CUE Center For Missing Persons
PO Box 12714
Wilmington, NC 28405
Join us for our upcoming national conference for missing persons and all who work in the arena from advocating, volunteering, investigation, search and rescue and the identification process of those who are lost. This event is open to all who support the mission of finding a resolution for families who have suffered a missing loved one and are or have been a victim of crime.
Please share this information to anyone in this line of advocacy or missing person work, family of a missing person or homicide victim; see below. To contact by email email@example.com
◊ Advocacy concerning missing persons, families left behind or homicide victim
◊ Service agencies, non profit organization, law enforcement, search teams/groups, private investigators, coroner or those who work in the identification process
◊ Volunteers who are interested in training and becoming more involved
To learn more about CUE Center for Missing Persons please visit us at our web site www.ncmissingpersons.org or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
This award is given to an individual, who has suffered the loss of a loved one by being a missing person, victim of homicide or one that has survived the cruelties from intimate partner violence. This award recognizes the survivor that has healed and who has risen above to contribute oneself to those who remain in need of guidance, empowerment, support and who continually hold a devotion to the cause.
The loss of Susan has been felt across the nation, she was a true supporter of the missing and the CUE organization. She remains truly missed by all.
Registration conference check 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm 3/19/2015 & 7:00 am 3/20/2015
Note: The main hall entrance to the ballroom will remain open (Thursday) all day and evening hours for any participant or sponsor to set up items, informational handouts, missing person information or visuals, table display, banners, etc. When checking into the conference please request the person in charge for this area to help you in whatever you may need to assist you for a smooth process. You can also ship your items to the CUE Center, please be advised that the hotel will not handle items delivered to the hotel.
THE CONFERENCE CONCLUDES ON SUNDAY, MARCH 22nd @ 1:00 CUE Founder, Monica Caison training and discussion, presentation of your conference plaque and a lunch.
SORC Meeting – Thursday, March 19, 2015
State Outreach Coordinators Meeting: Closed to the public, this meeting is for directors 9:00 am 5:00 pm (Lunch will be served during meeting)
To learn more about the program and get involved please contact CUE Center anytime at email@example.com or call 910-232-1687.
This meeting for is for the annual gathering ad training for directors.
TRAINING ASHI CPR Pro Course:
Thursday, March 19, 2015 (6:30 pm – 10:30 pm)
Instructor: Karin Bergholm
Karin Bergholm is a retired, Florida Law Enforcement officer, after proudly serving for 27.5 years. After retirement in 2012, she became a member of CUE and First Response Search Team, in Tallahassee.
Karin is a certified, adjunct instructor of CPR and First Responder for police recruits at The Florida Public Safety Institute, located near Tallahassee, Fl.
Karin is also in the process of training K-9 Trooper (a rescue dog) in the discipline of Human Remains Detection.
Kelly is a retired sergeant with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in Tallahassee, Fl. with 32 years of Law Enforcement experience and 8 years of Law Enforcement K-9 experience.
Kelly has been involved with Search and Rescue since 2004 and has certified canines in Human Remains Detection and Trailing. Her Certifications have been with North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and through National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR) as well as Network of Canine Detector Services (NOCDS). Kelly has attended numerous seminars and classes, ranging from search and rescue techniques, crime scene preservation, NIMS, HAZMAT training, Blood borne Pathogens education, and is a CPR Instructor through the American Health and Safety Institute (ASHI). Kelly is a Florida State Outreach Coordinator for CUE Center for Missing Persons.
Certifications: Trailing (NAPWDA, NOCDS, NASAR), HRD NAPWDA, NASAR, NASAR SARTECH II, Florida State K9 Instructor Criminal Justice and Training Commission (CJSTC), First Aid Instructor (CJSTC), CPR Instructor (AMA), Trailing Instructor for NOCDS
Memberships and Affiliations: First Response Search Team (Team President), CUE Center for Missing Persons, Child Abduction Response Team, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, NASAR, NOCDS
In 1987 I began my career with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and started teaching part time at the law enforcement academy in 1994. My real passion was teaching and in 1999 I left LCSO and became a full time instructor at the law enforcement academy. In 2002 I became the Medical First Responder Program Coordinator at the Florida Public Safety Institute/Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy.
I’m a CPR and First Aid Instructor/Instructor Trainer and a Training Center Director for the American Safety and Health Institute. I have trained thousands of law enforcement, corrections and probation officers over the years in CPR and First Aid. I am a member of the First Response K-9 Search Team in Tallahassee, Florida and a recent addition to the list of CUE Center State Outreach Coordinators.
We welcome this years videographer: Jordan White
Jordon White is a 16 year old high school junior from Amherst, Virginia with plans on attending Liberty University for a double major in film studies and wildlife biology. His hope is to one day produce documentary films. As the stepson of a State Outreach Coordinator for CUE, Jordon has been actively involved in a multitude of awareness events for missing persons, and in October of 2014 he used his talents to both photograph and film four Virginia rally stops on CUE Center’s 11th annual National “On the Road to Remember” Tour. By attending awareness events, the road tour, and meeting many families along the way, Jordon has learned about many of the various aspects of the journey that loved ones left behind go through and tries to capture the essence of this in his films and photos to share with others, particularly those within his own generation to make them aware of the issues of this often silent epidemic. Jordon and his parents are very excited and proud that he has been asked to attend the conference to film the event and produce a video of this exceptional experience.
Friday Night Conference Attendee Party
Martha has entertained CUE conference attendees and sponsors for the last five years and will return again, known as the ‘QUEEN OF KARAOKE’. Martha has won many titles such as Mrs. SC Congeniality, best karaoke entertainer in the Tabor City Yam Festival and brings a needed relief to many with her music. She joined the CUE family when Alice Donovan went missing and later became good friends with her daughters. She wanted to do something more to help out and help others who have a missing person. Over the years she has meet many families of the missing including Dawn Drexel, who daughter Brittanee remains missing and became loyal to the cause. The gift of making people happy is what she offers, even if for a moment, to see a smile on the faces who have suffered such a great loss. This year will be a reminder for Martha as she recognizes the anniversary of the loss of her mother and being with CUE for another birthday.
