Article published May 25, 2009Officials put a fresh face on child missing 15 years
Jamel Williams disappeared 15 years ago today, at age 3, left. An age-progression photo, right, has been released to seek leads.
By ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Fifteen years after he was last seen alive, Jamel Williams is a number.
He is one of about 130 names on the Toledo Police Department's missing persons register and among the dozen or so of those who are now presumed dead.
Though Jamel is one of tens of thousands of missing children nationwide, officials hope on the anniversary of his disappearance to take away his number and give him a face.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children recently re-released an age-progression photo of Jamel, who was reported missing 15 years ago today when he was 3. Accompanying the photographs of a blond, blue-eyed boy both as a toddler and as a teenager is a plea for information.
"What we're hoping to do is, not that people will say, 'Oh I know Jamel and he is living at this address,' but we're trying to put a face out there that this child is still missing even though he is believed to be deceased," said Jerry Nance, forensic services supervisor for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "There are two ways to solve a cold case: changes in relationships and changes in forensics, and this is a case where a change in relationship with someone who knows something will hopefully prompt them to step forward and talk to the police."
According to the organization based in Alexandria, Va., about 800,000 children are reported missing nationwide each year.
Mr. Nance said that children make up only about 1 percent of all homicide victims and of those, about 94 percent of them are killed by family members.
There are about 650 active files nationwide similar to Jamel's in that there is a chance the case can be solved, Mr. Nance said. And also like the young Toledo boy's case, the center periodically sends out reminders to the communities where these children once lived.
Jamel's disappearance date of May 25 falls on National Missing Children's Day, which serves as a reminder for parents to review safety tips with their children.
"Most of the kids that I have [in my file], have just been forgotten. So we started a program that every five years, we'll send a press release. We decided we'll just poke the community a little bit into remembering," Mr. Nance said. "I wish I could promise folks that we'll find out what happened to him and we'll find out who did this but there are no guarantees."
Jamel is one of several names on Toledo's missing persons list whom detectives have little hope of finding alive. Others include Cynthia Anderson, whose 1981 disappearance remains Toledo's longest unsolved missing person case, and Nicholas Blasetsky, an elderly Alzheimer's patient who was last seen driving away from his home on June 5, 2000.
But it is Jamel's name that evokes frustration in the Toledo police department's detective bureau.
Thousands of hours were spent looking for the little boy after his mother reported him missing May 25, 1994, including days sifting through a local landfill for his remains.
And although it is not an active investigation, the Jamel Williams file has been opened by different detectives over the years since his disappearance, Capt. Ray Carroll said.
"In this situation, if someone did call, that might be what we need," he said. "We have different ideas about what happened, but so far we can't prove it."
Jamel's mother, Kelly Williams Thomas, could not be reached for comment. Nearly a decade ago, she openly criticized police for treating her and her husband, Gary Thomas, as suspects. Since then, the couple stopped cooperating with detectives, police said.
Detective Vince Mauro of the missing persons unit said that many of the names that appear on the missing list are there because the individual wants to be gone.
Whether they are chronic runaway youths, wandering adults with criminal histories, or those who simply want to start a new life, dozens of names crowd the list.
And then there are those names like now 18-year-old Jamel's, who remains a missing person until he's found alive or his remains are discovered.
"Until we find him, there is always that possibility that someone will see [the missing poster] and be able to help us," Detective Mauro said.
Contact Erica Blake at:email@example.com