Missing persons conference aims to bring family closure


Claire Morgan - The State Hornet

A family checks in at the registration area at the Missing in California conference held at Sacramento State Saturday. A spokesperson from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department said the goal of the conference was to bring clarity to the family members and friends of those who have gone missing.

Claire Morgan, editor-in-chief

The “Missing in California” conference held at Sacramento State Saturday aimed to give family members and friends of missing people closure, according to spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Shaun Hampton.

Attendees of the event checked in at a reception area and were then escorted by a conference volunteer to various stations where they could share information, DNA samples, dental records, and other information with local and national law enforcement groups.

Hampton said that the event was open to everyone who is looking for a loved one, no matter how long ago they went missing — a woman even made an appointment to provide information about her mother-in-law who went missing in the 1950’s, he said.

There are around 20,000 active missing persons cases in California, according to the California Department of Justice.

“What we’re hoping to see success in is helping a family find closure, and whether we provide them with the answer that they want to hear, or we provide them with some not so desirable information later on, we give them something,” said Hampton. “We really want to help the families — sometimes they live with these losses forever, and they never really have a true understanding of what happened to their loved one.”

Cathy Tarr and Andrea Lankford, advocates for hikers David O’Sullivan and Chris Sylvia who disappeared from the Pacific Coast Trail on separate occasions in Southern California, said that they hoped the event would help them share information about the disappearances as well as get guidance from law enforcement.

“I want to clarify some issues and make sure Chris Sylvia’s DNA is on file,” Lankford said. “We want to share new information that we have, and we hope the experts will either share information or tips for us. We also want to get public awareness out about the missing hikers so we can get more tips that can help us solve the mystery.”

“I’m hoping there might be something that they can guide us on, that we maybe have overseen or that we didn’t think about,” Tarr said.

The Sheriff’s department chose Sacramento State because of its location and their relationship with the school, according to Hampton.

“Thankfully we have some really good relationships with the people at Sac State and the administration, and it’s the perfect venue — it’s centrally located,” Hampton said. “The Sac State police department, the alumni association, and the school administration (were) very supportive when they heard about the event.”

When asked how family members were notified that the event was happening, Hampton said that the conference used social media to advertise the event. Lankford said that she found out about the event via the Missing in California facebook page.