Proclamation & Letters (2015)
TRAINING SESSION 2015
Instructor – Peter J. Cestare, Lieutenant
Topic: Crime Scene to Courtroom
Crime Scene Investigation, Crime Scene Documentation, Crime Scene Reconstruction, Blood Pattern Analysis, Evidence Collection, Handling and Processing, Evidence Preservation, Court Room Presentation, Chain of Custody
Lieutenant Cestare is actively employed in law enforcement in the State of South Carolina as the Commanding Officer of the Crime Scene Investigations Unit and the Property & Evidence Section of the Horry County Police Department. Lieutenant Cestare assists in the investigation of homicides and violent crimes and specializes in crime scene reconstruction, photography, preservation of evidence, evidence handling and processing, casting of tire and shoe impressions, latent prints, blood pattern analysis, and trajectory analysis.
He is charged with the forensics portion of the investigation, from arrival at the scene all the way through providing expert testimony at trial. He is required to preserve, collect, process, testify and present evidence in court. All of these skills are applied to physical evidence to determine if the evidence matches the version of events provided by victims, witnesses, or suspects.
Lieutenant Cestare began his career in law enforcement over 30 years ago having started 1981 in the New York City Housing Authority Police Department where the concept of vertical patrol evolved. He retired from the City of New York, where he was a Detective Commander in charge of the Major Case Investigations Unit / Elevator Vandalism Squad. While Commander of the Elevator Vandalism Squad, he specialized in mechanical injury / death investigations involving elevator systems and elevator shafts. He has conducted over 1000 elevator related fatality and injury investigations.
In addition, he was responsible for conducting site security surveys, elevator and building vandalism investigations for all New York City Public Housing locations. During his tenure with New York City, he was twice awarded the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Police Officer, the NYC Medal of Honor, and the NY Yankees Medal of Honor. Several of Lieutenant Cestare’s cases have been featured in documentaries, news shows and prime time specials. He is a published author in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. He brings with him a tremendous amount of insight into the field of forensics and crime scene investigations.
Lieutenant Cestare holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Empire State College, the State University of New York, in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Lieutenant Cestare has worked with city, county, state, and federal governmental agencies in various law enforcement aspects and criminal investigations. He is eager to assist security agencies, law enforcement agencies and personnel in their endeavors to become well educated in the field of crime scene investigations and forensics. “Instilling professionalism through training”.
Instructor – Holly Hughes
Topic: Legal facts that can damage a case
For 10 years Attorney Holly Hughes has served as a Senior Assistant District Attorney with the Fulton County District Attorney’s office in Atlanta, GA where she prosecuted some of the most high-profile cases in the United States, including working on the murder case against Ray Lewis, superstar with the Baltimore Ravens. Holly Hughes was a triple threat prosecuting homicides, hate crimes and high profile felony cases.
Prior to making a name for herself as a tough big-city prosecutor, she also worked as an attorney specializing in Discrimination and Civil Rights.
Holly Hughes has hosted the highly popular “Nancy Grace Show” on CNN Headline News Channel, and continues to appear as a frequent guest on the program as well as appearing as an expert witness on Swift Justice with Nancy Grace. She appeared on Court TV as a frequent commentator and legal analyst since 2003 and on Tru TV’s “In Session” and CNN HLN’s “Prime News.”
With hundreds of media appearances Holly Hughes is qualified as an expert in high profile litigation and criminal procedure with the Cold Case Research Institute of Georgia. She is a frequent guest lecturer at colleges, universities, law schools and conferences. She’s honored in Madison Avenue’s Who’s Who of Young Professionals.
After ten years with the DA’s Office, Holly Hughes is now in private practice in Atlanta, handling criminal defense and civil litigation. http://hollybhughes.com
Instructor – Thomas A. (Tad) DiBiase
Topic: No Body Prosecution
Thomas A. (Tad) DiBiase is a native New Yorker, born in Elmira and raised in Westchester County. He received a B.A. in Politics from Wake Forest University in 1987 and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 1991. Mr. DiBiase joined the Washington office of the Wall Street firm Shearman & Sterling where he practiced corporate litigation for nearly four years. After turning down a clerkship with a federal district court judge in Texas, Mr. DiBiase joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in 1995.
He began prosecuting homicides in 1998, and during his time there tried 20 homicide cases. Although he was a federal prosecutor, Mr. DiBiase spent most of his career in the far grittier world of D.C.’s Superior Court, one of the nation’s busy urban courthouses. Mr. DiBiase specialized in domestic violence and forensic homicide cases.
His high profile cases included including United States versus Harold Austin, only the city’s second “no body” murder case ever, and United States versus Sydney Smith, where the main piece of evidence against Smith, a Metro employee who murdered his wife, was a cigarette the defendant left behind at the scene. Other cases he successfully prosecuted include United States v. John Williamson, a murder-for-hire case, and United States v. James Stewart, an attempted murder case involving a man who fired an AK-47 rifle down a street filled with children.
At various times he served as the Deputy Chief of the Misdemeanor Section, Chief of the Third District Homicide/Major Crimes Section, Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney for Professional Development and Training, and Deputy Chief of the Homicide Section. He is the nation’s leading expert on no-body homicide cases and has a website that tracks and discusses these cases at www.nobodymurdercases.com. He consults with police and prosecutors throughout the country on no-body murder cases and has formally consulted on two dozen no-body murder cases.
Lectures/appearances: Mid-Atlantic Cold Case Homicide Investigators Association: Fall, 2007 conference (Presentation on Harold Austin case); How to Prosecute a No Body Case, Thompson West audio webcast presentation, March 31, 2010; “How to Investigate and Prosecute a No Body Murder Case”, January 20, 2012 (DuPont Police Department, DuPont, Washington); March 23, 2012 (Las Vegas PD), FBI conference on No Body Homicide Cases, April 15, 2012, NAMUS Conference, (Virginia Beach, VA), September 24, 2012; Florida Homicide Investigators Conference (Orlando, Florida), November 20, 2013
Media Appearances: Nancy Grace Show (HLN), “In Session” (TruTV), War on Crime (Internet Radio), Justice Interrupted (Internet Radio), Time’s Up (Internet Radio); Cellblock Psychic, Investigation Discovery, aired April 21, 2014.
