WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The Cue Center for Missing Persons 10th Annual Conference is officially underway. Three hundred families of missing persons, law enforcement officers, advocates, non-profit groups, and search and rescue officials are meeting in Wilmington through Sunday.
Families of missing persons say they enjoy going back to the conference year after year because it lets them know they are not alone.
"When you get here everybody gets it, they are in the same boat you are one way or another," explained Janeane Shanahan whose son has been missing for almost 12 years.
"They all understand in a way that other people who have not experienced this cannot understand," said Madonna Layne, whose mother has been missing for 40 years.
"It's really tough," Courtney Jackson said. Her mother disappeared in 2006 and her remains were found two years later. "Not knowing is the hardest part, but being able to come together as a community is the most helpful."
Courtney was only 12 years old when her mother, Allison Jackson Foy, disappeared. In 2008her mother's remains were found along Carolina Beach Road, next to the remains of another missing woman. It's been almost eight years and there has been no arrest, the family says they are still pushing for justice.
"I definitely hope that we are going to have resolution soon and it's things like this that are going to help," Courtney Jackson said of the conference.
"I mean, I keep hoping and I keep hearing different things, and so I would like to say that maybe within the next year or when I'm back year an arrest will have been made in her case and maybe we will be set to go to trial. I never stop believing that," said Lisa Valentino, Foy's sister.
On Friday the Cue Center also launched a new app for iphones and androids that designers said they hope will help to solve more missing persons cases.
The app, which will be called Cue Center, is not available yet, but designers hope it will be soon. It's features include being able to look up pictures and information of missing persons cases and being able to send in a tip.
"Most people have cell phones and cell phones are traveling with them," Tricia Reis, with the Cue Center said. "When they are out in the community they have that access to [phones] right there and so we want to keep up with that, we want to reach more people."
Experts at the conference also said that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter should be used as much as possible. They said that simply by "sharing" a missing person's photo, thousands of people could potentially see that persons information.
"If you put it on social media, it can constantly be re-posted, and re-posted, and re-posted and exponentially go out to millions and millions of people," Holly Hughes, an attorney and legal analyst for CNN said. "Just because someone went missing in Atlanta, Georgia doesn't mean you won't find them in New Mexico. If you are on social media and you are posting those pictures and you are asking for help, people want to help, people want to get involved."
On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., there will be a candlelight vigil in honor of missing persons from across the country. It will take place at Riverfront Park in Downtown Wilmington and is open to the public.
The conference wraps up on Sunday.
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