Cleveland Rescue a Glimmer of Hope for US Families of the Missing

PHOTO: The parents of abducted 20-year-old Holly Bobo made an emotional appeal for help in finding their daughter today.PlayFamily Handout
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For Karen Bobo, whose daughter disappeared in 2011, the emergence of three women in Cleveland who had been missing for a decade has energized her two-year search for Holly Bobo.

"We, as a family, have a renewed faith and a renewed hope that with community efforts, we do expect to find Holly and I do ask everyone to please take a close look at your neighbors," Karen Bobo said today.

Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo, 20, disappeared 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. There are no suspects in her disappearance.

The events in Cleveland have stirred conflicting emotions among the families of missing persons, ranging from hope to fear, and encouraged advocates that the media attention will inspire families to become the driving force behind the police investigations.

Full Coverage: Cleveland Missing Women

Monica Caison said her phone has been ringing constantly since before 5 a.m. Tuesday with calls from the families of missing persons with whom she has worked.

Caison is the founder and director of the North Carolina-based CUE Center for Missing Persons.

"It's like, 'I'm not crazy. My daughter still could be alive.' And all of those kinds of conversations with other families calling, saying, 'Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. I'm just so happy for these families,'" Caison told

"And then there are others that have just been sad and wondering, 'Is it ever going to be my turn?'" she said. "It's been a lot of mixed emotions."

The search for Holly was briefly renewed in April 2012 when authorities found a woman's purse that they believed to be hers near her home. Her family later said they did not believe it was her bag, but have not lost hope.

"We have never stopped looking for Holly," Karen Bobo said. "We have continued to look for Holly and I would hope that law enforcement is doing the same.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said that every case is assigned to an agent and remains an open investigation.

Helm said that there are two different ways that cases like Bobo's continue in the bureau. One way is from leads or tips from the public or if a piece of evidence is found.

"All of those things you take as investigative leads and you follow up on them," Helm told

The second way is when investigative leads are developed by the agents themselves, perhaps by taking it upon themselves to re-interview someone, talk to an original witness or pull additional records.

"There's a million different ways an investigation can take twists and turns," Helm said.

"When cases die down and tips die down, that's where the families have to pick up the torch," Caison said. "They have to get out there in the community.

"They have to be out there on the streets, keep putting fliers out, do the billboards, whatever it takes to keep that awareness constantly going to aid their cases back to law enforcement."

She said law enforcement will usually come back to a case when there are tips or activity, whether it's a recent case or a cold case.

"I explain that to families all the time, 'I know you're tired, I know you're stressed out. You don't want to keep on, but you have to keep plugging away because you're going to get another tip and it could be the tip,'" Caison said.

Bobo said community-coordinated search teams go out every Saturday to look for Holly. Four search teams rotate through the weeks, but the Bobo family participates every week, going door-to-door in search for Holly.

Additionally, Bobo oversees posters, billboards, decals, business cards and prayer fliers in her community. She also encourages people to submit tips and information to or people can call 1-800-TBI-FIND (1-800-824-3463).

"Every tip matters, even if we know it's probably not going to work out or the tip may be of false hope, still run it out to find out where it does end because then you know you have that answer, period," Caison said. "You can't just assume what the answer would be."

Caison is often frustrated by the presumption that a missing person either ran away or is dead.

"I always tell my families, without a body you can still have hope no matter what anybody tells you," she said. "They can't take that away from you, whether it's hope of them being found deceased or alive, still the ultimate goal is resolution."

When asked whether she still believes her daughter might be alive, Karen Bobo said, "I do. I've always felt that. That's what I'm going to continue to believe."

The Bobos are one of hundreds of thousands of families who are missing children, adults and elderly relatives. About 800,000 children are reported missing in the United States every year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

That's 2,000 children per day. The "vast majority" are recovered quickly, but the other families are left wondering.

Caison believes that the Cleveland women are not the only ones who are alive and trapped.

"I believe there's many," she said. "I've always believed that."

"There's a lot of people out there that need help," Caison said. "I know that if I were to get missing, I'd want to keep that hope alive knowing that people would never give up looking for me."

She hopes that the Cleveland case will give people a renewed sense of awareness so that more people can be rescued

"When you're afforded miracles like this one, it's just that much more proof that good is out there and that there are people that are taken against their will, there are people that are held captive, there is human trafficking," she said. "All of these things do exist so it's not out of the realm of reality."