Articles: “The Case of the Missing Corpses” Washington Post, June 29, 2008
Quoted in: Associated Press, Bucks County (Pa.) Courier, Daily Record (Baltimore, MD), The Day (Connecticut), Daytona Beach News-Journal, Charlotte Observer, Cape Cod On Line, Commercial Appeal (Memphis), Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Law Week Colorado, CBS News (local affiliates), KSL radio, Chicago Tribune, National Law Journal, Miami Herald, Mercury News Service, Minnesota Post, New Haven Register, New York Law Journal, New York Post, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Press & Sun -Bulletin (Albany, NY), Prince George Citizen (British Columbia), Journal & Courier (Indiana), St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sea Coast Online, South Bend Tribune, Southeast Missourian, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Star News Online (Delaware), Wake Forest Alumni Magazine and the Walker County (Ga.) Messenger.
Books (quoted in): Erased: Missing Women, Murdered Wives, By Marilee Strong, Mark Powelson, John Wiley & Sons Publishing, 2010; Cold Case Research Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases, By Silvia Pettem, CRC Press, (2012)
Books (author) (forthcoming): “NO BODY” HOMICIDE CASES: A Practical Guide to Investigating, Prosecuting, and Winning Cases when the Victim is Missing, By Thomas A. (Tad) DiBiase, CRC Press (Nov. 2014)
With over 25 years of experience,education and a background in law enforcement , Sheryl McCollum is currently the Director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute, which is a collaboration between Auburn University Montgomery, Faulkner University and Bauder College. This collaboration brings together researchers, practitioners, students and the criminal justice community to develop new capabilities and work collectively to advance research, training and techniques in solving cold cases. The objectives of CCIRI are to provide the means, resources and guidance for Criminal Justice students throughout all Kaplan Higher Education to determine the solvability of actual unsolved crimes.
Topic Guest Speakers
Bryan Queen – Topic: Media Matters
Bryan Queen has over 20 years of experience in television news, currently he is News Director for Columbia, SC, NBC affiliate WIS-TV.
Queen was also News Director in Rochester, NY and was a news manager at News14 Carolina. He worked for NBC News for 7 years including positions in New York City, and Charlotte. He has also worked at WXII in Winston-Salem, NC, and WLOS in Asheville, NC
Queen has been a long-time advocate for missing persons and started 3 different tv franchises looking at Cold Cases. He’s a former CUE Center for Missing Person Board member, and is currently serving as SC State Coordinator.
Driver, the parent of an autistic child, participates on the Respite Coalition Committee for North Carolina and is an Alzheimer’s First Responder.
Families of the cases featured will share their story about their loved one and the struggles in an unforgiven journey
Bonnie Santiago, age 56, disappeared in the early morning hours of July 12th, 2014 from her boyfriend’s home at Carter’s Mountain Orchard in Albemarle County, Virginia. She comes from a large and loving family with multiple children and grandchildren, and many siblings and loved ones who love and miss her dearly and desperately want her home. Her story will be shared by family member, Sissi Roberts.
Speaker: Lois “Sissi” Roberts
Janet “Renee” Field, age 49, disappeared on July 2, 2014, after last being seen at home in Scottsville, Virginia by her husband. Renee’s car was found abandoned two days later on July 4th at a Park & Ride in Zion’s Crossroads, Virginia. Her husband and family are anxious for answers that will help to bring their beloved Renee home to them. Her story will be shared by family member, Bridget Whorley.
Speaker: Bridget Whorley
Unsolved Justice: Jason Bolton
Jason was killed on August 21, 1991 after attending a friends party in Fayette County Indiana, near the Fayette, Franklin and Rush county lines (Laurel Indiana) A lot of people witnessed his death, got scared, and are even too scared today, to talk about it.
Jason was tortured. His assailants decided to castrate him successfully! If just one person would have stepped Jason up to the plate and called for help, even though Jason was bleeding to death from the castration, he might have lived. When Jason passed out from the pain of the castration they all thought he was already dead, but he wasn’t, so they decided they had to get rid of his dead body somehow, was it a staged a cover up?
His body was placed in the middle of the road, it is believed they got their own car and one person steered the driver so that one of the tires would run right in between my legs, they had already had his legs spread eagle, and they slowly run this car in between his legs and over his chest cavity which instantly crushed his chest, and to the right of his head. He went fast and easy after that. But it’s been 24 years now! Jason’s death an accidental death and said the car killed him when it run over him.
Speaker: Tomi Bolton
Missing Person: Christopher Douthat
Chris Douthat, age 24, disappeared on October 25th, 2013 in Vinton, Virginia. His mom dropped him off at work early that morning and when his shift was finished he went to a local grocery store that afternoon. He has not been seen or heard from since and there has been no activity on his cell or bank accounts. His family loves and misses him and desperately wants answers. His story will be shared by his mother, Mary Douthat.
Speaker: Mary Douthat
National Candle Light Service
The annual service is hosted by the CUE Center for Missing Persons in honor of those once missing, now recovered. Families from across the country attend the water front ceremony seeking comfort, supporting the thousands who remain missing in “the unveiling of the wall”. Come and join those left behind for a beautiful tribute along Wilmington’s Cape Fear River front victim testimonies, musical dedication and so much more. Candles will be provided. The service is a part of the weekend long national conference 2014.
