When Avonte Oquendo went missing last October, the 14-year-old boy with autism became well-known to all residents of his native New York City. Posters and flyers containing Avonte’s image were scattered throughout the city, and public transit commuters regularly heard announcements regarding the boy’s disappearance.
Much of this publicity came at the request of Avonte’s parents, who were tormented by the fact that their son had walked away from school and might never return again. Still, they remained determined to find answers. In the Oquendo’s case, Avonte was tragically found dead in Queens’ East River, giving an unsettling conclusion to a months-long search.
Too often, in different locations throughout the country and world, parents are forced to endure a similar experience of having a missing child.
The Huffington Post recently reported the story of one woman, Marcia Shelton, who has had two of her children disappear throughout her lifetime.
The initial incident occurred in 1969, when Shelton’s 12-year-old daughter Deborah Lee Shelton unexpectedly went missing.
“Debbie wanted to go mini bike riding with some other kids. I did not want her to go because I was worried about her getting on a mini bike. I finally relented and said OK, but I told her that she had to be home by noon because she had a dentist appointment,” Shelton told the Huffington Post, “I came home from taking my other daughter to an appointment and Debbie wasn’t there. The phone rang and there was a young voice that said, ‘We have your daughter. We want $500. Drive out to Trout Gulch Road.”
Shelton initially took this call as a prank, but when Deborah didn’t show up things quickly became serious. Thus began an agonizing nine-week search for the girl, whose remains were ultimately found by a young hunter in a nearby wooded area.
Over 30 years later, a similar incident occurred with Shelton’s other daughter, the 44-year-old Victoria Lee Specials. In 2001, Specials went missing from her home, leaving behind her purse and all of her identification. Although her case remains open, she is presumed deceased and no new details have emerged in recent years.
Shelton’s experiences with losing her children are terribly unfortunate, and they represent the lengthy, difficult process involved with missing-person cases. Although many of these cases unfortunately end in tragedy, many parents are often reunited with their missing children.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response plan (Amber Alert), has resulted in 679 successful recoveries thus far.