Families of the Missing Preyed On By Tormentors


Holly Bobo's Family Tormented on Facebook

Holly Bobo, 20, disappeared on April 13, 2011 when a man in camouflage dragged her into the woods near her home in rural Decatur County, about three hours from Nashville. Her brother Clint, 25, saw her go into the woods, but mistakenly believed the man was her boyfriend. Police have since called off her searches and have no suspects in her disappearance.

Karen Bobo said that after her daughter's disappearance, people started going on Holly's Facebook and taking photos of her in her swimsuit by the river during her summer breaks. The family later made the account private.

The Bobo family has also received "strange" and "hurtful" emails and letters.

"At the moment when you do receive a letter or something, there's an instant panic that sets in and then you get past that and you have to remember to keep focus where it should be and that's finding Holly," Bobo said. "It's extremely hard for me to comprehend what someone would gain from something like that."

The anguish takes a toll on families already coping with the disappearance.

Lisa Valentino's sister Allison Jackson Foy, 34, disappeared in 2006 and her remains were found with another woman's remains two years later. Authorities are still investigating the case and have had suspects, but no charges have been filed.

Valentino and her family experienced the torment of psychic phone calls, nasty blog posts and cruel emails and it took a toll on her family.

"It tears family apart," Valentino told ABCNews.com, speaking about how the experience affected her and her siblings. "What ended up happening for us is there became a lot of resentment. I never stopped talking to them, but we couldn't talk about the case. It was too contentious."

Even if the family knows the leads won't help, there is the temptation to follow them.

"If you're desperate and you're grieving and someone says they know something, you'll do anything to see if it's true," Valentino said.

Unfortunately, desperate families are all too familiar to Caison. "Families endure a lot behind the scenes that I don't think the general public realizes. People work off the desperation of these families," she said.

Caison guides the families through the disappearance of a loved one, involving herself in every aspect of the case, from the search itself to helping vulnerable families avoid these nasty pitfalls.

The attacks have gotten worse with the advent of the Internet and social media, according to Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The ease with which people can remain anonymous online makes it difficult for families to defend themselves.

"In many ways, this is either simple cruelty for the sake of cruelty or it's just people doing things, mindless things, without really thinking about the fact that there are people harmed by it," Allen said. "The frequency with which this is done to these families is just an outrage."

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