Saturday March 22, 2014 Time: 7:30 pm (Open to the public and candles will be provided)
Riverfront Park, Downtown Wilmington Waterfront
Mistress of Ceremony – Sandra McClammy “The Midday Miss on Coast97.3″
Sandra McClammy aka “Sandra, The Midday Miss” was born and raised in Wilmington, NC. A graduate of the city’s inner city high school, New Hanover High, and the city’s college, UNCW has afforded her an excellent balance. As a teen growing up in the “hood” she vowed to never forget her roots and to grow socially in a manner by which she could have a conversation with anyone. As she grew into an adult, she learned how it is essential to recognize and embrace the desperate educational, social and economic conditions that affect young people. Today she has placed herself in the educational arena and entertainment world and thus educates youth via “edutainment”.
As a dancer and radio personality, Sandra understands how movement and music can provide solstice to the soul. With this Sandra also believes that as an educator it is critical to study and understand how we as adults can continue to help youth succeed despite the overwhelming odds against them. They must believe that they have a significant role in our society. Sandra is a UNCW graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature & Language and a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Among the many boards and committees she serves on from the UNCW Alumni Board of Directors as Vice- Chair, to the Black Arts Alliance of Wilmington, she is also a proud member of the Wilmington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. As a member of worldwide DJ coalition, Core DJs, she is the host and the producer of the syndicated CORE DJ Radio Show. For Cumulus Broadcasting she is the music director and midday host on COAST 97.3. Sandra has been in radio for 17 years.
Guest Speaker –
Reading of the Poem Dedication – Sheree Justus
Vocal Tribute – Heather Cohen
A Missouri native, Heather Cohen made Nashville her home in 2006 with dreams of making a name in the music industry. After the death of her mother in 2008, her interest shifted to the legal field. She received her Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies in 2012; and her Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies in 2014 with an emphasis in Criminal Justice.
Currently, Ms. Cohen works as a contract paralegal for a prominent personal injury firm in Nashville, as well as full time at a highly respected litigation firm. She spends her free time hosting and performing at artist showcases and organizing fundraisers in some of Nashville’s most popular venues
National Prayer – Pastor Angie Davis
Reverend Angie Davis is fully ordained as a minister of the gospel. She has been in many positions of leadership in and outside of the church. Her present position is as an ordained Elder at Inspirational House of Praise in Leland, NC, where she is also the Praise and Worship leader. She is passionate in her endeavor of preaching and teaching the gospel as well as being a spiritual counselor to those in need.
She is also employed with local Ophthalmologist, Dr. Laura Harris, where she is the Surgical Coordinator. At present, she has been committed to officiating the National Candlelight Vigil Prayer for CUE for many years. It is her prayer that God will give the families comfort and courage as well as Hope through the Word of God and the knowledge that He is always there to lift them up. She is the mother of two children, Matt and Hannah. The grandmother of three, Caleb, Kameron and Savannah. She resides in in Winnabow, NC.
Candle Light Service Honorees
Angie Pipkin Alysha Tucker
This year’s Tour Honoree is Donna Ingersoll
Scars, Marks, Tattoos: Tattoo of a Cross on her right arm.
Special Identifiers: Glasses and her right index finger is shorter
Details of Disappearance
On December 16, 1990 at approximately 11;45 P.M Donna Ingersoll walked away from a private residence located in Wabasha MN. Donna had been drinking and was involved in a fight with her boyfriend at the time of her disappearance.
She ran out the back door and has not been heard of since. It was a very cold winter night and it is unclear if Donna had a coat with her. Investigative Agency Wabasha Police Department ( Minnesota ) 651-565-3361
WHAT IS A RALLY STOP?
A rally stop is a place that is pre set by anyone who wishes to host one “see below” for suggested person(s). Once a location is secured CUE will inform the host of time and date of arrival. Each stop is one hour and a half long for whatever program the host wishes to have and feature; this is your time to bring an awareness to your community of missing persons.
WHAT ARE SOME IDEAS FOR A RALLY STOP?
Candle light or prayer vigils, clothes line display project, lantern launch
Balloon release, flower toss, butterfly release, roadside displays or demonstrations
Display Board, Banners, Signs, Marques
Guest Speakers; law enforcement, town/state dignitaries, community leaders, pastor, etc.
Tribute performances (vocal or dance)
Tables set up for displays of missing persons photos and information
Public event or safety activities
Invite the families of unsolved homicide, missing, public, family, friends and media (our team will aid in media coverage)
The most important thing is to be creative in your rally stop
WHAT TYPE OF LOCATIONS HAVE BEEN USED FOR RALLY STOPS?
Police – Sheriff or police departments
Government agencies, i.e. Mayor, town hall
Parking lots of stores that have frontage or businesses alike
Home of the families of the missing
Parks of any kind or large grassy areas
Local churches, schools, community buildings
National Tour Purpose and Inspiration
The annual tour was created to generate new interest in cold cases of missing people across our nation. The inspiration came in 2004 from the case of North Carolina college student Leah Roberts, who had gone on a cross-country trip of self-exploration. Her wrecked and abandoned vehicle was found, but Leah is still missing. Leah’s case went cold and interest faded until CUE volunteers set out on a grueling 14-day trip to retrace her route and inform the media of all those who were missing in the path of the tour. In the years to follow, it only seemed right to keep hope alive after families across the country voiced the need for more help and supported the tour idea.
National Tour Objective
The national road tour, called “On the Road to Remember,” is an awareness campaign that focuses on missing persons cases that have gone cold or have not received appropriate media coverage on the local level – much less the national level.. The tour, which travels through many states annually, provides that attention.
In all cases of missing people, it is vital to inform the public of the missing person’s circumstancesO quickly and to disseminate that information to the media and the public. In most cases where details are released immediately to the public through an organized campaign, the public brings forth information that aids in the investigation and or the location of the victim. The media plays a significant role in getting the word out on the behalf of the missing person and should be recognized as a vital resource to any investigation.
Interest in many of the cases we have featured in previous tours has been renewed. The media has learned about local cases they were unaware of; case investigations have been renewed, and searches conducted. Information has resulted in new leads in some cases, and has even helped identify an unknown decedent and in 2008 solved a cold case of twenty eight years. And finally, each tour some of the missing featured have been found from various efforts, which is the main reason we conduct the tour despite the toll it takes on our all-volunteer staff.
