Missing Woman Coverage a Black and White Issue?

Why does one missing woman get all the attention while another woman's story becomes a buried headline?

Jackson, Miss., Police Chief Malcolm McMillin, who has been heading a search over the past eight days for 20-year-old Latasha Norman, thinks he knows one reason why.

"As far as the interest by the national media in the story, I think race probably had an impact," the police chief said.

Norman, who is an honors student at Jackson State University, is black.

"It's a small college in the South. It's the daughter of simple people who maybe are not important outside of their circle, and maybe we don't attach the same importance to them that we do for other people," said McMillin, who is white.

The chief contrasted the lack of publicity over the Norman search to the widespread coverage of Stacy Peterson's disappearance. Peterson, who is white, is the 23-year-old wife of former Illinois cop Drew Peterson who vanished in late October. The media glare on the Peterson case has prompted police to reopen the criminal investigation into the death of Drew Peterson's third wife.

"We're looking for the media to give this case as much exposure as it can so that we can develop some leads," McMillin said.

Norman, an accounting major from Greenville, Miss., was last seen on Tuesday, Nov. 13 when she left a marketing class around 2:30 p.m. She was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans at the time.

Luther Samuel, an investigator for the Jackson State Department of Public Safety, said the department is limited in the details it can release, but said they have received a number of tips and that several areas, including the campus, have been searched.

Norman's boyfriend Stanley Cole, 23, was charged last week with assaulting Norman and released on $500 bond, The Clarion-Ledger of Mississippi reported Saturday. Norman told police in Pearl, Miss., that Cole hit her in the face during an argument in a restaurant parking lot. Cole, who is also a student at Jackson State, has not been named a suspect in Norman's disappearance.

Norman's family members, who described Norman Tuesday as focused and easygoing, pledged to keep searching for the young woman until she is found. "We're not going to stop until we know something," her father, Danny Bolden, said. "We're going to be relentless."

The Jackson State University Department of Public Safety, the Jackson police and the Hinds County Sheriff's Department are all working on the case. The FBI has also offered its assistance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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