere I will not go.”
She also wonders about what Bethany might be doing.
“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,” Ms. Carter said.
A candlelight vigil will be held Friday at 7 p.m. for all of Tennessee’s missing children in honor of Bethany Markowski, to mark the 10-year anniversary of her disappearance. Bethany’s family, along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, will host the ceremony at Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park Amphitheater.
“I’m never going to give up looking for Bethany,” Ms. Carter said. “I’m always online trying to find a new website to put Bethany on. It’s my life. Bethany missing is my life.”
Editor’s note: Jentri Gilbert is serving as a communications intern at Goodyear-Union City. She is a public relations major at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she plans to graduate in May.
Published in The Messenger 3.2.11