It is the belief of the CUE Center for Missing Persons that all investigations, the public, volunteers and the media should work in collaboration on cases involving missing children and adults; until this happens, their will continue to be cases of the missing labeled “cold” or “inactive.”
WHAT DO I NEED TO SUBMIT MY MISSING PERSON
All vital stats on missing person
Agency and law enforcement contact numbers and web sites concerning missing person
Written consent for your missing person to be featured in the national tour line up
In her 18-plus years as an advocate, Monica Caison has seen it all: The car stereo store owner who staged his disappearance to avoid creditors. The 9-year-old boy missing four months before being found dead, tucked into a suitcase and stashed behind a drug store. The killer who sent her a map pinpointing the location of his last victim.
All those cases drew a focused response from Caison’s Wilmington-based nonprofit, the CUE Center for Missing Persons, a sprawling network of volunteers whose growth in recent years is underscored by its rapidly expanding reach across the country.
But the organization was not always this big.
The tragedy that lifted CUE from obscurity to mainstream was the disappearance of Peggy Carr, a 32-year-old kidnapped at random by two men in a parking lot outside a city shopping center in April 1998.
Then a nascent and relatively unknown organization, CUE took a leading role in spearheading the quest for Carr in a case that galvanized much of the community. As the search unfolded over seven months, CUE helped feed, house and alleviate the financial and emotional strain on Carr’s family as searchers pursued her whereabouts.
CUE built on the credence and knowledge it gained during that formative time 14 years ago to grow from a blip in the voluminous world of missing persons to a nationally recognized support system. Today, it enjoys a reputation as a nationwide web of volunteers, still headquartered in the Port City, willing to marshal resources for missing persons and their families at a moment’s notice.
Carr’s mother, Penny Carr Britton, grew so close to Caison and CUE as the search for her daughter unfurled that she remains actively involved with the organization to this day. In March, she attended CUE’s eighth annual national conference, a gathering of field experts, families, search and rescue groups and law enforcement officials in Wilmington every year.
“When we got here, we didn’t know a soul. We didn’t know what to do,” Britton recalled about 1998, when she and other members of her family traveled from Ohio to assist in the search. “For seven months, Monica walked me through my life.”
In the years before Carr’s case became a high-profile drama, CUE had established itself as a mainstay for families on the emotional rollercoaster that follows the disappearance of a loved one. But the group had been struggling to define its mission, operating more on the periphery than the center.
Carr’s disappearance marked a turning point. The case swung nationwide attention on this corner of North Carolina. People seemed captivated by first the mystery of why she vanished and then the callousness of her murder. But it also shone a spotlight on CUE as the organization sought to assert itself as a community stalwart and family advocate.
Carr was months away from her wedding when two strangers abducted her outside a shopping center at the corner of Oleander Drive and Dawson Street on April 22, 1998. Held at gunpoint, she was forced to drive about 40 minutes to the edge of a soybean field in rural Bladen County, where the assailants killed her and left her body beneath berry bushes.
For the next seven months, nobody but the killers knew her whereabouts. As the search progressed, Britton and other family members, many of whom uprooted their lives in Ohio to live in North Carolina while the case developed, grasped for answers.
CUE, meanwhile, stepped in to relieve what anxieties it could, Britton said. The group not only nudged the case forward, but covered the family members’ hotel expenses, brought them dinner every night and did other small things to ameliorate their stress. Caison glued herself to Britton’s side, becoming a shoulder to lean on as she walked Britton through the whirlwind of emotion and bureaucracy that confronted them.
“I always tell people, that was our landmark case,” Caison, a stark blonde whose vigor, focus and dynamic personality make her a charismatic figure among victims’ families. “It was a crash course in seven months for every avenue I’d be working with for the rest of my life.”
Caison runs the organization from her home off Gordon Road in an office decorated more like a police station than a nonprofit center: Hanging from the wall are maps of the United States, missing persons posters and framed portraits of murder victims. A row of black file cabinets stand at the back wall. By her desk sit boxes overflowing with papers and manila folders.
From headquarters, Caison can connect with search teams, law enforcement officials, caseworkers and fundraisers from coast to coast. While the group has sought answers in cases ranging from teenage runaways to suicides and murders, the group claims as its token feature the attention it places on cases gone cold, in which the victim vanished years or even decades ago.
“What interested me about Monica is she would take the cases everybody else had given up on,” said Marshia Morton, a CUE volunteer based in Missouri. “She would beat the bushes and rattle some chains until she had a direction to go on.”
Recent developments have further solidified the organization’s status as a national order. Earlier this year, CUE rolled out a state director program in an effort to bolster its presence and streamline resource delivery. The plan envisions installing four outreach coordinators in each state within five years to act as liaisons to raise money, identify needs and assist families. Twenty-seven coordinators are now spread across 12 states, including four in North Carolina.
The directors, for example, are responsible for helping families file missing persons reports, elicit news coverage for their case and spread awareness about their missing loved one online and in the community through websites and billboards, among other things.
Dawn Drexel, one of two coordinators serving in New York, is among many whose participation stems at least in part from personal tragedy.
Drexel’s daughter, Brittanee, has been featured on a series of national television programs, from “Nancy Grace” to “Good Morning America,” since vanishing three years ago. A 17-year-old looking forward to high school graduation, the Rochester, N.Y. teen disappeared in Myrtle Beach in April 2009 during a spring break trip with friends.
In the investigation’s early steps, authorities tracked Brittanee’s cellphone to a swampland in Georgetown County, about 50 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Over the next two weeks, CUE mobilized some 200 searchers to scour the treacherous terrain.
Plump bugs swarmed. Snakes slithered. ATVs had to roll through the woods every few minutes to scare the alligators back into the river. Canine handlers carried six-shooters to protect their dogs, Drexel said.
Though Brittanee’s whereabouts remain unknown, Drexel’s experience put her on a path toward advocating for families undergoing similar heartache.
