Hundreds attend National Missing Persons Conference

Hundreds attend National Missing Persons Conference
(Source: WECT)
(Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - More than 300 people attended a weekend-long conference held by the CUE Center for Missing Persons. The National Missing Persons Conference is a chance for families whose loved ones have gone missing to come together.

"It's a place for the victims to come and feel safe among other victims and be able to have a home-like feeling, but it also gives them the back scene so they can have a good conversation with investigators," said Monica Caison, CUE Center Founder .

Families who have lost loved ones said it brings them comfort to speak with other victims' families.

"You can talk to your friends but unless they've lost that person they don't really understand. To be able to talk to people that are in your same situation, it does help," said Melissa Jordan. Her son, Zachary Malinowski, was last seen in South Carolina in August of 2013.

Lisa Valentino's sister Allison Jackson Foy vanished nine years ago. Foy's remains were later found in 2008 off of Carolina Beach Road. While she has some answers, Valentino says she will never stop working for justice.

"It's important for my two nieces, Allison's daughters, that they know the whole truth that they see somebody convicted and put behind bars for what they did to their mom, so they get a chance to have that justice for themselves. It's important to my dad, who is getting up in age and would like to see some kind of resolution."

The conference was also a chance for families to ask law enforcement officers questions. One important fact officers mentioned is that there is no waiting period to file a missing persons report. A common misconception is that families have to wait 24 or 48 hours, however, the Wilmington Police Chief said there is no waiting period, regardless of the victim's age.

"I think there is this misconception that you have to wait a period of time. There is nothing anywhere that says you have to do that. And you shouldn't. Time is critical--if it is a high risk case, an abduction every minute that ticks is critical, those first few minutes are critical," said Chief Ralph Evangelous.

As part of the conference, a candlelight vigil was held Saturday night to honor those who are still missing.

"Tonight my heart still hurts for the families here that don't have answers, because not knowing is really the worst," said Kristal Moore, whose 27-year-old cousin, Hunter Moore, went missing earlier this month.

With the help of the CUE Center, Moore was found a few weeks later. Unfortunately, he was not found alive.

"Hunter truly loved everybody, he never saw a stranger, and he saw the good in everybody," Moore said with tears in her eyes.

Part of Saturday night's candlelight vigil was honor those who have been found while spreading awareness for those who are still missing. A wall of over 100 missing people was unveiled to show the community just how close to home the issue is.

"When you see over a 100 and something missing persons staring back at you at one time, I think it speaks more volumes than just one poster at time," CUE Center for Missing Persons founder, Monica Caison, said.

As the wall is unveiled, and the candles of remembrance and hope are lit, tears of pain and anguish fell from families' faces as they hope to one day find all those who are missing.

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