Hundreds of people go missing in the U.S. and Canada every year. If you don't believe this, visit the website charleyproject.org - there is page after page of missing persons, some of whom have been missing for decades. There are a number of websites about missing persons, but the Charley Project is one of the best organized. My heart goes out to all the family and friends looking for their lost loved ones, so I decided to dedicate one day a week to these vanished persons.
A companion website is www.doenetwork.org, a database of unidentified victims that law enforcement has not been able to identify. Again, some of these victims date back decades. No one wants to think that their loved one is no longer living, and the Doe Network is just one more tool in the search. Information is occasionally incorrect, since physical remains may be skeletal or incomplete, so authorities have to estimate information like age, coloring, etc. In at least one case, the date was inadvertently entered as the date that the record was created rather than the date the victim was found. If the person seems to otherwise match your loved one's description, by all means pursue your investigation and make inquiries.
The Investigation Discovery channel launched a program a few years ago called "Disappeared" which focuses the spotlight on several missing person cases every year. It is a fascinating program, and they receive many more requests to showcase certain cases than they are able to fulfill. Obviously the cases they choose depend on the cooperation of family, friends, and local law enforcement.
Law enforcement officers are often reluctant to investigate the disappearance of an adult, since it isn’t against the law for an adult to choose to go missing. Who hasn’t thought about walking away from their life and starting over fresh someplace where no one knows them? (I know I have.) Some people DO vanish willingly, to escape criminal prosecution or crushing debt, to get out of an oppressive or abusive situation, or just to follow a crazy dream, to cite a few possibilities. But women who are devoted mothers don’t leave their children on a whim; people who have been close to their families all their lives don’t just drop out of sight and never contact anyone again; and in the 21st century, it’s pretty hard to function without money or credit cards, identification, a cell phone, etc.
Today I would like to tell you about Audrey May Herron. Audrey is the mother of 3 children, and she has been missing since 2002. Audrey was last seen around 11 p.m. on August 29, 2002, in Catskill, NY, where she worked as a nurse at a health care facility. She had telephoned home around 9:30 p.m., very pleased about a long-awaited pay raise. A little after 11 p.m., she walked out to the parking lot with some co-workers, got into her black 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and headed west on State Route 23 toward her home in Freehold, NY, about 12 miles away. Audrey never arrived home and neither she nor her Jeep were ever seen again. Her credit cards and cell phone have not been used since her disappearance.
Audrey's husband Jeff called her workplace around 6 a.m. to find out if/when Audrey had left work, but it was her stepmother Jeanne who contacted police, at around 9 a.m. on August 30. Multiple ground and air searches have been performed, without turning up any evidence. Some (but not all) of her co-workers were interviewed.
Audrey's father Ray passed away in June 2011. He never stopped hoping that he would find his daughter.
No clues to Audrey's disappearance have been found by FBI and other law enforcement officers, or by a private investigator. Authorities say that Audrey's husband has not been cooperative, but he was cleared by a polygraph test and has allowed multiple searches of their home and property. His father Ron Herron was also asked to take a polygraph test (I believe he refused). This is not to say that either one is guilty of anything - law enforcement naturally looks at the people closest to the victim when a crime is committed. One report stated that Audrey's purse, credit cards, and cigarettes were found in their house, which if true, is very odd - what woman goes to work without her purse? Audrey's husband Jeff has withdrawn from the search in an effort to protect his children, which I can understand. Friends and family say Audrey was devoted to her children and would never have abandoned her family, and that they cannot believe that her husband would have harmed her since he truly loved her.
So what happened to Audrey? Was she car-jacked? Was she followed by an acquaintance or co-worker, who maybe mistook Audrey's friendliness for something more? Did she know her killer? Her car has never been found - is it at the bottom of a lake or a quarry, or maybe in a storage unit? Or did it go to a "chop shop" and get dismantled for parts? There have been a few reported sightings of Audrey and one email hoax, but all have turned out to be false. Audrey's family are still searching for answers. Every year, they hold a fundraiser in an attempt to raise public awareness about Audrey's case (http://www.riding4audrey.com/).
Audrey is a petite white female, just 5' tall, weighing 105 lbs. She has light brown hair and hazel eyes, and sometimes wears eyeglasses. At the time of her disappearance, Audrey was 31 years old. When last seen, she was wearing dark green medical scrubs. If you know anything about Audrey's disappearance, please contact the New York State Police at 518/622-8600.
Tomorrow: Historical Wednesday