“She teaches you a lot of things, how to remain strong,” Drexel said about Caison. “She’s built me up to the point where I’m now able to advocate for Brittanee and also help support other families going through the same thing.”
In addition to advocating for missing persons, CUE runs internship programs for university and college students.
Allie Jeffords, a student at Ashley High School, chose CUE as the subject of her senior project. As part of her work, she enlisted family members and friends to assist her in throwing a fundraiser on a recent weekend outside K-Mart on South College Road to collect donations of money and office supplies.
Jeffords has known Caison since she was a child.
“She always instilled in us how important it was for the missing persons to be heard,” Jeffords said. “They do have a family member out there that needs to find them.”
To better coordinate its widespread string of volunteers, the group hopes to launch an online database in coming months to store and aggregate volunteer and resource information in one, centralized location accessible from anywhere in the world.
Christy Davis, a CUE volunteer whose Florida-based company, International Technical Industries, is creating the database, said the Web-based tool is expected to streamline the assembly of search teams and other resources. Also, the program might improve its chances of winning grant money by tracking hours volunteers spend in the field.
Rallying search parties quickly is an important capability in an arena where time may mean the difference between life and death, an open or closed casket.
In interviews, CUE members said the organization exists in part to bridge a gap between families and law enforcement. The latter, constrained by increasingly tight budgets and finite manpower, are sometimes unable to muster resources that families believe their cases deserve.
The volume of missing persons reports filed each year is staggering. In 2010, 85,820 people were reported missing nationwide, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But law enforcement officials say a vast majority of those involve people skipping town voluntarily. Since state and local governments have been forced to shed officers to fill budget gaps, detectives more than ever have to weigh relevant facts before launching a full-fledged investigation.
“You can’t treat everyone like an abduction. You don’t have the resources to do that,” said Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous. “You have to look at each case and look at the merits of it and see if there’s any real indicators” on whether they left of their own volition.
Evangelous has personally witnessed those frustrations expressed among families. In 1991, his cousin in Massachusetts vanished.
The police handling her case failed to treat it seriously, the chief said, despite the family’s assertions that she was an unlikely runaway. As it turns out, the man with whom she was last seen had killed her, stored her body in a plastic bag and left her in his closet. Police visited the man’s home but never searched inside. Officers eventually arrested the culprit, but only after he dumped the body in another location. He is now in prison.
Evangelous said CUE has become involved in various cases being investigated by city detectives over recent years. That includes the disappearances of Allison Jackson-Foy, 34, and Angela Nobles Rothen, 42, whose remains were eventually found in the woods off Carolina Beach Road. Both died at knifepoint. Their killings have not been solved.
Jackson-Foy’s sister, Lisa Valentino, now serves as a state outreach coordinator in New Jersey.
From missing to searching
Caison’s troubled teen life made her an unlikely candidate for matriarch of such a sizable missing persons organization. Through hours of interviews, she chronicled her life’s progression, from the beginning as a poor girl on the southside of St. Petersburg, Fla, to a missing persons advocate whose work brings her to far-flung corners of the country.
Always close to her family, Caison’s rebellious streak kicked off after her parents divorced. She ran away from home multiple times as a teenager, with her parents reporting her missing more than once. She hitchhiked around the country and lied about her age to find work, staying for a while before she circled back home.
“I was definitely a juvenile delinquent,” Caison said. “I was rebellious because I wanted my family back, I wanted my parents back.”
During those influential years, Caison learned about people’s ability for self-realization and change. “I was that person who was very likely to end up in a ditch somewhere,” she recalled. But “look who I became now. Look at what I’ve done with my life and my community. So should we be so quick to judge?”
By 18, she moved to Southeastern North Carolina to live with her mother and siblings. But she found her mother involved in an abusive relationship and, fed up with her stepfather’s rage, moved into her own place. In 1985, Caison, then 22, married her longtime boyfriend, Samuel.
As she grew older, child-rearing and volunteer work came to dominate Caison’s life. Her time revolved around public schools, which her children attended. Over time, she fell into the role of nonprofit volunteer, raising money for various charities and working with troubled youth.
In the early 1990s, Caison’s volunteerism led her to Karen Brown, the founder of the Non-Profit for Public Safety and Awareness. Brown dissolved the organization soon thereafter, but not before convincing Caison to carry the torch with her own nonprofit. Inspired by tragedies in her own life and the disappearances of people she was close to, Caison chose to draw attention toward something she felt needed more: missing persons.
In 1994, CUE was born.
Since its inception, the group has processed more than 9,000 cases of missing people. CUE pours volumes of time and resources into each one, Caison said, printing fliers, buying billboards, creating websites and launching searches.
Families lauded the efforts. But while they work in conjunction with law enforcement on cases, some police officials have expressed concerns that CUE’s assertiveness can pose a risk to the integrity of criminal cases. And some other search and rescue groups have questioned CUE’s reliance on private donations instead of government funding and grants, calling its fundraising tactics over-aggressive.
Despite the criticisms, CUE has worked frequently with law enforcement officials and search and rescue officials in a variety of states to help families home in on missing loved ones.
Lori Roberts, of Wilmington, credited the group with finding her daughter’s 13-year-old friend when she vanished from Killeen, Texas. CUE offered a reward for information about the girl’s whereabouts, generating the tip that led authorities to her location.
“They suspected she was going to be trafficked over the Mexican border,” said Roberts, now a state outreach coordinator for North Carolina. She said Caison stayed in touch with the family throughout the investigation, always answering her phone, even if it rang at 3:30 a.m. “I was so scared and kept begging Monica, ‘You have to find her.’ ”
Since CUE draws solely on volunteers for its manpower, nobody accepts a paycheck. A big “0” has always appeared beside Caison’s name under the income disclosure portion of the group’s tax forms.
A mother’s path
On the day she vanished, Carr left to run errands, leaving her fiance a note that read, “Be back soon.” While she was inside the store, a white Mazda carrying Curtis Cobbs and Bem Holloway pulled into the parking lot.
As Carr was starting her black Geo Tracker and getting ready to leave the shopping center, Holloway jumped into the passenger seat. He first tried to pay her to drive him somewhere. But when she refused, he brandished a gun and ordered her to follow the Mazda, which was being driven by Cobbs.
The gun didn’t actually work, but Carr could not have known.
The trip took her over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, past rusted barns and dusty convenience stores that border N.C. 87, finally ending in a Bladen County soybean field. Cobbs later testified that Holloway stabbed Carr while he watched.
The men had wanted her car, betting it would make a fine getaway vehicle in a robbery later on. But they eventually decided against using it. Instead, they dumped the GEO about 16 miles away, on the shores of Lake Waccamaw.
Britton still struggles with the knowledge of her daughter’s death. Since her body was found, Carr’s friends and family have turned the scene into a memorial complete with wind chimes, small stone sculptures and day lilies now proliferating beyond the picket fence that surrounds the site. They regularly visit the spot to clear out weeds and lay new mulch.
After killing Carr, Holloway and Cobbs went on a crime spree through Columbus and Robeson counties. They were later imprisoned for their crimes. Holloway was shot to death the next year during an escape attempt at a prison work farm near the Virginia line. Cobbs’ sentence ended earlier this year.
Britton learned about Cobb’s release for the first time on the day she was accompanied by a StarNews reporter and photographer to the murder scene in March. The reporter looked him up in the prison database later that day, and notified her that Cobbs had been let go two months before. Nobody contacted her beforehand. She thought he had more time to serve.
The day after deputies came across Carr’s remains in November 1998, Britton visited the site to lay eyes on the field where her daughter spent her last moments. The sight uncorked her bottled emotions. She wailed so palpably that deputies and search volunteers standing in earshot joined her in crying. Caison, glued to her side, hugged the grieving mother.
The next day’s newspaper ran a photo which captured that scene, showing Britton clasped in an emotional embrace with the blonde-haired woman she’d come to consider part of the family.
Brian Freskos: 343-2327
On Twitter: @BrianFreskos
Throughout all stages of a missing persons investigation, up to the point of its positive or negative resolution, there is only one verifiable victim: the family of that missing person. The missing person might have been abducted, or worse, but from the moment that someone considers the absence of a loved one to necessitate a 911 call, the family that makes that call is going to be caught in a whirlpool of fear, panic and helplessness that most people dont understand and law enforcement officials rarely have the resources to address in any sustained way.
In Wilmington, however, these families have an advocate, a fierce, hands-on assistant in the search for missing loved ones. Her name is Monica Caison, and shes the founder and director of the Community United Effort (CUE) Center for Missing Persons, a nonprofit organization based in Wilmington, which, since 1994, has been aggressive in its attempts to keep missing person cases from going “cold” or “inactive.” By marshalling nationwide resources that include law enforcement personnel and an army of volunteers, the CUE Center has been instrumental in returning loved ones to their families, creating a sort of template for families confronted by such a loss, a blueprint for action that combines elements of the actual search process with a powerful family support tool hope.
“Shes tops, as far as Im concerned,” says Marc Benson, a private investigator, former detective in the New Hanover County Sheriffs Department, recent candidate for the sheriffs job and the host of Blue Line Radio on The Big Talker (106.3 FM). “I first ran into her 16 or 17 years ago, when I was a detective sergeant in the Sheriffs Department.”
Bensons first impression of Caison left him thinking she was just a “soccer mom,” doing what she could to find people whod gone missing thinking, too, “Good for her, but were the professionals here, so dont call us, well call you.”
In the spring of 1998, Benson found himself re-assessing his original impressions of Caison and her organization. In April of that year, 32-year-old bride-to-be Peggy Carr was abducted from a mall parking lot in Wilmington. One day, she was here; the next day, she was not. Shed disappeared quickly and completely, and lacking evidence to the contrary, law enforcement officials considered the possibility that her disappearance, in spite of her impending marriage, was voluntary. Without a clue to work on, the investigation languished. Displeased with this sort of response from law enforcement officials, Peggys mother called Monica Caison, whose private phone remains the direct line to what was then the fledgling and relatively unknown CUE Center for Missing Persons. Seven months after Peggys disappearance, Caison and her volunteer army were instrumental in discovering the whereabouts of Carrs remains in Bladen County.
“It became a multi-state investigation, a national media case,” says Caison, “and it taught us everything. We worked side by side with law enforcement, set up a 24-hour tip line. The FBI would pick up our logs. We were learning, too. It was the first time, really, that the full weight of the resources (we had) came to bear. We kept (the case) in the public eye, just kept plugging and plugging, constantly searching. It was our landmark case.”
More important than Caisons literal presence beating the bushes, actually searching was the support she gave to the family.
“Monica would just sit for hours and comfort me,” said Peggy Carrs mother in an interview for People magazine in March 2009, months after her daughters body had been discovered.
“My respect for her increased because of the presence she had with that family,” says Benson, who, at the time, was looking on from the Sheriff Departments sidelines, because it was a Wilmington PD case. “She went up there (to Bladen County) with volunteers and canvassed the area with pictures. She made sure that everybody up there looked at every little detail (coming out of the investigation). I was quite impressed with the resources she was able to pull together.”
What is so striking about Monica Caisons work with the CUE Center is the individual, up-close-and-personal effort she invests in countless, physical searches for these people, and the tireless campaign she wages to keep families in the loop of any ongoing investigation. Law enforcement agencies, from the local to the national, may falter during an investigation, due to a lack of either resources or will, but from the moment the CUE Center and, specifically, Monica Caison steps aboard, families are assured that their missing loved one will not, in Monicas lifetime, be forgotten until theyre found. In most cases (though not all), the outcome is not good. Caison is more often than not searching for a body, and she is known for a stubborn, relentless and often un-appreciated approach to any obstacles in her way.
“Our world is becoming an open graveyard for missing people,” Caison says, “because nobodys paying attention. You can bet that if people heard on the news that four airplanes were crashing every day in this country, somebody would be doing something.”
CUE’S SEARCH EFFORT
You can help make a difference by supporting the CUE Center for Missing Persons in its online campaign in an effort to raise funds for their continued search effort for missing children and adults; CUE (Community United Effort) is a 501(c)3 tax exempt national organization.
In 1994 the CUE Center for Missing Persons was founded to aid cases of missing persons; funded entirely by donations, and staffed by volunteers. CUE Founder Monica Caison, has dedicated her life to the plight of missing people; which is focused on finding the missing by way of investigation and active search efforts, advocating for their causes, and supporting their families. Since its inception, CUE has helped more than 9,000 families in what is often the most confusing and desperate times of their lives.
Thank you for any consideration.
Building on her experiences as a troubled teen, Ms Caison has developed an unsurpassed reputation as a vigilante for justice in the quest for missing persons. She has built a network of support to assist families to locate their missing loved ones through CUE – Community United Effort ‘Center for Missing Persons’ which she founded in 1994 and which has as its mission – To join efforts with all concerned, seeking closure of tragedies; as we remain in search of the missing. A wife and mother, Ms Caison often sacrifices her time with her family and uses her own resources to ensure that missing family members of people who need her services are not just a statistic. …Read more here
When Someone Goes Missing and Clues Dry Up, Many Call in Monica Caison—a North Carolina Volunteer Sleuth Who Specializes in Cases Gone Cold
After her parents died, Leah Roberts felt lost. Inspired by the work of Beat author Jack Kerouac, the 23-year-old North Carolina State student hit the road to reexamine her life. In March 2000 she drove cross-country to Bellingham, Wash. There, that March 13, she bought a ticket to the movie American Beauty. Five days later her Jeep Cherokee was found in a park. “There was no body, no blood,” says her sister Kara, 31. “Her valuables were there—cash, guitar, my mother’s engagement ring. The car’s windows had been busted out and covered with blankets—like someone had been living in it.”
For months Kara prayed for a break in the case, but police had few leads. Then someone told her about Monica Caison, a mother of five from Wilmington, N.C, who has become one of the nation’s foremost citizen sleuths. In 1994 Caison launched the nonprofit Community United Effort (CUE) for Missing Persons. Her goal is to keep unsolved cases—even long cold ones—alive by any means necessary. With help from 5,000 CUE members, Caison prints up flyers, woos the media, raises money and pressures officials to keep the heat on. She also acts as a guardian angel to distraught loved ones. “My concern is what a missing loved one does to a family—it tears them apart,” she says. “Whether they need an aspirin or a call to the governor, I’ll stay with them. Whatever will help.”
She also organizes searches-trudging into remote areas with her German shepherd Heidi. Working with law enforcement, CUE helps in about 600 cases a year; in the vast majority the missing person—or body—is found. “There will be times when there’s a dead end, but Monica never stops,” says Sheriff Hubert Peterkin of Hoke County, N.C. “We can’t afford not to use her.”
Most of Caison’s work, which is funded by donations, centers on North Carolina. But she also travels the country to help in high-profile cases and appears on national TV shows such as Unsolved Mysteries. Still, she’s careful not to give families false hope. “I won’t tell them I will find their loved one,” she says. “I won’t tell them not to worry.”
It’s a lesson she learned in her first high-profile search: the 1998 case of Peggy Carr, a 32-year-old bride-to-be from Wilmington abducted in a carjacking. After seven months in a massive CUE-led search, a volunteer found Carr’s body in a field 50 miles from where she had been taken. Despite the outcome, Carr’s mother, Penny Carr Britton, is grateful: “Monica would sit for hours and just comfort me.” But the heartbreak takes its toll: The case of a 9-year-old boy found stuffed in a suitcase sent Caison to bed for four days. “I was asked to plan the funeral,” she says. “When it came to selecting the casket, I didn’t think I could do it.” She did.
Few would have predicted Caison’s calling when she was growing up, one of 11 children, in St. Petersburg, Fla. When her parents, John, a shoe salesman, and Irene (both deceased), divorced, Caison, who remained with her father, spun out of control. “I started running with gangs,” she says. At 15, though, she went straight after joining her mother in North Carolina. There she met her husband of 20 years, Sam, 40, a subcontractor, and settled down. In 1994 she volunteered for a safety-awareness group that fingerprinted local children. When the group’s director left, Caison took over, and CUE took shape. “I felt compelled to help,” she says.
In her first search Caison helped find a teen runaway in four days. But increasingly, she has specialized in adults like Leah Roberts-whose loved ones don’t have the resources available to families of missing kids. Five years have passed, but Caison has kept working the case, taking a caravan of volunteers on a Road to Remember tour last year to trace Leah’s route west. “She won’t give up until we find her,” says Kara Roberts. And no matter what happens, Caison says she’ll keep searching for missing persons. “We do it,” she says, “because everyone is someone’s child.”
Richard Jerome. Michaele Ballard in Charlotte, N.C, and Kristin Harmel in Charleston, S.C.
More From This Article
- Looking for Leah
- For five years Kara Roberts has held out hope that her little sister Leah will somehow return home. With Monica Caison’s help, she is still searching for her
When I think of Leah, I think of the bond we had growing up. We’re two years apart, and we took care of each other in difficult times. She blossomed into a beautiful young woman and talked of joining the Peace Corps. Leah could often be found in a coffee shop writing in her composition book, and I thought maybe one day she’d write the great American novel. Now, when I drive by a cafe, I think of her. In a weird way it’s a comfort, like when I hear the song “Circle,” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, which she loved. Or when I see a bag of Cheetos and think how she loved them when she was little. Thinking of Leah also makes me feel lost. I always felt the need to look out for her-and it’s hard to know I can’t protect her now.
- If you have information about the whereabouts of Leah Roberts, please contact the Whatcom County, Wash., Sheriff at (360) 676-6707, Det. Joseph, Ext. 50445 or CUE at (910) 232-1687.